Melissa Kwee (Singapore Activist)

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Melissa Kwee
Melissa Kwee.jpg
Born1972
EducationBachelor of Social Anthropology
Alma materHarvard University

Melissa Aratani Kwee (born 1972) is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), a non-profit organisation based in Singapore. As the eldest daughter of Kwee Liong Tek, she is also the third-generation scion of the Pontiac Land Group along with her siblings, Stephanie, Alison and Evan Kwee.[1] Melissa Kwee received the Singapore Youth Award and ASEAN Youth Award in 2007 and 2008 respectively for her leadership and service in the non-profit sector.[2]

Background[edit | edit source]

Melissa Kwee as a child. Photo from source.

Early life & family[edit | edit source]

Melissa Kwee was born in 1972 to a Japanese-American mother, Donna (née Aratani) and a Singaporean-Chinese father, Kwee Liong Tek, who is the Chairman of Pontiac Land Group.[3] She is the oldest sibling with two younger sisters and a younger brother, Evan Kwee.[4][5] Melissa Kwee shared more about her childhood in an interview with High Net Worth, saying:

“My parents brought us up with the idea that we were no better or worse than anybody else, and if we had something, we ought to share it. We were not pampered in that sense. We had to do chores for allowance, work and do internships during summer.”[6]

Melissa Kwee’s maternal grandfather is George Tetsuo Aratani, the founder of Kenwood Electronics and Mikasa Chinaware.[7][8] Her paternal grandfather is Henry Kwee, the founder of Pontiac Land Group.

Education[edit | edit source]

Melissa Kwee in Nepal. Photo from source.

Melissa Kwee was an International Baccalaureate (IB) student at United World College South East Asia (UWCSEA) from 1983 to 1990.[9][10] After spending almost two years volunteering in Nepal,[11][12] she then enrolled in Harvard University where she studied Social Anthropology.[13] The Fulbright scholar spent an additional year after university to research ethnic-based community leadership in Kathmandu, Nepal.[10]

Career[edit | edit source]

Melissa Kwee with Le Ly Hayslip (middle), a Vietnamese-American humanitarian. Photo from source.

Since returning to Singapore in 1996, Melissa Kwee has initiated numerous social initiatives. Over the years, her portfolio has grown to include work that empowers young women and other marginalised communities in Singapore. Melissa Kwee is also on the Board of Directors for Prison Fellowship Singapore[14] and the Board of Advisors for Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT).[15]

Project Access (1996)[edit | edit source]

Melissa Kwee founded Project Access in 1996 upon returning to Singapore from her university studies. The non-profit organisation designed programmes for secondary schools and junior colleges to develop the leadership skills of young girls.[16]

United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) (2002 - 2006)[edit | edit source]

Melissa Kwee was the president of UNIFEM from 2002 to 2006 where she initiated campaigns relating to women’s rights as well as child exploitation.[17] In 2001, Melissa Kwee and Audrey Chin initiated a financial management programme for foreign domestic workers.[18] This UNIFEM pilot project evolved into an independent organisation called Aidha that provides financial education for foreign domestic workers. In 2005, UNIFEM started a petition to “make it a criminal offence to engage with anyone below 18 years of age while overseas”.[19] The movement intended to increase awareness about child-sex tourism among the public and businesses in the tourism sectors. Speaking to TODAY in 2005, Melissa Kwee says:

"Whether they are hotels, tour agents, ferry operators or budget operators, we must work with them to raise awareness among their customers. Obviously we want to promote tourism - it creates jobs and cultural awareness - but not child-sex tourism."[19]

Beautiful People (2006 - current)[edit | edit source]

Melissa Kwee is the co-founder of Beautiful People, a volunteer group that reaches out to at-risk youth by providing them access to suitable mentors.[20] In an interview with The Straits Times, Melissa Kwee shared more about the impetus of the initiative:

