Rebekah Lin: Larger than Life

Founder, The Social Co
Text and Photography by Wy-Lene Yap;
November 6, 2014
Become – Trendsetters

The waiter shows me to my table and I realise that I am the first to arrive. That’s odd, she’s late. Rebekah Lin is always known to be very punctual. The Waterfall at Shangri-La hotel is empty and it appears that I have the entire place to myself. As I examine the drinks menu, Rebekah rushes in. “Sorry! Sorry! Did you wait long? I went to The Line, thinking that it was the Waterfall!” My watch tells me she is only 5 minutes late – technically, she is on time.

Rebekah stands tall, despite her petite 1.54m frame and possesses a seemingly boundless energy that goes very well with her affable demeanor. Pearly white smiles aside, she’s also one of those people who light up the room the second they walk in (it might be her colourful socks too). Currently doing her PhD in Creative Writing and managing her family’s foundation called the Jia Foundation, Rebekah also finds time to do some documentary work for a non-profit film organisation in London. It seems like her plate is full, yet somehow, she displays no signs of slowing down.

“I hate to be late,” says Rebekah. Like her, I am also a stickler for time, but that’s not the only thing that we have in common – actually, we go way back. Primary school classmates in fact. She chuckles, “Oh man, time really flies! We were in the same class right? 4D?” I fight the urge to think about our nerdy and uncool prepubescent selves, with a brave nod and shift the focus to her latest project, 50 For 50 – a youth led charity fund raising initiative.

WY-LENE YAP: What fuels you aside from coffee?

REBEKAH LIN: [laughs] Aside from good coffee? I think I know exactly what I want to do with my life and I don’t think that a lot of young people can say that they do. I only found out that “this is what I wanna do” about a year ago and since then, I don’t look at someone and go, “Oh, I envy this person’s job.” Because I am completely happy with mine.

I like working on projects that have a greater purpose. I don’t think I can work for profit-driven causes.

WY-LENE: Which aspect do you exactly enjoy?

REBEKAH: I guess for me, I’m a people person – I enjoy meeting new people and connecting them. Let’s say “A” and “B” are working on a project; I am not selfish in the sense that you can only work with that particular person or me. Shared resources can bring about greater change or bigger projects. If the projects don’t involve me, that’s fine. I like working on projects that have a greater purpose. I don’t think I can work for profit-driven causes. If I have to invest time and energy, I would like my work to be meaningful.

WY-LENE: Finding meaning in life is so important.

REBEKAH: I’m not a morning person, but I will be willing to wake up at 6:30am to go for super early meetings because I am interested to hear about what people are doing or how we can partner to do something. I’m very collaborative, and I like to work on different projects with various people. People always say, “Beks, you are always doing so many different things!” That’s because I want to do as much as I can. Maybe there are times where I overstretch myself, but I never feel tired if that makes sense – it’s all work that I feel very privileged to be part of.

I always want to learn and if I have the opportunity to learn something new, I will jump at it.

WY-LENE: Any other passions?

REBEKAH: I enjoy writing and reading as well. I never want to be stagnant. I always want to learn and if I have the opportunity to learn something new, I will jump at it. With each person that I meet, I get to learn something different or be inspired by their story.


WY-LENE: What’s one thing that always puts a smile on your face?

REBEKAH: It will definitely be my nephews. Even in the day, when I am busy, my family will send photos via the group chat. Just last night, my brother sent a video of my second nephew, Benji, trying to do a split and that serves as a reminder to have a child-like curiosity, and not take life too seriously. Don’t waste time getting upset or angry, as there are so many things to be thankful for.

WY-LENE: How many nephews do you have?

REBEKAH: I have 3 nephews – oldest is 4, second one is 2 and the youngest one was just born in April.

WY-LENE: Who’s your favourite?

REBEKAH: I love all of them equally. [laughs] I suppose there is a stereotypical answer to this but each of them has their own unique traits. Timmy is very curious and he keeps asking why, while Benji is sensitive and whenever I am stressed or tired, he comes to me almost as though he is waiting for me to pour out my problems. My nephews really teach me all the values that I would like to have: sensitivity and curiosity. The youngest one, Christopher, is so cheerful and that's what I want to be. There is so much going on in the world right now, and I just want to be happy.

WY-LENE: What kind of child were you like growing up?

REBEKAH: I was very naughty and nerdy. I enjoyed reading comics and Eight Days. Well, I was also a quirky kid who needed to figure out what I liked.

WY-LENE: Did you feel the pressure to conform?

