Chilli for a cause: 10-year-old raises funds for cancer-stricken hawker

Chilli for a cause: 10-year-old raises funds for cancer-stricken hawker

Phoebe Lim with her homemade sambal chilli
Phoebe Lim with her homemade sambal chilli. (Photos: Phoebe Lim/Facebook)

SINGAPORE: When 10-year-old Phoebe Lim learned to make sambal chilli from chef Benny Teo of Eighteen Chefs months ago, little did she expect that her love for cooking would also help a man in need someday. 

Meanwhile, Mr Tan Boon Teck, the youngest son of the late Mr Tan Chong Chia who founded the famed Armenian Street Char Kway Teow, wanted to raise funds for medical treatment by giving char kway teow lessons after learning that he suffers from Stage 3 colon cancer. His appeal made it to local media and was, in turn, shared by many - including popular food critic KF Seetoh. 

"(It started with) finding an article (about Mr Tan) on Facebook," Phoebe told Channel NewsAsia on Thursday (Jul 20). 

Her father, Mr Joshua Lim, asked her if she wanted to pitch in. The home-schooled student agreed, then launched an appeal on the social networking platform on Jul 13 with a simple message: "Hi everyone, I will be selling my homemade chilli to raise funds for Uncle Tan from Armenian Street Char Kway Teow who is suffering from Stage 3 colon cancer. Please let me know how many bottles you want by commenting below. :) Each bottle is S$15." 

She did not expect the avalanche of orders. It's now more than her little pot can handle.

Mr Lim said they had initially hoped to sell 20 to 30 bottles, 50 at the most. "We didn't actually set a target. When the (order) numbers started growing, we said we'd stop at 100, then 200 ... So we set a date to stop." 

In just a few days, Phoebe received orders for 346 bottles of homemade chilli. 


The cancer diagnosis was a blow to Mr Tan, who had just started assisting his elder brother, the current owner of the famous char kway teow chain of stalls, by helming the Sin Ming Road branch a few years ago. 

Ms Cindy Tan, Mr Tan's niece, said: "We are feeling very sad of course - this is something that nobody wants." 

While her family is glad that strangers are pitching in to assist them in a time of need, she said that they are also hoping that the good Samaritans could make their efforts known to them, so that both parties can ensure that they have ticked all the legal boxes. 

Ms Tan, who found out about Phoebe's fundraising efforts on Facebook after fish ball noodle chain Fishball Story shared it on their page, said she was "very happy" to see a complete stranger helping to raise funds for her uncle. The family estimates that with major surgery coming up and 28 sessions of chemotherapy, Mr Tan's medical costs could soar up to S$100,000. 

"Even though Singapore is quite a stressful country to live in due to high expenses, there are many kind souls ... who are very willing to help," she said. "My family and I really appreciate this."

Phoebe herself is now at the receiving end of other people's kindness. A chef has not only opened up his commercial kitchen for her use, but is also assisting in ordering the ingredients from a supplier. The chilli-making process will begin on Friday, and those who have already placed orders will be given collection details. 

Phoebe was also persuaded to make a second batch of chilli after a radio segment on Thursday morning. Mr Lim estimates it will be ready in early August. 

Phoebe and her father will pass the money raised to Mr Tan personally for accountability to those who have purchased her goods. They hope to do this next week. 

Ms Tan said she is looking forward to meeting the 10-year-old in person after placing an order herself for two bottles. "It's to show our appreciation - she's such a young girl and she actually has a big heart to help," she said. "(We're) very happy to see her trying her best to help."

Source: CNA/dl