"To be honest, we never set out to achieve anything other than to be a place where girls, whose homes were not the happiest places, would feel welcomed and cared for."[21]

Over the years, Beautiful People has run programmes for families, female inmates and teenage boys. In 2013, Beautiful People was awarded the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre's (NVPC) President Award for Volunteerism.[22] As of 2020, Melissa Kwee is the Chairman of the organisation.[23]

National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) (2014 - current)[edit | edit source]

Melissa Kwee became the Chief Executive Officer of NVPC in 2014.[24] Under her leadership, the NVPC has spearheaded nation-wide social initiatives such as Giving.sg which replaced SG Gives and SG Cares in 2015.[25] As of 2020, Giving.sg supports over 500 charity organisations in Singapore.[26] Amidst the COVID-19 outbreak in February 2020, Giving.sg accumulated more than $2.2 million of donations. NVPC also reported an increase in volunteer sign-ups on the website.[27] In 2016, NVPC also launched the ‘Company of Good’ campaign to encourage corporate giving in Singapore.[28]

References/ Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. "Kwee Liong Tek". Tatler Singapore. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  2. "JCA 2019 SPEAKERS". The Justice Conference Asia. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  3. "MELISSA KWEE: HER WORLD YOUNG WOMAN ACHIEVER". Her World Woman of the Year. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  4. "MELISSA ARATANI KWEE". TODAY. March 20, 2010. Accessed on 22 September 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  5. "Keeping meaningful traditions alive [ARTICLE + ILLUSTRATION]". The Business Times. December 21, 2001. Accessed on 28 September 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  6. Teo Ren Feng. "A Candid Conversation with Melissa Kwee". High Net Worth. December 1, 2017. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  7. "George Tetsuo ARATANI". Los Angeles Times. February 23, 2013. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  8. "Life's Calling". Forbes. March 6, 2009. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  9. "Melissa Kwee bio and photo". UWCSEA. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Class of 1990 REUNITED". UWCSEA. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  11. Stewart, Melissa. "Championing A City of Good". Millionaireasia. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  12. Lim, Serene. "Jetsetting with ... NVPC’s CEO Melissa Kwee". TODAY. December 1, 2016. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  13. Tan, Karen. "“I’m really proud of our miracle nation”: NVPC’s Melissa Kwee on her dreams for a City of Good". Salt & Light. August 9, 2019. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  14. "Board of Directors". Prison Fellowship Singapore. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  15. "Board of Directors". Singapore Repertory Theatre. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  16. "She’s filthy rich but …". New Paper. February 25, 2000. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  17. Kyna-Tan, Kim. "World peace starts at home". TODAY. December 13, 2002. Accessed on 22 September 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  18. "History". aidha. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Yin, Jasmine. "Netting child-sex tourists". TODAY. October 13, 2005. Accessed on 22 September 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  20. "WHAT WE DO". Beautiful People. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  21. Ng, Royanne. "Beautiful People celebrates a decade of helping youth at risk". The Straits Times. May 26, 2016. Accessed on 22 September 2020. Retrieved from AsiaOne.
  22. Cheah Ui-Hoon. "Expanding the scope of mentoring those at risk". Business Times. May 6, 2016. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  23. "Statutory Information". Beautiful People. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  24. Hoe Pei Shan. "Social activist Melissa Kwee replaces NMP Laurence Lien as chief exec of NVPC". The Straits Times. July 23, 2014. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  25. Neo Chai Chin. "New website to spur donations, other forms of giving". TODAY. May 22, 2015. Accessed on 22 September 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  26. "Charities". Giving.sg. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  27. Yong, Clement. "Coronavirus: Large spike in donations on Giving.sg in February amid outbreak; more than $2.2m raised". The Straits Times. March 2, 2020. Accessed on 22 September 2020.
  28. "NVPC: Make Goodness the Business of Every Organisation". The Epoch Times. December 17, 2018. Accessed on 22 September 2020.