Ground-Up Initiative will carry on despite founder's death

Visitors paying their last respects at the wake of Mr Tay Lai Hock, founder of non-profit organisation Ground-up Initiative, who died suddenly this week.
Visitors paying their last respects at the wake of Mr Tay Lai Hock, founder of non-profit organisation Ground-up Initiative, who died suddenly this week.ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

Ground-Up Initiative (GUI), a non-profit organisation that aims to nurture grounded leaders and model a Singapore society with a sustainable future, will continue with its work despite the death of its founder Tay Lai Hock on Tuesday.

Speaking at the wake in Block 230 Simei Street 4 yesterday, council member Mei Chang said: "Most of our lives have changed because of Lai Hock. Why shouldn't we continue?"

Ms Chang, 49, said the eight years she spent in GUI had made her more rooted and strengthened her belief in Singapore.

Mr Tay, 54, collapsed on Tuesday morning at work. He could not be revived and later died in hospital.

When asked who would lead GUI, which owes $300,000 in construction costs, its volunteer coordinator Koo Hui Ying, 28, said the five-member council would bring it through this transition phase before deciding on the next move.

"Our focus now is on supporting Lai Hock's family and arranging his memorial service this Saturday," said Ms Koo.

Although general volunteering activities at GUI have been temporarily cancelled, other pre-planned programmes such as corporate team-building and farming courses are still running.

 
 
 

Mr Tay founded eco-community GUI in 2008 to create a "21st century kampung culture" in the heart of cosmopolitan Singapore, tending to that vision on a 26,000 sq m piece of land dubbed Kampung Kampus.

It has welcomed about 20,000 volunteers and runs about 100 programmes yearly, aiming to foster a connection with the land via experiential and nature-led learning.

It will also be where Mr Tay's body will be brought on Saturday for a "celebration of his life" before cremation later in the day.

Ms Chang said: "It will not be a sad occasion. There will be a slideshow of his life and anyone can come, pen how Lai Hock has impacted them and we will be playing and singing his favourite songs."

Polytechnic student and former GUI volunteer Justin Soh, 18, recalled at the wake the first time he met Mr Tay six years ago through a leadership camp at GUI. He was a volunteer for four years.

"Because of Lai Hock, I have changed the way I live, being more gracious and accepting," he added.

Mr Tay's brother Huey Meng, 52, said the family was proud of his achievements.

"I hope GUI will continue to move people the way Lai Hock wanted," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2018, with the headline 'Ground-Up Initiative will carry on despite founder's death'. Print Edition | Subscribe