Being able to render help to others is a fortunate thing, says Dr Caroline Low-Heah.
“You’re capable, to be helping people and yet you don’t need help [in return],” she says. “Isn’t that a better way of looking at life?”
The founding chairperson of Kidz Horizon Appeal has been helping others for a long time — she established the organisation in 2004 with Douglas Benjamin, initially to support HIV-positive children in Singapore. It was a daring decision at a time as the virus and the disease it causes, Aids, was little understood and much feared.
“I was very, very impressed by [Nelson Mandela],” Low says. “His acknowledgement of his own family who was HIV-positive and passed away from Aids, and how he used his influence to [take up a cause] that was such a pariah.”
Kidz Horizon Appeal Established in 2004, Kidz Horizon Appeal is a charitable organisation that attends specifically to the medical needs of the most vulnerable in society. The organisation has adopted the KKH Health Fund and raises almost a million annually to help children with cancer and chronic illnesses. kidzhorizon.sg
When its efforts to make HIV testing compulsory for pregnant women in Singapore helped bring down the number of HIV-positive newborns — for which Kidz Horizon Appeal won the President’s Social Service Award in 2009 — the organisation shifted its focus and resources to supporting children suffering from other chronic diseases. This meant supporting programmes such as play therapy that teach children about their disease and treatment through play, as well as helping patients who have trouble footing their entire medical bill. By Low’s estimation, more than 10,000 children have benefited from Kidz Horizon Appeal’s programmes.
“Why should a child be denied the last [portion] of the programme just because the parents can’t afford to pay? Everyone’s equal,” Low says. “This is where we come in. I believe that the programme has to be executed as if you are in a first-class [hospital ward].”
“Children are our future. If we don’t look after them, the next generation will be sick all the time. And they will not be able to contribute as much to the economy.”
This is something to teach the next generation: empathy, compassion and generosity should be inherent in a human being.”Dr Caroline Low-Heah
For the mother of two, supporting children is a very personal affair. Every year, after Kidz Horizon Appeal’s charity ball or charity golf tournament, the committee visits the young beneficiaries to remind themselves of who they’re helping.
“It’s very painful to watch, if you’re a mother or a father,” Low says. And each time the children approach the group, “it hits you just the same, because you always imagine, what if my child is like that?”
To Low, being generous is innate to everyone. Contrary to our reputation for being selfish, Singaporeans are a big-hearted bunch: we ranked seventh in the World Giving Index in 2018, cracking the top 10 for the first time.
“Why do I believe in the spirit of giving? Why not? I think people are very giving,” Low says. “And this is something to teach the next generation: empathy, compassion and generosity should be inherent in a human being.”