A Philanthropist Who Left a Legacy for Singapore’s Breastfeeding Mums

The demise of Mr Sim Wong Hoo, Creative Technology’s founder, earlier this year, shocked the nation. Known for introducing Sound Blaster, the sound card for home computers that led to Creative Technology’s impressive success, the technopreneur was actually a philanthropist at heart.

It may sound surprising, but BMSG’s existence today would not have been possible without the unexpected help and support of the late Mr Sim.

BMSG’s Chinse cultural concert was a fundraiser for the charity. Mr Sim Wong Hoo (3rd from right) played a significant role in the collaborative concert. [Credits: BMSG]

An Evening of Chinese Culture

What started out as an innocent request to use the Creative Amphitheatre, led to one of the most important steps for BMSG’s progress.

At that time, BMSG did not have its own office and felt that it was time to acquire one for the sustainability of the organisation. With the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO) offering BMSG space at its newly opened premise, BMSG decided to take up the offer. This meant that funds had to be had, and quickly.

The BMSG management team at that time, decided to kick off a fundraising project towards this objective.

BMSG member Mdm Wong Mei Kwui was appointed as the fundraising chairman for this effort. As Mei Kwui was passionate about Chinese cultural songs and was an accomplished singer herself, she had proposed to organise a Chinese cultural concert, where this event was set to be a night of enjoying old-time Chinese favourites.

Mei Kwui, who was an acquaintance of Mr Sim, and also knew about his affinity to Chinese music, had approached him for the use of the amphitheater at Creative Technology’s headquarters in Jurong East.

His answer bowled her over.

Using the Amphitheatre for Free

Mr Sim agreed, and the kicker – he offered the venue for free!

Said Mdm Wong Siew Kwun, BMSG’s then-vice president : “Never in our wildest dream would we expect Mr Sim to agree.”

She reminisced: “There were periods for the audience just to enjoy singing. They loved the sing-alongs. The mood was exuberant. I don’t remember the crowd size, but Michelle (who was also in the fundraising committee) said that 1,500 tickets (were) sold.”

Mr Sim himself made a surprise appearance during the May 2000 event to further liven up the atmosphere by performing with his harmonica.

More significantly, Mr Wong also vouched to match the funds raised dollar for dollar. The Chinese cultural night was a success – BMSG raised $90,000.

It was an action that led to BMSG having its very own office in the heart of Waterloo Street, at the SCWO Building, which still stands today.

The concert sold over 1,500 tickets, an amazing feat that led to BMSG raising over $90,000 and being able to loan an office space at SCWO Centre. [Credits: BMSG]

Beneficiaries: Voiceless Babies

For our readers here, Mr Sim’s action may seem typical. But for BMSG at that time, this was a most amazing and generous feat.

“He was not even a father!” added Siew Kwun. “It was an era where few believed in, cared about or supported breastfeeding.”

“The beneficiaries are newborn babies, voiceless, unable to articulate their preference for their God-given food, mother’s milk,” she added.

For a small organisation who were dreaming of big things, Mr Sim’s act had definitely helped pave the way for bigger successes. BMSG eventually saw through thousands of mothers and grew into an organisation awarded the status of Institute of Public Character (IPC).

Impact of the Concert

One might think that it was “just a concert” but amazingly, it was a concert that impacted Ms Kathryn Tan, who is currently a BMSG volunteer breastfeeding counsellor and trainer.

Kathryn happened to be a teenager then, and had followed her mother along to the concert, unsure of what it was all about.

“I went to the concert with the only expectation of getting to know more about the local Chinese folk song scene and then probably sing along. I was not expecting any talks on breastfeeding at all!” said the mother of two, who has been volunteering with BMSG since 2018.

“He was not even a father!” added Siew Kwun. “It was an era where few believed in, cared about or supported breastfeeding.”

The Chinese cultural night was a beautiful affair, bringing together cultural enthusiasts and breastfeeding supporters. [Credits: BMSG]

Normalising Breastfeeding Talk During a Concert

Kathryn also shared that during the concert, one of the concert’s hosts had talked plainly about breastfeeding. It was surprising to her, especially since it was in public.

“The hosts, whom I think was from BMSG, spoke about the challenges breastfeeding mothers faced from family members who rejected their breastmilk. They also talked about expressed breastmilk being thrown away by mothers-in-law!” said Kathryn.

“After hearing that, it was there and then I told myself I would breastfeed. It seemed like such a natural choice and also because it sounded attractive to do such a rebellious thing,” Kathryn laughed.

The concert had led her to be aware of the challenges mentioned for a long time. Although Kathryn eventually did not face antipathy from her own family, she had experienced other breastfeeding challenges.

“It made me realise all the more that breastfeeding mums simply need help and even just a listening ear. Hence, I jumped at the chance at volunteering as a BMSG counsellor. In a way, BMSG helped me pave the way for my breastfeeding journey and I’m thankful that I am able to give back to the society and help support breastfeeding mommas here.”

Mr Sim doing his part for the concert by playing a harmonica piece. [Credits: BMSG]

Breastfeeding is the Work of a Village

Mr Sim’s generous donations made it possible to achieve a dream for a small group of mothers who wanted to make a big impact in the local breastfeeding community. He played the role of providing financial support at a critical time. While he was not a father and was definitely not breastfeeding, Mr Sim is a reminder that everyone in the community can play a part to help provide a conducive ecosystem for breastfeeding to occur and continue.

In a separate Facebook post, Siew Kwun had mentioned how many things have changed since then. She wrote: “To see some of our key maternity hospitals attaining the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (accreditation), to see Lactation Consultants on hand to give new mums breastfeeding support, to see increasingly new mums choosing to breastfeed, and being supported by longer maternity leave, breastfeeding rooms in public facilities, malls and workplaces, is a far cry from the 1980’s and 1990’s and earlier, (are) very gratifying for the earlier generations of SBMG and BMSG members!”

Similarly, BMSG has one hope – if our predecessors are only able to see the fruits of their labour after years of advocacy and effort, we hope that the situation will only get better together with support from individuals like Mr Sim, who took up the mantle in supporting civic efforts.

We do it for the babies. Just like now, babies and children have always been a part of BMSG events, just like how it was back then during the concert, and are the reason why we do what we do 🙂 [Credits: BMSG]

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Many thanks to Wong Siew Kwun, Bessie Ng and Kathryn Tan who helped bring this story together.

Breastfeeding needs the support of everyone in the community. BMSG welcomes the donations and even if you are not a breastfeeding mother, you can definitely help us continue the work of providing necessary breastfeeding support for mothers of today and in the future.

If you are keen to donate to BMSG, visit our fundraising page here: bit.ly/bmsgdonate
Any amount is well appreciated.

All donations amounting to $50 and above will be entitled to tax relief.


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