Transforming Lives Through Culture - Project Intan 2014

Alvin Mark Yapp, Founder of The Intan; DPM Teo Chee Hean; Mr Koh Choon Hui (Chairman of Singapore Children's Society) and Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin at Project Intan 2014 (courtesy of The Fat Farmer)

Alvin Mark Yapp is a man on a mission. Boss of outdoor advertising specialist Bus Ads, the Peranakan entrepreneur opens up his beautiful Peranakan-themed home every year to raise funds for the needy. And boy are his tireless efforts making waves!

Courtesy of The Fat Farmer

Started in 2008 with the intention of celebrating Peranakan culture and music with the joy of giving, Project Intan is Alvin's brainchild. Over the years, it has raised some S$350,000 and supported various charities like Assisi Hospice, Arc's Children Centre and Singapore Children's Society.

Courtesy of The Fat Farmer

In the past 6 years since it started, Project Intan has helped create a multi-sensory room for terminal ill children, upgraded inpatient care for cancer patients, built a therapeutic gymnasium for the elderly, and refurbished a day care centre for youths.

Courtesy of The Fat Farmer

Various distinguished guests and VIPs were involved in Project Intan. They include Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Minister Tan Chuan-jin and Mrs Goh Chok Tong. Project Intan is held at The Intan, an award winning private Peranakan home museum where Alvin resides among his exquisite collection of Peranakan artefacts and artworks collected over 30 years.

Courtesy of The Fat Farmer

This year, Alvin seeks to help kids from distressed and broken families of the Singapore Children’s Society through the OCBC-TODAY Children’s Fund. The Fund will help the children to rebuild their lives through counselling and therapy programmes as well as day care services. OCBC ​has generously agreed to top up an additional 50% for every dollar raised ​through Project ​Intan 2014​.

Coming from broken homes, these kids often suffer from physical and sexual abuse. Some can be as young as 3 years of age. While the law may protect them from abusive parents and adult relatives, they still remain as their primary caregivers. I shudder to think of the emotional distress suffered by these poor children!

Courtesy of The Fat Farmer

As I hear Alvin describe it, this year's event - An Evening of Peranakan Love for Children in Need - started with a beautiful violin performance of Di Tanjong Katong and Chan Mali Chan by young children from Mandeville Conservatory of Music. Together with special performances by his friends, the highlight of the evening was a Peranakan idol version of Rasa Sayang by Syazwan from Jurong Youth Centre. Guests were also treated to an "overflow" of home made mee siam and traditional nyonya desserts like kueh salat, ondeh ondeh and pulot inti.

Courtesy of The Fat Farmer

To find out more about Project Intan, I did an email interview with Alvin. Here are the highlights of our discussion.

1) You've been involved with Project Intan for quite a number of years. It must be a lot of work to do this, especially since you are also running your own business! How do you balance your time and manage so many different priorities?

​It's about making things work out. Sacrifices have to be made, for example, foregoing catching up with friends and personal time like gardening. Argh! How I miss my garden!

Having such a responsibility also makes me look at ways of being efficient. I try to double up during appointments by sharing about Project Intan when meeting business associates, reduce traveling time by meeting people in the same area at one go, talk faster, and have shorter lunches. I also minimise 'time wasters' like surfing on the Internet, or tapping out long drawn SMS messages when a phone call will do.

Being responsible motivates me to do what I set out to do. I am responsible to my company. I have also taken on the responsibility to help a group of kids. Hence I am 100% at BusAds, 100% at Project Intan and 100% committed to my family. I am also 100% committed to my volunteers and supporters.

(Wow, that makes it 400% Alvin!)

2) What inspires you to open up your home and to faithfully do this year after year?

​The knowledge that it makes a difference to the lives of the beneficiary (the kids), inspiration from the guests that come, and the partners, supporter and volunteers whom I work with . ​

3) Can you share some of the highlights for this year's event "An Evening of Peranakan Love for Children in Need"? What were some of the memorable moments which you encountered?

First, Syazwan's performance and DPM hugging him after that. Syazwan worked hard, persevered, took on constructive criticism and quickly matured over a period of 3 weeks. He learned that hard work pays off. His performance was immaculate and I couldn't be more proud of a young man like him.

Next, Mrs Yeo's attendance. Despite bring 84, she still supports Project Intan every year for the last 5 years. In full nyonya regalia, she never fails to joins us for the evening.

Finally, friends who made a stand to support Project Intan. Here I am not just talking about friends who donate. Instead, it includes friends who went out of their way to speak to others, found creative ways to match dollar for dollar donations by their own friends, or committed a certain amount on Facebook and asked friends to join in. Other friends have supported me with kind words of encouragement and acts of generosity like the following:

- A friend suggested that I call her mother for support, which I felt 'paiseh' (embarrassed about). She said it's a good cause and that I have nothing to feel 'paiseh' about. The entire family donated $16,000.

- A lawyer brought up Project Intan to his board of directors for support. Although no one supported, his efforts were truly inspiring.

- Finally, I am heartened to hear that an office cleaner who used to earn $600 per month as a part time cleaner donated $300.

4) You seem to have a deep connection and love for kids, judging by the charities which you've supported as part of Project Intan. Can you share with us what drove you to do so? I know that you're a bachelor, but any possibility of that changing anytime soon so that you can have kids of your own?

​My deep connection for kids came 6 years ago when I had my first nephew Ryan. I never knew what a world of difference a child could bring to the family. After visiting the various centres by Singapore Children's Society, I cannot come to terms with why some kids are so loved and supported while others, through no fault of theirs, have to endure immense pain and hurt.

I concluded that while it's easy to blame adults for the problems these children face, many of the adults that "caused" these problems are also a result of being hurt when they were a child. Thus, a chance to resolve some of the problems and issues which children face makes it possible for them to have a better future as adults.

​As for kids of my own, I certainly look forward to that, if I may be so lucky!​

5) What are the challenges involved in organising a charity event like Project Intan?

De-motivation. When one feels demotivated with words of discouragement, it's tough to continue. ​Thankfully, I didn't face many of such situations.

6) Where do you see the future of Project Intan to be like? Any plans to expand this further or to co-opt more partners?

Project Intan will continue to be professional with all the personal touches that The Intan is known for. If we are so blessed, we will be most happy to explore working with like minded caring partners. ​

7) If you have a wish for Singapore, what would that be and why?

​I wish that we as Singaporeans may take time to be grateful and appreciative of the many blessings we have here that we sometimes take for granted. 3 things in particular strike me: the peace we enjoy, freedom of religion, and the opportunities that lay before us.

How You Can Contribute to Project Intan 2014

Project Intan 2014 will officially close on 7 Oct. If you would like to make a donation, please do so online at this link here. All donations are tax exempted and OCBC will top up 50% for every dollar raised through Project Intan. 

Please remember to input PROJECT INTAN in the reference code box so that Alvin can personally acknowledge and thank you for the support.

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