Poly student makes Chinese clan history

Poly student makes Chinese clan history
Chung Shan Association’s youth wing president Jolie Yin

Republic Polytechnic student Jolie Yin was 12 when she visited her ancestral home town Zhongshan, in China's southern Guangdong province, in 2007.

Encouraged by her grandmother, she was one of 30 youths from the 178-year-old Chung Shan Association who went on a week-long, all-expenses-paid tour sponsored by Mr Hooy Say Kai, the Cantonese clan's adviser.

That trip got her interested in the clan and she became active in its youth wing.

Last year, she was elected its president, becoming the youngest person at 18 to lead a Chinese clan's youth group.

"Before I went on the trip, I didn't even know my native home was Zhongshan where Dr Sun Yat Sen, the founder of modern China, was born," said Miss Yin, a third-year electrical and electronic engineering student.

She is the eldest daughter of a chef. Her 17-year-old sister and 13-year-old brother are also in the clan's youth group, which was formed in 2007 with only six members, including Miss Yin.

It now has 54 members aged between 12 and 36 and is a vibrant group. Last year, it organised the 10th Worldwide Zhongshan Association Convention at Resorts World Sentosa.

That helped the association to be among the recipients of the Clan of the Year Award 2014 handed out last weekend by the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations.

Other winners of the same top award for last year were the Fong Yun Thai Association, Singapore Lam Ann Association, Singapore Hui Ann Association and Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan.

Five other clans - Nanyang Hwu Clan General Association, Eng Choon Hway Kuan, Singapore Hainan Hwee Kuan, Singapore Huang Shi Chung Huay and Singapore Futsing Association - received merit awards.

The small Chung Shan Association, which has only 233 members, impressed the judges with its self-renewal efforts and strong youth wing. Its 42 management committee members include 17 people under 36 years old.

Clan general secretary William Lau, 52, who is also the youth wing's founding president, said its self-renewal efforts had the full support of older leaders.

Mr Hooy, in particular, has given strong financial support to the youth wing, including sponsoring its trips to Zhongshan, which is the hanyu pinyin name for Chung Shan, every other year.

Mr Hooy, an 85-year-old retired businessman, said: "I encourage the young to join the clan. I have supported them for the past 10 years because without them taking over from us, there will be no future."

Among those who responded is Ms Carmen Choy, 26, an assistant manager at Singapore Press Holdings' circulation department, who joined the youth group with her sisters Carrie, 24, and Carlynne, 17, after they went on the clan's tour to Zhongshan two years ago. Their father is a former president of the clan.

Ms Choy, who is the youth wing's vice-president, said: "In the past, we thought the association was only for older folk who spoke only Cantonese.

"But in the youth group, we do things that young people do, such as organise Christmas lunches and visits to old folks' homes, and we communicate mainly in English."

Miss Yin said: "We are planning to organise Cantonese classes for our members soon as most cannot speak the dialect any more and it can be embarrassing when we go back to Zhongshan on visits."

She speaks little Cantonese herself and was in Zhongshan again last November for a week-long youth leadership training programme sponsored by the city's government.


This article was first published on May 3, 2015.
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