An average guy who’s walked a far from average path, Martin Tan was just 17 when his father died of a heart attack. Fortunately for him, a group of Christian leaders stepped forward as role models, inspiring him to achieve more than he thought he ever could. Now 35, Tan has made a career out of paying it forward.
In 2003, he co-founded the Halogen Foundation, an educational charity which annually trains some 10,000 youths aged between 10 and 25 to become leaders. Why? Because he believes young people have the capacity to be change-makers. “They are idealistic, full of energy and drive, and are at an age where they can afford to fail and start all over again. If we can raise a generation of leaders from young, they have so much more opportunities to practice their leadership skills and abilities and become even better leaders as they grow older,” he says.
The foundation will mark its 10th anniversary this October — with a charity gala at the Conrad Centennial — but instead of looking back on past achievements and giving themselves a pat on the back, Tan and his team are asking “what’s next?“. “We want to celebrate what the next 10 years will bring. It is a future we are very excited about,” he says.
Like a proud papa, he already speaks of past Halogen participants and volunteers with pride. There’s Veerappan Swaminathan, a volunteer in 2007, who now runs his own social enterprise called Sustainable Living Lab, and Ong Ruo Ning, who received leadership development training in 2004 and now pays it forward by using her flight entitlements as a Singapore Airlines flight attendant to visit and volunteer at orphanages in India and Nepal.