Owen Yap, public personality, is not hitched. He has five kids. “Di luar nikah?!” he’s been asked. Alas, paparazzi: He did not spawn out of wedlock despite his well-posted wanderlust and women in every port. Since 2009, Owen has sponsored a child each in Thailand, Mongolia, India, Lebanon and Vietnam via the global Christian non-governmental organisation, World Vision.
Owen’s sizeable following is cross cultural; while he’s identified with 8tv’s 8pm Primetime Chinese News and travel shows such as Hi Seoul, he also lectures Royal Malaysian Air Force officers on management principles for Open University Malaysia at TUDM Subang and Kinrara airbases, and at Mindef.
He’s also World Vision Malaysia's spokesman for its "Changing 6,000 lives in 200 Days" child sponsorship campaign. However, because it takes village to raise a child, the sponsorship money goes towards the child’s community, and not to an individual fund. Here’s what he’s learned about fatherhood so far.
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My father passed away in 2007, when Malaysia was celebrating its 50th anniversary. I remember that because I was supposed to host a TV show on the national parade. My colleagues managed to find someone to cover for me in Dataran Merdeka.
My dad was typical Chinese man; he was a Chinese independent school student. So his way of thinking was very traditional. I wouldn’t say he was trying to control us; he wanted to leave us to our own way but would somehow tell us what we were supposed to do.
When I was in Form 6 (then one of the world’s toughest university entrance exams) and was considering going to university overseas, my father said, “It’s not that I don’t want you to study abroad but you must prove to me and your mom that you can enter local university.” It’s one of the ways he challenged us [to fend for ourselves]; he would leave the decision to us but tell us something about what we could do.
When I went to Yonsei University in Korea to do my post-graduate programme (in international management), he said, “It is time for you to pursue your dreams”. I’d had the chance to visit Korea the year before, in autumn, and loved the ambiance at the university so I decided to enrol there.
The best way (to convince people to move beyond the idea of biological parenthood) is outreach. World Vision ambassadors share their experiences with potential sponsors, who share their experiences with other potential sponsors. I know from my experience of sponsoring kids that it’s actually quite cool, so that’s what I tell them.
We’re sponsoring the community; we’re not giving money directly to the sponsored child. We can actually see the development of the community.