How lessons from childhood bedtime stories impacted this businesswoman
Ginny Wiluan, director of Nongsa Resorts and Nongsa Digital Park, learnt the importance of kindness from young. Now, she’s parlaying that goodwill towards her father-in-law Kris Wiluan’s Citramas Foundation, which supports underprivileged youth in Indonesia.
Ginny Wiluan was familiar with bedtime stories even before she could read on her own. Like most Asian parents, her parents – Chew Gian Moh, a doctor, and Christy Chew, who used to head a trust company – placed a lot of importance in their children’s education. But the way she tells it, they did not believe in rote learning.
“Before I learnt to read for myself, my mother diligently read to me every night,” she said. Aesop’s fables were a frequent bedtime pick. “Of these, one of our favourites was The Lion and the Mouse, which teaches the importance of kindness and how it does not matter if we are big or small, strong or weak; we can all offer help to those in need. Each night and tale would end with a lesson learnt.”
Similarly, her father “invented stories of adventure and valour, and enraptured us with myths and old wisdoms from Homer’s The Iliad and the Odyssey”, Wiluan reminisced. “He would quiz us on the botanical names of plants that we passed in the park, give us the full anatomical terms for body parts with their associated medical conditions, and pepper our daily conversations with random brain‑teasers.” Before each family vacation, Wiluan’s parents would also encourage her and her sisters to learn about the culture and history of the places they were about to visit.
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By making learning fun and exciting, they helped to instill a deep love for learning in their children. “I believe my parents wanted to give me an appreciation of the world that was at a deeper level than that of a mere spectator, and ignite a personal desire within me to make it better.”
These are exactly the lessons that she and her husband Richard Wiluan now strive to impart to their three children. “I hope they develop the same love for learning that is not confined to conventional academic spheres, but encompasses everything the world has to offer. If I can give them nothing else, I will give them a good education that will hopefully give them the intellectual and emotional depth to become the best versions of themselves.”
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Wiluan is also doing her part to help more children develop their full potential. The Citramas Foundation, founded by her father-in-law Kris Wiluan, aims to improve the lives of underprivileged children in Indonesia through the provision of financial and medical aid and education. It runs programmes such as an annual medical outreach in Batam that sees volunteer doctors from Singapore conducting medical screenings for children.
On the business front, it has been a “busy but exciting time” for the Wiluans’ various ventures in Indonesia, said Wiluan, who is a director of Nongsa Resorts, while her husband is its president director and also a board member for the Citramas Foundation. Besides the upgrading of Nongsa Resorts, the adjacent Nongsa Digital Park, a joint venture helmed by her brother-in-law Mike on the Citramas Group side, has also been growing from strength to strength since opening in 2018.
The tech hub is poised to turn Nongsa into a “digital bridge” between Indonesia and Singapore. Wiluan, who is also director of Nongsa Digital Park, is quick to point out that in this day and age, an economic engine can, and indeed should, also be environmentally minded: “While we work on capitalising on this connectivity, we have prioritised sustainability and ensuring our development is ecologically friendly, preserving the mangroves that flank our land and the vegetation of the area that makes Nongsa so magical.”