Bullied for being an awkward kid in primary school, ostracised in Raffles Girls’ School as the delinquent with mediocre results, and raised in a well-off family, Rebekah Lin – the daughter of Andy Lim, founder and chairman of private equity firm Tembusu Partners, and former member of Parliament Lim Hwee Hua – could have become an apathetic rich kid with no love for society. Yet one would be wrong to take the 30-year-old with a devil-may-care attitude for yet another self-absorbed millennial.
She would rather talk about social work than herself. The founder of 50 for Fifty, a youth engagement movement started last year with a focus on helping lesser-known charity organisations, rationalises how negative experiences have put her on the path of social work. “When you have been marginalised, you develop a sense of empathy and are able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes better.”
Her formal introduction to social work came in 2011. The Yellow Ribbon Fund committee was looking for a young member to make the cause more relevant to the youth and Lin’s father volunteered her. “The experience made me realise that giving and helping others is something in my nature. It also helped me see that there are people in very difficult situations and drove me to think of solutions.” Her past experiences with missionary trips and volunteering as a photographer for World Vision, which took her to places such as Bangladesh and Ethiopia, also opened her eyes to solutions that have a immediate impact on the community – such as building a school within a village, in order to minimise the risk of sexual harassment for girls taking a long journey just to attend class.
Taking these lessons to heart, she has dedicated much effort to making an impact through various initiatives.
Lin manages her family’s Jia Foundation that supports charities such as the KK Hospital Health Endowment Fund and projects in Cambodia. On top of that, though, she has co-founded an in-home reading programme for children from disadvantaged families, started consultancy firm Chloros Solutions that offers green technology solutions, and formed The Social Collaborative, which organises 50 for Fifty. Last year, the 50 for Fifty charity drive saw 50 young people raise $3.5 million in three months.
This year, instead of just raising funds for charities, she wants to create projects that can be sustained even after the latest run of the charity drive, which was launched in July, ends in March next year. Under this initiative, Samsui Supplies and Services – a Soup Restaurant subsidiary – has outsourced foodpacking jobs to the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore.
Lin says: “Wherever you are in life, whatever your skill sets, you can make a difference.”