Yassss, parenting can be a real drag (GETTY IMAGES)

Gen Z youngsters, like my 12-yearold daughter, are fond of dropping the expression “It’s giving” into conversation. For those readers unfamiliar with this particular turn of phrase (a group comprising many Millennials, a lot of my fellow Gen Xers, and very likely, all Boomers), it’s an abridged way of saying, “This is giving off a vibe much akin to something-or-other.” For example, a toddler scribbles a marker on their face: “It’s giving Post Malone.”

In its brevity, “It’s giving” is giving Singlish, I think—eliminating every possible extraneous word, the same way “Can” radically contracts the statement, “Indeed, we can pursue that course of action, if you wish.” However, much like “Yasss, queen,” “It’s giving” was born in the LGBTQ drag ball subculture, an environment of vibrant creative self-expression. Singlish, meanwhile, was born in Singapore.

Family-friendly, eco-friendly luxury at Nikoi Island

At the time of press, we’re still finalising where we’ll be spending this Christmas as a family. Possibly it’ll be Nikoi, the eco-luxe private island resort off Bintan. My wife and I had the chance to visit the neighbouring adults-only sister island Cempedak earlier this year and were very impressed by its environmentally friendly design and philosophies, the warm and genuine service, paradisical setting, and terrific cuisine. (They’ve just put out a cookbook—could be a nifty gift idea.)

What’s really great about Nikoi and Cempedak, though, is resting easy in the knowledge that your vacay budget isn’t going to some faceless multinational corporation. Instead, it’s supporting a local business that in turn, is funding a foundation actively uplifting some of the most underserved communities in our region.

The Island Foundation, which was founded in 2010 by the owners of Cempedak and Nikoi, aims to provide better learning opportunities for children in small island and coastal communities across Indonesia’s Bintan Regency. Through local teacher training, and the establishment of learning centres (12 thus far) teaching primary-aged kids subjects including English, IT, local culture, health, and environmental protection, the foundation is making a big difference in areas where typically, 77 per cent of children don’t finish school.

“We set out to give back to the community from day one,” says Nikoi cofounder Andrew Dixon. “We began with conversations with local villages. They expressed a need for education, especially in English, so first we set up libraries, providing reading materials.” The libraries quickly evolved into formal learning centres. “We connected with the United World College in Singapore, who assisted in creating a fantastic curriculum,” Dixon explains.

“We have about 600 children enrolled now, and the impact is evident, with over 3,000 kids benefiting so far,” he says. “We conduct teacher training workshops and have identified individuals in the villages to manage these learning centres, investing heavily in their training. They’ve become influential figures in their communities.”

Dixon says there’s a multiplier effect to these efforts; he reckons around 15,000 people have benefited directly or indirectly from the Above: Family-friendly, eco-friendly luxury at Nikoi Island. Opposite page: Yassss, parenting can be a real drag. 29 Agenda foundation’s community programmes. “That’s a significant figure for a small resort,” he says. When COVID shut down the hotels, Dixon explains, individual donors who’d been guests in the past stepped up to continue funding the foundation’s initiatives.

Sustainably constructed bamboo villas at Cempedak Island. Each year, Nikoi and Cempedak donate nearly SGD500,000 to supporting responsible tourism, conservation, local culture and education

Nevertheless, while many who stay at Nikoi and Cempedak do appreciate the fact their spending at the resorts helps support worthy causes, Dixon says the organisation is careful not to shove the charitable angle down people’s throats. “Guests come for the experience, and while we appreciate and welcome their interest in the foundation, we want them to enjoy their stay without feeling overwhelmed by sustainability messages,” he says.

A few years ago I had the chance to interview one of our region’s biggest charitable givers, Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest, a signatory to Bill Gates’ Giving Pledge (where the world’s richest commit the majority of their wealth to philanthropy). This June, in his latest mega-generous endowment, the Aussie mining multibillionaire and his wife gave AUD5 billion to their Minderoo Foundation. The largest single charitable donation in Australian history, this sum will fuel the foundation’s various initiatives, including cleaner oceans, cancer cures, and an end to modern slavery.

Forrest told me he makes grand gestures like this not only to fund the work but to set an example for his fellow super-rich. He said, “Across Asia, including Australia, there’s a defensive mindset” among the very wealthy that leads them to horde their gold like real-life Scrooge McDucks. Instead, Forrest believes, the rich should utilise the talents that got them to the top in business—and the money they’ve earned in that position—to do some good. “The skill you have, which allowed you to accumulate that capital, you should use that skill to distribute capital in the wisest, highest leverage, highest benefit way possible,” he said.

