Spending US$2 Million on a 2-Day Experience is This Singaporean Couple's Way of Helping Vulnerable Kids in Nigeria
Drawing the world’s eyes to the plight of some of the most vulnerable around the globe can be a challenge, especially for people who believe that perhaps it is easier to focus on helping those closer to home. But not for Karan Tilani and Vincent and Jane Hee. Utilising luxury as a key engine of philanthropy, the trio decided to come together and take things up a notch by going beyond the region to do good. With that, the Singaporean couple paid US$2 million for a two-day experience that was specially curated by Karan, one that he admitted "took a lengthy time".
Karan, the group director and head of Asia for World of Diamonds Group, spearheaded this philanthropic initiative that's dubbed the “World’s Most Exclusive Dinner”, in aid of DINNødhjælp, a Danish non-profit founded by humanitarian aid worker Anja Ringgren Lovén. In Nigeria, DINNødhjælp operates Land of Hope, a children’s centre housing “witch-children”.
"When you look at the issue we’re addressing here, it’s basically superstition. It’s a cultural belief where kids are considered to be demons and witches, for no reason. The kids who were supposed to be protected by their own parents are instead harmed by them. Along with David Emmanuel Umem, the founder of African Children’s Aid Education and Development Foundation, we set up Land of Hope, where abused kids are rescued. These are kids who have burnt marks, amputated limbs or hours away from death," said Karan at a press conference on Tuesday.
Who are the Hees?
Karan and Vincent had met through a mutual friend, which is how the latter found out about the plight of the vulnerable “witch-children” of Nigeria. Vincent currently oversees the operations of early childhood education institutions like Charis Montessori Preschool in Singapore, as well as Tong Le Yuan and Sin-China International Education in China and is an angel investor in various industries.
“When Karan first shared with me about the problem of "witch-children", I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. Imagine your own parents burning you alive, starving you—I didn’t think that was real or possible until he showed me a video. It broke my heart. I’m in the education business and I love children, so I just couldn’t believe something like this could happen. And after hearing about the work that Anja is doing, I felt like I should also give back,” said the 43-year-old media-shy businessman.
When asked by Tatler about his philanthropic work done over the years, he replied: "We were doing charity work in Singapore initially. Mainly with education institutions since that’s my area of business. That’s why I want to give back. Now we’re more involved in Malaysia where we help out at old folks' homes, with the disabled, and we also donate money or get caterers to cook for them. In Indonesia, I have a friend who’s a surgeon and she reaches out to me for help when she comes across patients who can't afford medical bills. And I’ll try my best to help."
Together with friends, Vincent and Jane, who is also 43 years old, also ship items of clothing and necessities to the Philippines as well as lead Vincent's team of staff to China where they would volunteer to teach in villages for two weeks every year.
The US$2 million experience
If you thought you’ve enjoyed some of the best fine dining experiences in Singapore, think again. Imagine having an 18-course meal prepared by Chef Kirk Westaway of Jaan—but in the skies, onboard a private jet. That’s what Vincent and his wife Jane, a homemaker, got to enjoy on Tuesday after they bought the “World’s Most Exclusive Dinner”. The two-day experience culminated with the aforementioned luxurious dinner onboard a private jet that took off from Seletar Airport, but it wasn’t for nought. Proceeds from the sale will benefit kids in Nigeria who are accused of being “witch-children” and to eradicate pneumonia, the leading cause of death for children under the age of five in the country.
Karan said there were several interested buyers after the experience started generating attention and publicity. Ultimately, it was the Hees who successfully purchased the experience.
“The motivation of the buyer was important for us. Vincent strongly relates to this initiative. He told me ‘Karan, you don’t have to do the dinner. We can just go on and partake in the philanthropic journey.’ But I told him ‘Look, the dinner is of no cost to us. It’s just out of kind cooperation and support from our partners’. We just want to give out the message that wealth and influence are strong responsibilities and should not be taken for granted,” Karan said.
Here’s what went down during the experience:
The World’s Most Exclusive Dinner commenced on Monday with an exquisite dining experience at the new rooftop concept 1-V:U and a night at The Outpost Hotel featuring 10,000 roses that adorned the suite the Hees stayed in.
On Tuesday morning, the couple embarked on a daytime cruise at ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove in Singapore waters on a Ferretti 780 luxury yacht from Hong Seh Marine. The couple also enjoyed a rare Louis XIII cognac in the exact same bottle that was served at the Royal Banquet to their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at the Chateau de Versailles in July 1938, and again served to Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to France in April 1957.
The Hees were then chauffeured in a Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Convertible, which was also their mode of transportation throughout the whole experience, that was later parked on the tarmac at Seletar Airport, making it only the second time that a private vehicle was permitted to do so—the first was when Barack Obama visited Singapore.
The Hees were also the first private citizens in Singapore to take a private car onto the tarmac. They then boarded a Bombardier Global 6000 from OJets to enjoy an 18-course dinner conceptualised and prepared by Kirk Westaway of Michelin-starred Jaan. The meal was served with vintage wines and champagnes, including Penfolds Grange 14, Dom Pérignon and Krug champagnes as the plane cruised at 40,000 feet above Southeast Asia.
Two pairs of diamond-encrusted chopsticks worth US$17,000 each were presented to the couple during the dinner, together with the Jane Seymour ring, a rose-gold plated platinum ring set with a rare 2.08-carat cushion-cut fancy vivid blue diamond.
"The ring is extra special to me because I think the ring that it "comes with lives". Jane became pregnant almost immediately after we found out that we were selected by Karan. We're having a boy! I believe that this ring not only brings lives to the Nigerian children but also my family," shared Vincent.
Finally, the experience ended with a night in the Presidential Suite of the newly restored Raffles Singapore.