Jeanine Lim, thoughtSeeker
She lives in Singapore.
We first met her in 2010, while she worked at the Singapore Management University.
Besides her academic work, she is passionate about film making and impacts the poverty issue in Vietnam thorough charity activities.
It all started with a question…
“Do you have a pen for me?”
When he asked the question, the small child’s eyes were laughing with the typical joy of the age, in a faraway school in the South Vietnamese Mekong Delta which she was visiting. Grabbing in her bag, she took out a souvenir pen bought during one of her educational conferences in London.
The joy she witnessed seeing the child so happy just because he had a pen to do the homework with and the sense of satisfaction she had that she was able to support something so meaningful for somebody with such a small gesture from her side, convinced Jeanine to bring next year all her 200 collected souvenir pens and distribute them in the school.
“The kids were acting like I was giving them gold.”
That is where the idea of the Project Give Pray Love started. After finishing her 200 pens, she realized actually how big the school is: “Do you have any more things for us, do you have more pens?” “I was thinking: my God, these are just pen and they get so excited!”
Jeanine considers that she has been blessed in life, in order to have the things that she has: access to education, good quality life, security. This made her think about what she can do more.
“I derive the sense of fulfilment and joy when I see these kids’ faces, suddenly they have money for school, and they have a school bag, a bicycle. For us this means nothing, but for them it changes their life: if they can go that year to school, it changes one year of their life!”
What is Project Give Pray Love
“I talked with friends and they said: you should look for sponsorship, set up something formally and get support from local NGOs and institutions.” After hearing this advice in 2013, Jeanine realized that the work which she has been doing since 1993 finally took off and has much more potential and can have a bigger impact than she realized until then.
Jeanine helps the poor in Vietnam and has 5 main initiatives:
1. House building: help poor people build houses
2. Tuition fees: help school kids pay for tuition
3. Medical help: go to hospitals and pay patients bills
4. Nutrition: acquire basic household food supplies
5. Mobility: buy bicycles for school children living in the villages who have very long commutes to school, reducing their time on the road from 2 hours walking to about half an hour bicycling.
“People think about happiness as something you get when you gain something. Actually, happiness is something you gain when you give, the more you give.”
Not always few are the challenges in the implementation of such a project: fund-raising, bureaucracy, trust in the local authorities and even life threats. In some of her trips Jeanine had even police escorts, because she might invite criminals.
“When you go out into the villages, it is not all the time safe. They know that you go to help and you invite unwanted attention and unwanted trouble.”
She believes in helping people directly, people give her money in trust because they trust her do something good with it. She and her team work with local councils to make sure that they find families truly in need. Nevertheless, it requires a lot of trust in the local authorities and good communication skills to really get to the ones truly in need and give a helping hand.
How can you get involved?
People tend to shy away from charity because they feel that they won’t help unless they can help in a big way – that means, giving a lot of money. But every dollar counts, it makes a difference. A bicycle for a kid in Vietnam costs about 70 Euro. If 70 people give 1 Euro, another 1 kid can make it to school in Vietnam.
The price of an iPad can build a house in Vietnam for a family of 5. Last house Jeanine and her team built cost around 850 Euro. If you think about it, it is not a lot of money. Her message:
“Do not be pressured into not helping because you think you cannot help a lot. If everybody helps just a bit, this is all the support one needs.”