Successful entrepreneurs have a responsibility to give both generously and strategically—in Forrest’s view, they are better qualified to rectify the world’s ills than politicians. When I asked him, playing the devil’s advocate, how he’d respond to the suggestion that perhaps the rich should just Sustainably constructed bamboo villas at Cempedak Island. Each year, Nikoi and Cempedak donate nearly SGD500,000 to supporting responsible tourism, conservation, local culture and education. pay their fair share of tax and let governments fix the big issues, suffice to say, Forrest disagreed enthusiastically.

“I’d say that is moronic—at its kindest. The greatest waste has happened under political leaders who say that. I’ve seen train wrecks created by politicians who’ve said, ‘Actually, we should just pay more tax.’ My response is, ‘Well, can you show me what you achieved with everyone else’s money, once you got your hands on it in the past? Answer: a train wreck,” Forrest said. “To those who’d suggest, ‘Oh, you should just pay more tax’—I’d say, ‘What, so politicians can waste more of it?’”

It’s giving… but not to the tax man. Season’s greetings, dear readers. May 2024 be a gift to us all.

Danial (Wheel Smith).

Youths have the privilege to wander. They are encouraged to fumble, to trod on multiple paths, to try new things; there are no limitations to exploring how the world works before one starts to work for the world. All it takes is a teaspoon of courage, but not all youths are equipped with the same-sized spoon to go for the jugular of limitless potential; not all youths get to start this marathon called life with the same starting line.

It is having this flexibility in perspective that will set in motion the youth’s truly limitless potential. Kindness is something a world closely connected—but still vastly diverse—needs for harmony and learning to see our world from “Me” to “We" via the Unleash Your Light global movement, can be the key to harnessing that cross-border synergy, empowering personal and societal transformation. That is what the charity Extra·Ordinary People have been striving to do since July 2017 and with their latest star-studded activation, Extra·Ordinary Stars concert—a fundraiser effort to give youths with special needs and of less privileged backgrounds the training and means to stand on stage, to shine independently alongside a bevy of established artistes.


The differently abled youths will get a chance to perform alongside international artistes like popular magician Cyril Takayama and Taiwanese singer A-Lin, as well as Benjamin Kheng, Glenn Yong, Wheel Smith (seen above), Zanna Phua, Adelyn Koh, John Chan, Isabelle Lim and Daniel Teo. The concert will also feature the Cantare Choir, Singapore Raffles Music College, Extra·Ordinary People’s Extra·Ordinary Light Orchestra, among others.

Cyril Takayama.

“Individuals with special needs and their families rarely have the inspiration, space, and opportunity to achieve independent living through their dreams. We believe in the transformative power of positivity. Our mission is to create opportunities for everyone. With Extra·Ordinary Stars, we hope the special needs and underprivileged community will be inspired to dream and share their stories,” says Wee Boo Kuan, co-founder and director of Extra·Ordinary People, an IPC (Institution of a Public Character) charity that provides life-long support to differently-abled children and youths. Upon graduating from the Extra·Ordinary People Academy, the organisation continues to provide them with opportunities and assistance towards independence. Now that’s hope, glimmering and glistening with the enthusiasm of youth and possibilities.

Benjamin Kheng.

There is also a separate effort put together by China Mobile, wherein the first 1,000 concert ticket holders will have access to a special promo plan: 100GB at SGD10/month. The Unleash Your Light project will also donate 500 China Mobile plans to 500 low-income families for one year as part of this concert’s fundraiser efforts. China Mobile and Unleash Your Light seek to fill the entire Extra•Ordinary Stars concert hall. If the goal of selling out the entire Extra•Ordinary Stars concert is met, Unleash Your Light will sponsor an additional 500 China Mobile plans, raising the total to 1,000 China Mobile plans donated to 1,000 low-income families for one year.

The 100-minute live performance will be held on 1 December 2023 at The Star Theatre. Tickets can be purchased here. The proceeds will be distributed equally amongst the three IPC charity organisations: Extra·Ordinary People, Happee Hearts Movement and YMCA. There will be a 250% tax rebate with every ticket purchase.

Originally published on Men's Folio.