“My father never told me to do that.”
‘That’ referred to a journey of giving – a giving of time, resources, connections, ideas etc, that is beyond money – that Mr Hsieh Fu Hua (’74), Chairman of the National University of Singapore (NUS) Board of Trustees, embarked on at different stages in his life.
Guests at the NUS Giving Networking and Fireside Chat event were able to catch an intimate glimpse of what goes on in the mind of the man who started his own charity – BinjaiTree.
“I grew up in a humble setting living in a three-room public flat. With a humble family background, attending an elite school was quite daunting as fundraising was a routine activity. It was expected of all students and as I had no resources to draw from home, I resorted to knocking on the doors of strangers to raise funds,” Mr Hsieh described how his fundraising journey began.
“But I also grew up in a giving family. My father was very generous. He didn’t have money to give. But every weekend, we would have at least five, or even up to 10 children from a boys’ home spend the weekend with us in our small flat. They would eat and sleep overnight. I grew up understanding that giving is not just about money, but about the giving of yourself. So when people ask me what motivates me? I say there are no big ideas in my giving. How I started my journey is really my sense of being. It’s who I am. I learnt very early on to share,” Mr Hsieh revealed.
This foundation of giving was further strengthened when Mr Hsieh went to University. At NUS, he found opportunities to express himself in community service and launched a few projects, including an organ donation campaign. “I realised that these foundations that were laid would continue to be with me and reappear again later in life. I went through a ‘hibernation period’ to start a family and climbed the corporate ladder, and for a number of years, I left that behind. It all came back again in my 40s, and more so when I embraced a new faith,” he shared.
When people asked why he started BinjaiTree, he emphasised that his intention was to start a charity that did not just give money, but also to create sustainable projects related to giving.
“I look at it like a venture capitalist. Funds are used to start new ideas, and to support enterprising people and worthy causes. Support can come not just in the form of money, but through connections, ideas, mentoring and of course, helping people to succeed,” he explained.
Faced with so many areas of need, Mr Hsieh is drawn to causes that connect to his realm and move him.
“So what moves me? One key area is the field of mental health, which is becoming a very widespread issue, and so I support charities in this field. I contribute towards education and the arts as well. However, I also believe it is just as important to look beyond personal interests and to support what’s important to others. I do like to work on a collaborative basis, and through time and numerous collaborations, my giving journey is enriched,” affirmed Mr Hsieh.
On nurturing the giving spirit in NUS students, Mr Hsieh maintains that getting them to think about the community through various activities at the University may be the best way to start their giving journey.
“Once you cultivate the sense of community, the giving will come naturally,” he added.