Dr Gerard Ee, 2019 National Day Awards Distinguished Service Order awardee and NUSS Advisory Panel member, discusses what motivates him to contribute actively to the social service, his memorable experiences in social work and the challenges he faced on his journey.
Your contributions to Singapore’s social service sector have been widely recognised — you were conferred the honorary Doctor of Letters by NUS in 2017 and have received three National Day Awards. What sparked your passion for helping others?
I believe we are all blessed in different ways and should use our gifts to do more. As a Catholic, I am mindful that God’s vital instruction is for us to love our neighbours. I show my gratitude for the blessings I have received by using them for the Lord’s work. My dad also exposed me to the joy of helping others. This grows with every interaction I have with someone whose life has been touched by a service provided. It does not take much to touch another person’s life positively — sometimes, all it requires is a listening ear and the drive to help. These beliefs keep me going.
What were some challenges you faced while raising awareness of and championing Singapore’s social issues?
Many charitable organisations today serve the better-known needs faced by Singaporeans. This means there are other needs that are overlooked, either because they aren’t as well-known or are considered controversial. When I was helping to establish Action for Aids back in 1988, my friends thought I was foolish to get involved. You have to have strong personal conviction for what you are doing in order to overcome existing societal biases.
Many Singaporeans also believe the government should solve all social issues. But we need to learn that all of us have a part to play in working with the government on these concerns. As advocates, we can encourage our leaders to consider policy changes and help policies be better implemented.
“It does not take much to touch another person’s life positively — sometimes, all it requires is a listening ear and the drive to help.”
What are some memorable experiences you’ve had in your volunteerism journey?
It would have to be when I was tasked with helping to restore public confidence in the National Kidney Foundation in 2005. In addition to pulling together decades of professional accounting experience that I’d had, it required me to get up to speed in various other areas, including understanding medical treatments like dialysis, human resource practices and corporate communications. Learning and applying new knowledge boosted my confidence to tackle subsequent projects. Volunteerism benefits the volunteer in so many ways, especially in the area of personal growth.
How did you juggle your time between charity work, family and work commitments? Do you involve your family in your charity work?
I have been blessed with bosses who believed in doing good and were happy to allow me to pursue such interests. It has meant cutting down on activities like golfing and putting the freed-up hours into social work instead.
I talk to my children about the work I do and the satisfaction I get from it. It is my hope that they, too, will at some point find the motivation to contribute to others. Charity must come from the heart.
How has social aid in Singapore shifted or evolved in recent years? In your opinion, what are some ways NUSS can help the less fortunate?
There are now a myriad of schemes available to help the disadvantaged, most of which are geared towards encouraging and empowering the needy to be better able to help themselves.
NUSS has plenty of gifted and smart individuals, and it is my hope that members use their intellectual gifts to help change lives for the better. For instance, members who are architects can contribute by designing a refurbishment of the apartments of low-income families, so their children have a chance to grow up in a better environment.
Dr Gerard Ee Hock Kim
Awarded the Distinguished Service Order at the 2019 National Day Awards
President of the National Council of Social Service, 2002 – 2006
Chairman of the National Kidney Foundation, 2005 – 2012
Fellow at the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore,
2005 – present
Honorary Doctor of Letters, National University of Singapore