Founders of The Social Co, Rebekah Lin and Cheryl Chong, are among a growing group of millennials who are passionate about impacting the community in tangible and sustainable ways.
It was meant to be a simple catch-up over teh peng. But by the time the iced milk tea was gone, Rebekah Lin had started a social movement called The Social Co with long-time friend Cheryl Chong.
“We’ve been volunteering and doing our own projects individually and we decided to do something to challenge the myth that youths today do not care about the community,” says Rebekah, who is the daughter of former Cabinet minister Lim Hwee Hua and private equity investment firm Tembusu Partners founder Andy Lim.
Under The Social Co, Rebekah and Cheryl launched the 50 for 50 project in September 2014 where they brought together more than 80 young people under the age of 35, and 70 corporations to raise awareness of and funds for lesser-known causes such as mental health, suicide prevention and charities that serve those with physical and mental disabilities. By the time the second wave of the campaign, which started as an SG50 project, ended in March, some $2.25m had been raised for 58 local charities with the amount matched dollar-for-dollar by the government for a total of $4.5m.
Rebekah first caught a glimpse of her calling through volunteer trips to Thailand, Bangladesh and Ethiopia where she saw solutions that brought immediate impact to communities, such as village schools whose central location minimised the risk of sexual harassment for girls travelling long distances to attend classes. She says, “These trips provided an incredible amount of perspective and gratitude that we have so much to be thankful for. I knew for sure that the work I wanted to do would be in the social impact space. But how do we make giving an everyday thing and not just a one‑off guilt trip?”
She initiated her first project in 2011 with the Yellow Ribbon Fund where she raised funds and sought vendors to increase employment opportunities for the inmates at Changi Women’s Prison. She then went on to start Early Reader, a home reading programme for kids from disadvantaged families, and co-founded Chloros Solutions, a Spring Singapore-seeded consultancy that provides eco-friendly solutions to companies.
Meanwhile, Cheryl currently chairs the Young Women’s Leadership Connection, a local platform connecting young women leaders with opportunities in mentorship and leadership development, networking and community engagement. She initiated its flagship community project 100 Wishes, a workshop and activity series to improve the well-being of women and children at local women’s shelters, as well as KidzCare, where volunteers befriend and tutor children from low-income families in the Chai Chee area.
Cheryl says, “My first meaningful community work experience was facilitating a camp for youth-at-risk when I was 17. I realised that a lot can be done to uplift the various groups in society and decided to continue with small community projects. If we put our heart and mind to it, everyone can create meaningful social change in our own ways.”
This year, The Social Co rolls out a series of new initiatives, chief of which is the recently launched The Social Pantry, in partnership with Soup Restaurant subsidiary Samsui Supplies & Services, to supply food and beverage items to office pantries in order to create jobs for those with disabilities and from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Both Rebekah and Cheryl credit their employers for a flexible work schedule where they can do social work at the same time. Cheryl heads the private investor division of equity crowdfunding platform FundedHere, while Rebekah is a community engagement consultant with Be An Idea, a consultancy that helps industry, government and non‑profits collaborate effectively on social causes.
“I want to stay authentic and always hopeful that we can make the world a better place. There is so much going on in the world—if we can make a change from tiny Singapore, I hope it would inspire others to do the same.” Rebekah Lin
Rebekah met Be An Idea founder Nadim van der Ros at a company event that brought together social impact makers and was eventually hired for the community engagement role because of her impressive energy and knowledge of civil society space. Van der Ros says, “She had a leadership initiative that is rooted in both experience and practicality. It sets her apart from a lot of the younger generation where there isn’t a shortage of ideas, but sometimes a lack of creativity tempered by pragmatism. As an employer in the social responsibility space, it’s important for me to encourage my employees to be involved in making a better world and becoming better individuals.”
Change the world
Rebekah is also grateful for her family’s support. She says, “My parents have always taught me to give back and I am extremely fortunate to have this opportunity to make this my career. Their support encourages me to do this well and with my very best.”
She also manages her family’s Jia Foundation, which supports projects in the areas of youth education, mental healthcare and arts documentaries with social impact objectives. Together with Cheryl, who oversees programme development, Rebekah reviews applications and personally spends time meeting the people from the different beneficiary projects. One of the foundation’s current projects is working with a Cambodian-registered non-government organisation, Social Capital Venture Development Foundation, to install water filtration systems in schools located in the Kampong Chhnang Province and in Siem Reap.
With so much on her plate, Rebekah only focuses on a few projects every year to give each one her best. Besides The Social Co, she is currently also volunteering as a country director for Nexus, a global movement that brings together social entrepreneurs, investors and philanthropists in creating global solutions. Next on her radar: an anti-bullying movement with a child-friendly resource toolkit set up by February next year with the long-term goal of establishing a charity that provides practical resources for children and parents to tackle bullying.
She says, “I want to stay authentic and always hopeful that we can make the world a better place. There is so much going on in the world—if we can make a change from tiny Singapore, I hope it would inspire others to do the same.”
Photography: Jeff Chang
Art direction: Jana tan
Hair: Dash Chong/Athens Salon
Make-up: Benedict Choo