Red Cross Memories: Cecilia Tan

It is said, "when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. When life presents you with an opportunity, you take it." That was what I did in the year 2000, when I was approached to develop and kick-start a National Blood Donor Recruitment Programme for the Singapore Red Cross (SRC). SRC was looking for someone with operations and marketing experience, preferably with a medical background.

I joined Raffles Medical Group (RMG) as a staff nurse in 1985 and had since taken on operations and marketing functions over my 15 years of service. In year 2000, RMG was in the final stages of opening Raffles Hospital, the organisation was gaining momentum and the listed company was doing very well since it went public in 1997.

Although I was not looking for a career move, I was interested to learn more about the job at SRC. I was interviewed by Mrs Geri Lau, SRC Secretary General from 1997 to 2008. I was impressed by her passion for humanity and her conviction that the Singapore Red Cross can make a difference to the National Blood programme by taking on the role of the National Blood Donor Recruiter.

Against all logical norms of career advancement, I decided to take on the challenge to develop and kick-start the national programme. It is not often that one gets such an opportunity. I was also convinced that I made the right decision as my better-half was very supportive of my decision.

Although I have to come to terms with the loss in material gains (had I stayed on with RMG), I have gained so much more in terms of the opportunities presented to me in the development and advocacy of non-remunerated blood donation, both locally and overseas. I have also attained acknowledgement for my contributions from international bodies such as the World Health Organisation, the International Society of Blood Transfusion and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Having spent 10 years heading the Blood Donor Recruitment Programme, I was in the process of planning my next move; I was considering international positions that were opened at that time. At my annual appraisal in 2011, with former Secretary General, Mr Christopher Chua, I was offered a promotion to Director, Operations to oversee all the operations units in SRC.

This presented another turning point in my life where my decision will lead me on to very different paths. Again, my better-half helped me with making this decision by telling me that I should serve my own people and country first before serving others.

I was very fortunate to be promoted to Deputy Secretary General (DSG) Operation by the now Secretary General, Mr Benjamin William in 2012. He told me that I am already performing at senior management level and there is no reason for him to deny me the position of DSG.

As SRC turns 65 in 2015, it will mark my 15th year with the Singapore Red Cross. The years ahead of SRC are filled with opportunities and excitement for all the staff and volunteers alike. We have gained much international recognition for the work we have done in disaster and emergency management. We have also gained traction within our local community for the humanitarian programmes developed to serve the less fortunate and vulnerable in our society.

My birthday wish for SRC is for her to continue realising her vision of "bringing people and institutions together in aid of the vulnerable, both locally and overseas." Happy 65th, SRC.