REBEKAH: I suppose. Both my parents went to Cambridge. They didn’t stress that I had to go there but it was probably self-imposed at a very young age: the need to do really well in school, score As, and go to the best schools. In reality, I kept underperforming and started to question why I wasn’t doing as well as my peers. Admittedly, I was also lazy and interested in other things; like learning how to code, HTML and other boring things.

WY-LENE: Interesting.

REBEKAH: I left RGS with a really bad O Levels score and I didn’t know how to tell my friends, because the pressure at that time was to get under 10 points. Honestly, I just didn’t get a good enough score to get into the Junior Colleges of my choice. It was a huge blow to my pride and self-esteem. I was also extremely worried about what people thought of me, and I didn’t know how to present the truth – so it was easier to say that I had taken the ‘alternative route’ by pursuing my passion for theatre and the arts.

WY-LENE: I can empathise. Well, grades isn’t everything in life but unfortunately in Singapore, there is still a very strong emphasis on it. How is your relationship with your mum [Lim Hwee Hua] like?

REBEKAH: It’s great! We are very candid with one another, and sometimes we tell really bad jokes. [laughs] We do make an effort to speak to each other every night. Even when she was in politics, she would set aside time for me and made an effort to attend all the events which I was involved in.

WY-LENE: Was it tough having a mum who was in politics?

REBEKAH: No, because when she entered politics, I was old enough to understand that it was her calling as she felt very strongly and passionately about it. Hence, I wanted to give her the maximum support that she needed.

WY-LENE: Do you ever see yourself going into politics?

REBEKAH: No. It is a huge commitment and I have other interests.

I don’t want to be known as Lim Hwee Hua’s daughter, but for who I am as an individual.

WY-LENE: Do you think people treat you differently because of your mum?

REBEKAH: Sometimes yes, it happens. I guess in that sense; it is a good way to ‘see’ people for who they are. Some people are very fake and there is a huge difference between the ‘before and after’ – it is very obvious, and I try not to be too judgmental about it. I don’t want to be known as Lim Hwee Hua’s daughter, but for who I am as an individual.

WY-LENE: Let’s talk about your latest project 50 For 50.

REBEKAH: 50 For 50 is supported by the SG50 committee and will have 50 individuals known as “changemakers”, who aim to raise funds for the charities which they have an affinity for.

WY-LENE: How did it come about?

REBEKAH: It was through The Social Co – a mini project that I wanted to start with a couple of friends who were interested in combining creative young minds and ideas to tackle social problems in Singapore. In particular, how to use two social issues to solve one another. It was still at the informal stages. Shortly after, SG50 came about and I got to know about this match funding through the Care & Share programme because I sit on the Yellow Ribbon committee. For every dollar someone raises, they will be matched dollar for dollar. And to quadruple this effect, we also have corporate partners. Finally, I asked the same group of friends and the rest was history.

WY-LENE: Do you think the young nowadays are “rebels without causes”?

REBEKAH: Nope. I think young people are getting more opinionated about what they believe in, and this sometimes translates into conviction and passion for a certain cause. There are those who rebel against ideas because they enjoy challenging norms, but this is also because they fundamentally believe in something!

WY-LENE: What were some of the challenges that you faced?

REBEKAH: Getting the changemakers and corporates to step up and take a chance on us was our biggest challenge. We are a new outfit, and don’t have years of experience to back us, so it is purely based on our passion and conviction.

WY-LENE: There appears to be quite a number of charity scandals in Singapore. Do you think that people tend to be a little more cautious and skeptical towards projects that are geared towards social causes?

REBEKAH: Definitely. This is why we wanted our project to be 100% transparent. We wanted to make sure all donations are done via GiveAsia, and that all public events must be done with letters of authorisation from the charities. They must also get the necessary permits for all their activities.

WY-LENE: Out of all the changemakers, who has touched you the most?

REBEKAH: I have to say Ashraf and Syaira, the owners of Fluff Bakery. They got married after a year of dating and 2 months later, discovered that Ashraf had 2 brain tumours. Suddenly, it was clear that a lot of things did not matter as long as they had each other. Spending time together became the most important thing. With that, it pushed them to pursue their dreams of setting up Fluff Bakery. For Ashraf, questions about mortality and how long he had left, played an important driver to get the business started. He also wanted to make sure that Syaira had the bakery even if he could not be around. It was such a beautiful, yet heart wrenching story.

WY-LENE: How does one get involved in 50 For 50?

REBEKAH: Just drop me an email me at [email protected]!