Chin holding a photo of her sponsored child, Shadhin. She said:

Felicia Chin holds up a photo of her sponsored child, Shadhin. “It’s powerful for a little child to be given a choice: Who do you like? Go ahead and choose." All photos courtesy of World Vision Singapore.

Five-year-old Shahdin Barai, a village boy from Bangladesh, stood in front of 34 photos of strangers clipped up neatly in three rows. After giving it a moment’s thought, he walked decidedly towards one that had caught his eye and took it down.

It was a simple act, but this was the first time Shahdin, a beneficiary of World Vision Singapore, had been able to choose his sponsor. For years, vulnerable children like him have had to wait for sponsors to pick them.

Five-year-old Shadhin Barai from Bangladesh chose Mediacorp actress and World Vision Singapore ambassador Felicia Chin as his sponsor in an initiative that empowers vulnerable children to choose their sponsors. All photos courtesy of World Vision Singapore.

Five-year-old Shadhin Barai from Bangladesh chose Mediacorp actress and World Vision Singapore ambassador Felicia Chin as his sponsor in a new initiative that empowers vulnerable children to choose their sponsors.

But in a new initiative called Chosen, World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organisation, is now flipping the script of child sponsorship by empowering these children to have the first choice.

The person Shahdin picked was Mediacorp actress and World Vision Singapore’s goodwill ambassador, Felicia Chin, who choked up with emotion as she watched a video, launched today (March 14), of him picking her photo.

Looking innocently into the camera, Shahdin introduced himself before adding: “Felicia, you are beautiful. I choose you.”

Munia from Bangladesh choosing her sponsor. For years,  vulnerable children like her have had to wait for sponsors to pick them. But now they are empowered to choose.

Munia from Bangladesh choosing her sponsor. For years, vulnerable children like her have had to wait for sponsors to pick them. But now they are empowered to choose.

Chin shot to fame in 2003 after emerging as the female champion of Mediacorp Channel 8’s Star Search Singapore. She made her debut in television drama Always on My Mind that same year and has since starred in almost 40 local dramas.

She was named as one of the Seven Princesses of Mediacorp in 2006 and has been named one of the Top 10 Most Popular Female Artistes in the Star Awards nine times.

Empowered by choice

Chosen’s pilot event, which was run this February in Wazirpur, Bangladesh, saw Chin, who turns 36 this year, rally about 20 of her friends to participate with her.

They included local celebrities and influencers Elvin Ng, Jayley Woo, Jean Danker, Jeffrey Xu and food blogger Daniel Ang. 

“When we are loved in return, it heals certain cracks that we didn’t even know existed.”

Sponsors had their photos taken and sent to World Vision Bangladesh, which displayed these portraits at a community event where children later gathered to make their choice.

Sponsors then received an image and handwritten letter from the child, which included more details about themselves and why they chose their sponsor’s photo.

In an interview with Salt&Light, Chin said: “It’s powerful to be given a choice, to ask a little child, who do you like? Go ahead and choose. I guess the child might feel special, loved, valued because we cherish their opinion, and it’s empowering for a child to feel that.”

She added that it was an emotional experience for her to be chosen as well: “We are all made to love and be loved. Many times why we chose to donate to a good cause or sponsor a child is because we want to love others. But when we are loved in return, it heals certain cracks that we didn’t even know existed.”

God’s grace

Chin, who has been World Vision Singapore’s goodwill ambassador since late 2018, also told Salt&Light that she was “surprised” and pleased when she first found out that she was chosen for the role.

“If it’s not convenient to pray, she would take their names down and pray for them back in the hotel.”

“I’ve always wanted to use my platform and the little influence that I have to be a voice for disadvantaged families and children, so I felt this was a perfect opportunity and it all happened by God’s grace,” said Chin, who has been a Christian since 2015.

Since her university days, she has been involved in humanitarian projects such as providing clean water for villagers in Cambodia and job training for out-of-school youths in the Philippines.

Her heart for people is genuine, proven through her actions even when the cameras are not rolling.

Lydia Lim, a communications executive at World Vision Singapore who has worked closely with Chin, told Salt&Light that she witnessed last January how Chin “really has a heart for God’s people”. Both were on a trip to Myanmar to visit World Vision Myanmar and also to meet the child that Chin was sponsoring.

Chin and one of her two sponsored children from Myanmar, Kyine Kyine, in a trip last January. "I want to be a vessel of love for Him through World Vision," she said.

Chin and her sponsored child from Myanmar, Kyine Kyine, in a trip last January. “I want to be a vessel of love for Him through World Vision,” she said.

Lim said: “During the trip, she told me that she doesn’t eat breakfast when she was actually fasting so that God will give her the right words to say (to the villagers). Everywhere we go, she will want to pray for people. If it’s not convenient to pray, she would take their names down and pray for them back in the hotel.”

In response, Chin humbly attributed her actions to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and God’s grace.

“By stopping and holding the person’s hands, I hope they will encounter God through this physical connection and the Holy Spirit.”

“I guess when we read the Bible, we see that Jesus always stops and talks to people. He stopped for anyone – a Samaritan woman, the blind, the lame. That’s His heart for the poor, the oppressed, the widows, the neglected, those we sometimes won’t even glance at.

“By stopping and holding the person’s hands, I hope they will encounter God through this physical connection, the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit working something inside him or her … I believe that God will touch the person,” she said.

Having experienced God’s love, which she describes as “so deep and so wide”, Chin hopes that she can be “a vessel of love for Him through Word Vision”.

“Sponsoring children is definitely a very good cause, but at the same time I also do pray for His light to come upon their land,” she said. “May we be His vessels and let His light pour upon the hearts of these children and nations.”

Do you want to be Chosen too?

Starting in March, World Vision Singapore is looking for sponsors to be chosen. Each sponsorship costs $45 a month. Click here to find out more.

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About the author

Gracia Lee

Gracia is a journalism graduate who thoroughly enjoys people and words. Thankfully, she gets a satisfying dose of both as a writer at Salt&Light. When she's not working, you will probably find her admiring nature or playing Monopoly Deal with her little brother.