Happy because he gives

Patrick poses with the Rohingya woman he has been supporting for the last decade.
© UNHCR/Yante Ismail

This businessman is prudent with his money but he believes giving to the less fortunate is the smart thing to do.

PATRICK Tan he has a keen understanding of how money works and the value of transactions. Over the past 25 years, he has built a successful and lucrative network in his healthcare business, but he says amassing wealth is meaningless unless one does good with it.

And even if you don’t have all that much, Patrick believes you should still try to give to those who have less than you.

“If we only live for ourselves, it’s not good enough. Life is short. In this world, I strongly believe we have to accumulate some merit. I believe our life comes from our merits. If we only live for ourselves, then it’s just like an animal’s life. Every morning, they wake up, look for food, eat and sleep, then they pass away, and their whole life is gone.

“Humans can do more. So, if you only work, eat and sleep, you can do better,” says the 47-year-old Malaysian businessman who is committed to helping the needy. Patrick apportions a certain sum every month for donations to a host of charities.

For the past 12 years, he has given RM500 every month to UNHCR to help extremely vulnerable refugees.

“I first heard of refugees needing help at a talk. I realised that this was indeed a neglected group.

“I contacted UNHCR because I wanted to understand exactly what’s going on. Refugees are total strangers to me, so I thought I’d go and try and understand them. UNHCR gave me a briefing; after that I asked “how do I start?” recalls Patrick.

UNHCR told Patrick about an elderly Rohingya woman, believed to be the oldest refugee from Myanmar at that time, who was in poor health, and all alone in Malaysia with no family or regular source of income.

“UNHCR told me she needed about RM500 per month to cover her basic needs. And so I agreed to help,” recalls Patrick.

“She lived near the Selayang wholesale market in a rundown place, in a shoplot partitioned into over 20 rooms. She cannot work because she is sick,” adds Patrick who continued to support the elderly refugee till she stopped contacting UNHCR a few years ago and was unreachable.

But Patrick remains committed to helping refugees, and he is now supporting a young refugee woman with mental illness who had been abandoned by her family.

“A lot of people need help. Some need monthly income, otherwise they can’t survive. I made a commitment to help, and every month a certain amount is deducted from my account. I feel good being able to help people.

“We must commit, otherwise we won’t do it. It will also make you work harder. The harder I work, the more people I can help. Without commitment, when you think back ten years, you’d find that you’d not done much. If you give RM10 on and off, you’d not accomplish much,” says Patrick.

But he acknowledges that some people are too preoccupied with juggling their own budget.

“All religion teaches us to help people, but nowadays because of economic pressure, everyone just look after their own needs. They live only for themselves because there’s too much pressure.”

Nevertheless, he recommends “somehow eating less and living within your means so you can help” because it’s a path to happiness.

“That’s what makes me happy. If you can help someone and they can benefit from your help, you feel good. The happiness from buying a new car, that happiness is a short one, for the short term.”

Lending a hand, he believes, is also contributing to the greater good.

“Since young, my mother has taught me to help people. If you have enough, you should help out,” said Patrick.