Smiles from volunteers and Vietnamese beneficiaries of Project Happy Feet, which Ms Chew co-founded.

The purpose of my life is to use my gifts and talent and make a difference in as many ways as possible, says Singapore Woman Award nominee Deborah Chew.

“God has given you a gift in your hands. If you keep holding it in your hands you can never spread his goodness,” says Ms Chew, 35.

The parishioner of the Church of Divine Mercy, together with two other women, were nominated for the MediaCorp award.

It aimed to honour a woman leader who is aware of her social responsibility, and who has a minimum of two years’ track record of outstanding achievements.

Ms Deborah Chew, nominee for MediaCorp’s Singapore Woman Award.

Although she did not emerge winner when the results were announced on March 31, Ms Chew, managing director of creative solutions company Caelan and Sage, said being nominated was already a great blessing. This was because it gave publicity to her charitable programme for underprivileged children in developing countries, Project Happy Feet (PHF).

The idea for the programme, which got her nominated for the award, started in 2007 when she and a close friend went to Siem Reap, Cambodia for a vacation.

They brought along some slippers to give to children at a village they visited. Seeing that most of the children had no footwear, they were saddened that they did not bring enough for all. It was then that they decided to do more.

Today, Project Happy Feet reaches out to many children in Cambodia and Vietnam, providing slippers, school supplies and supporting training and education programmes.

In December 2008, PHF became a part of Caelan and Sage’s Corporate Social Responsibility. The project presently has a core team of 14 volunteers.

“I keep getting reminded that what I can do is a gift from God. You realise that you can do a lot of things and it’s not really by your own strength,” said Ms Chew, who is single.

Apart from Caelan and Sage, she also manages her design boutique, Thinking Designs, and sports and fitness company, Right Impact Sporting Excellence.

Ms Chew said she learnt to use her talents to help others through a spiritual experience years ago.

When she was 24 and working as an administrative officer for a tertiary institution, she was invited by Jesuit Fr Philip Heng to design the Jesuits’ newsletter. She later became part of the team that set up the Jesuits’ website.

In the course of this work, “I picked up simple things that helped me in my faith”, she said. “One thing that the Jesuits believe in is ‘finding God in all things’. It’s really amazing how you can find God in the design [and] the people you interact daily.”

She then started helping other parishes such as Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and Church of Divine Mercy in the design of their commemorative magazines, church bulletins, brochures, newsletters and other print material.

“One thing about me, I never say no to God’s work – any time any place,” she said.

The other two women nominated for the Singapore Woman Award were Ms Bernise Ang, founder of an organisation that empowers youths to act as agents of social change, and Ms Nicole Yee, who created the all-female social networking site CozyCot.

Ms Ang emerged as winner.

By Marie Jude Bendiola

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