A dose of TCM helps keep two charities in the pink

(From far left) Mr Toh, Sian Chay Medical Institution chairman; Ms Kwee, NVPC chief executive; and Mr Koh, RSVP Singapore president at the launch of the two charities' partnership recently.
(From far left) Mr Toh, Sian Chay Medical Institution chairman; Ms Kwee, NVPC chief executive; and Mr Koh, RSVP Singapore president at the launch of the two charities' partnership recently.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Charities in Singapore typically work with schools, companies or other organisations to recruit volunteers and to canvass for donations, or share facilities with them.

But two charities have partnered each other in an unusual way, exchanging volunteerism for medical services.

Sian Chay Medical Institution, a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) charity clinic, offers free consultation, with medicine and treatment at a subsidised rate.

It has now extended free TCM services to members of RSVP Singapore, an organisation of senior volunteers. RSVP has about 1,000 members, including 350 who volunteer regularly.

The two charities are also exploring opportunities for RSVP volunteers to help out at Sian Chay branch clinics. There are 11 branches, with another to open in Punggol later this year.

RSVP Singapore executive director Edmund Song told The Straits Times: "The two charities share a common vision of senior citizens living vibrant and productive lives.

"Sian Chay promotes healthy living through TCM; we promote healthy living through active volunteerism. So, it is like both charities reinforcing each other's work. I see this collaboration as a godsend."

National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) chief executive Melissa Kwee, who attended the launch of the charities' partnership recently, said the collaboration is an inspiring one which should be emulated.

"They don't see this as 'my charity, your charity'. They see that it just makes good business sense to collaborate. Their brands and missions are aligned," she said.

"Not every collaboration works; it must be on the basis of being stronger together... But I see this partnership between Sian Chay and RSVP as an example of what more can happen (in the charity sector) - we love that they see the cooperation opportunities, and not the competition."

Representatives of the two charities first met last year at a press conference for an award ceremony organised by NVPC - they were both recipients of the President's Volunteerism and Philanthropy Awards.

Mr Toh Soon Huat, 56, who chairs Sian Chay, won in the individual category for adults (aged 36 to 65); Mr Ngiam Tong Yuen, 76, an RSVP board member, won in the individual category for seniors above 65.

Within minutes of meeting Mr Ngiam last year, Mr Toh had decided to donate $20,000 to RSVP.

Said Mr Toh: "I respect their volunteers because, at their age when they need care from people, they are still caring for others.

"They contribute their time and effort, it goes beyond money, so for Sian Chay to give free services is nothing much."

RSVP Singapore president Koh Juay Meng said it was good for the group to have new volunteering opportunities.

He said: "Seniors are more patient, and when senior patients see a fellow senior, the generation gap is closed and it'll be easier for them to communicate with each other."

Mr Ron Pereira, 75, was one of about 30 RSVP volunteers who went for basic TCM health screenings at a Sian Chay clinic recently.

He said: "Western medicine usually has more chemicals and side effects. With these free health screenings, I would explore using TCM more often."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 29, 2016, with the headline 'A dose of TCM helps keep two charities in the pink'. Print Edition | Subscribe