Making the World a Brighter Place

In my monthly articles, I usually write about government policies or topical issues. But today I want to talk about a very special individual, Mr Govindan s/o Samy, who recently passed away.

Mr Govindan had N-level qualifications and worked as a control operator at Singapore Power until his retirement. After three years of retirement, he decided he wanted to stay active and rejoined the workforce as a relief security officer, putting in 12-hour shifts.

Despite his humble circumstances, on his 80th birthday, he donated $80,000 to various charities including SINDA, Singapore Children’s Society, Sree Narayana Mission and the Singapore Tamil Movement.

How was it that as a relief security officer he was able to do this?

He was driven by two things – a desire to help others and to do whatever he could within his means.

Mr Govindan was a firm believer in managing his own funds and spending/saving wisely. He lived frugally – he did his daily household chores by himself and never owned a washing machine. He rarely ate out and travelled by public transport.

He played a pivotal role in the Jurong community throughout the years. He started off as an auditor, became a secretary and eventually the vice-chairman of his grassroots club and received numerous awards for his services.

Due to his strong values, prudence and wise investment choices, he was able to donate to charities and those in need through the dividends he received. He believed that donating $1 regularly makes a difference.

I had the privilege of meeting him some years ago at SINDA’s Donor Appreciation Lunch. I was struck by his quiet yet dignified demeanour and humble attitude. He was a man of few words but he was able to convey through his deeds how strongly he felt about helping others.

When I was informed recently that he had passed on, I wanted to take a quiet moment to reflect what we can learn from his life.

What Mr Govindan showed was that no matter what your circumstances, no matter how humble you are, you can still contribute and make a big difference. A single kind deed goes a long way and has an influence that can continue long into the future.

Mr Govindan’s real legacy is the kindness that he has bequeathed to others through his acts of generosity.

He exemplifies the kind of society we are seeking to build – one in which we have strong sense of community, where we support one another and at the same time exercise discipline and prudence.

Giving can take many forms – it could be money, it could be time, it could be effort. Giving goes two ways – it is in giving that you receive. It engenders greater empathy, responsibility and civic-mindedness.

We have for some time been encouraging philanthropy and volunteerism. Societies are not judged by economic achievements alone, but on how they deal with their weakest, their poorest and the least well off. In addressing this, it is not the work of the government alone but also how the community as a whole responds.

If all of us can respond as Mr Govindan did, then the world will be a brighter place indeed.