Mr Christopher Lo, Board Member, Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore
And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
-The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
Like Ms Cecilia Sim and Mr Paul Long featured in the book, Mr Christopher Lo similarly stepped into the social service sector through a mid career switch, after dedicating 24 years to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). But it started most unusually back in 2005 when (then) Major Lo received a call from out of the blue – asking him whether he would attend a board meeting at the Spastic Children’s Association of Singapore (now rebranded as Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore, or simply CPAS). He was the Ministry of Defence representative co-opted to the CPAS board. That touchpoint sparked a decade-long relationship with CPAS until the present, with Mr Lo serving as a coopted member until about 3 years ago, when he became a full board member after he retired from the SAF.
Mr Lo summarises his takeaways from the inaugural NonProfit Directors programme succinctly into the 3Cs. Foremost, he believes that people volunteer as board members in thissector because they want to give back. The programme presents the educational platform to enable them to “do good better”, to influence change. First, it created awareness within him for the strategic Choices the board needs to make with the knowwhat for the roles and responsibilities the board assumes. Second, the structured Content imparts the knowhow to perform the duties of a board member well. Third, the sharing of the Context from actual case studies by fellow non-profit leaders provides the know-why on the circumstances and considerations non-profit boards use to manage any situational dilemmas that they face. Alongside with Mdm Rahayu Mohamad of PPIS, Ms Schutz Lee from Society for WINGS, and others from the inaugural programme, he encourages anyone who aspires to be a board member in this sector to sign up for the course. Mr Lo believes that the knowledge gained and the networks forged from the programme better equips volunteer board members to make their contributions more effective, and not just efficient.
Mr Lo defines success as giving one’s time and oneself in doing the little things well to make the positive difference in service to others. He views making the positive difference as inspiring others by building courage, regaining faith, and creating hope, so that they themselves believe in their own possibilities. Mr Lo attributes his firm belief from four essential reads: Robin Sharma’s The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie and Eugene O’Kelly’s Chasing Daylight. These books, reinforced by his near-death experiences serving in
Afghanistan and the post-traumatic stress disorder he endured after, taught him that life remains unpredictable, and most importantly, that our time on earth is limited. He therefore chooses to pursue a life of significance anchored on meaningful causes over material wealth, that is best carried out by giving his time and energy to people and causes that matter most. Mr Lo says, “It is what you want to be remembered for at the end of life that should set the pace of your life.” In answering that call 11 years ago, we have to thank Mr Lo for not hanging up through sheer serendipity. By responding to the call, he set into motion the most purposeful, and relentless, “national service” duty of his life.
“Duty, Honor, Country:
Those three hallowed words reverently dictate
what you ought to be, what you can be,
what you will be.
They are your rallying points:
to build courage when courage seems to fail;
to regain faith when there seems to be little
cause for faith; to create hope when hope
-Sylvanus Thayer Award Speech Address
(1962), General Douglas MacArthur