June 2023 Issue: Co-operator Newsletter Quarterly June 2023

Faces of Co-operators: Tony Lim from Loved Empowered Wants All Children To Flourish

Faces of Co-operators: Tony Lim from Loved Empowered Wants All Children To Flourish
Caption: Faces of Co-operators: Tony Lim from Loved Empowered Wants All Children To Flourish

By Sng Ler Jun

“Love Empowered is actually not a tuition centre,” says Tony Lim, the founder of Love Empowered Co-operative. The co-op’s ambitious beginnings had eight unique services—such as career coaching and training, distress hotlines and learning centres, to list a few—to boot, aimed at empowering children from different backgrounds.

“Now, the co-op functions more as an enrichment and remediation centre for children.”

Recounting harsh parenting and school bullying, which hampered his learning progress in schools, Tony, who had bipolar disorder, says starting the co-op hits two birds with one stone: on one end, he is able to create a safe space for children to flourish and learn; at the same time, he is able to fufill his childhood dream of running a business.

Tony from Love Empowered Co-operative sharing with SNCF team on the co-op's value proposition and social mission. 

“It is tough already to work with a mental health issue; I didn’t want any other children going through what I faced,” Tony, who is now a clinical psychologist at a social service agency, explains. The social stigma faced by youths who are dealing with mental health issues can stem from unfair society and family perceptions, he says.

But Tony is cognisant of not wanting to just empower children with mental health issues. He is quick to add that he wants to help children with differing needs, running the gamut from children with learning challenges and financial difficulties to children from single families and difficult environments. “I don’t want to discriminate.”

At present, the co-op has 32 members on board and is helping six children. The co-op has since benefitted 40 children directly under the Love Empowered programmes. The co-op’s other initiatives, such as the Charity Golf and Bowling sessions, have benefitted 150 children from Yong-en Care Centre and Chen Su Lan Methodist Children’s Home. “The previous batch of children graduated from the programme,” Tony says. 

The team at Love Empowered used to teach pro-bono classes to the children at Chen Su Lan Methodist Children’s Home and Sengkang Green Primary School. The pandemic may have put a stop to these pro-bono services, but Tony is hopeful to rope in new and familiar team members to get the programmes running again. “If possible, we would love to work with fellow co-ops, like Industrial & Services Co-Operative Society Ltd whom we had a brief discussion with in the past, too.”

Here, read our exclusive interview with Tony Lim from Love Empowered.


Tony and his wife Cheryl works at Love Empowered Co-operative. 

Sng Ler Jun: Hey Tony, tell me about yourself!

Tony Lim: I'm Tony. I am a clinical psychologist and counsellor. I am very passionate about helping children, and I enjoy working with them. I am also the founder of the tuition centre and children welfare co-op Love Empowered.

Ler Jun: When was Love Empowered Co-op formed? What is Love Empowered Co-op about?

Tony: The co-op was set up in 2015. I remember we waited six months for the co-op to be formed. It was very painful but very worthwhile. Contrary to what the public sees, Love Empowered is actually not a tuition centre. Now, it is more of an enrichment or remediation centre for children. 

Ler Jun: How did you get acquainted with the co-operative model then?

Tony: I am aware of the other business models out there, but at one point, I wanted to do charity. I think what really struck me about co-op was this whole thing about doing well and doing good.  Not saying that charities are not good, but I didn't want my clients or beneficiaries to feel less empowered. The co-op model was more empowering in retrospect.

Ler Jun: How does the co-op set up to do social good?

Tony: Firstly, we don't choose our children. We take children as they are and we support them, no matter how strong or weak they are.

Secondly, we make our services accessible to children from different backgrounds and financial needs. We have different pricing tiers — full-paying, subsidised, and pro bono. To paint a better picture, a full-paying Primary 1 or Primary 2 student would pay about $40 per hour for a one-to-one lesson. The subsidised rates are cheaper and we usually conduct the classes in groups.

We follow the different Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) card levels to determine who is entitled for the different subsidised rates. The criteria for each of the CHAS schemes is tied to one’s household monthly income.

Ler Jun: Oh that’s very innovative! But does this make business sense then?

Tony: Yes! In fact, for the teachers, we follow a similar structure whereby teachers will be remunerated based on the type of classes they teach. So if they are teaching a subsidised class, they would be paid the subsidised rates. I am also very thankful to the teaching volunteers who offer their services for free for those in the pro-bono categories too. These business decisions help to ensure that co-op still runs its course.


Ler Jun: How do you reach out to these children and beneficiaries then?

Tony: Our fellow co-ops, like Seacare, Runninghour and Silver Caregivers, have been supportive. We had some referrals and sharing sessions done at their events. We have also reached out to SG Enabled and even the polytechnics too. Social media marketing helps as well. But mostly, we get word of mouth recommendations. I would love to work with some corporate entities in the future.

Ler Jun: What are the key programmes or services the co-op is doling out?

Tony: We have two: Love Empowered Learning Centre and Family Empowered Programme; the former helps children with learning and coping well in school while the second recognises that the family unit is integral in children’s development and helps family members understand how best to work with children with differing needs. 

Ler Jun: What do you find most satisfactory working in the co-op?

Tony: The people I work together with. They are really passionate about helping children grow.

Ler Jun: What keeps you going then?

Tony: I think everyone is empowered by different things. For me, (running the co-op) is really enjoyable. I find it very rewarding when we play a part in developing these children as good people and citizens.

Interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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SNCF is the apex body of Singapore’s Co-operative Movement, and secretariat of the Central Co-operative Fund (CCF). Formed in 1980 with the aim of championing Singapore’s Co-operative Movement, the apex body represents majority of co-operative members in Singapore through its affiliated co-operatives.