Stand on Your Own Two Feet

Andrew and Alicia
-by Chin Soksan

“Stand on your own two feet.” Andrew was given this advice by his late father, an international businessman in the 1960s into the 2000s. Smiling joyfully, Andrew Tay elaborated what his father meant by this. Confidently he explains that “it is to be independent, stable, self-sustaining, and having a balance in life between family, health and business.” He adds that we should carry these principals with us in order to be successful businessmen and women. As the proverb goes, “Train a child in the way he should go . . .” This instruction was a powerful influence in Andrew’s life, an enduring legacy passed to Andrew from a very young age.
But exactly what was it that Andrew learned that led to his becoming a successful, satisfied Christian businessman living in Cambodia?
To be strong, smart, stable and successful in life and career means not only trusting one’s human knowledge, but being open-minded to opportunity. Andrew has attempted to live up to his life goals, in fact thrived, all by standing on his own feet.
And how far can a person go toward reaching one’s goal depending solely on his or her own knowledge and traditions?
Becoming an entrepreneur, Andrew decided to gain a higher education, so he attended the Hawaii Pacific University, majoring in International Business and minoring in Travel Industry Management. While a student he suffered from depression. His mother discouraged him from dating his now ex-girlfriend, who, according to a woman fortune-teller, might be bringing him bad luck.
“Why does this Buddhist and Taoist teaching interfere with my social affair?” Andrew wanted to know. He was confused, uncertain about life, and beginning to question the purpose of his life. Depressed and angry, he said of at that time, “I couldn’t even make my own choices of whom I would date.”
At the same time, Andrew questioned the Buddhist and Taoist teachings and Christianity’s teaching. Over a number of years, Andrew had heard about Christianity. He had a roommate and former girlfriend, among others, who were Christian. Often, Andrew was offended by some of their tactics to evangelize him. Struggling and in despair with his social relationships, Andrew felt only disgust with his life, empty. What was the purpose of life and meaning of living on earth? Why was he feeling pain and without peace? Why couldn’t Buddha or Taoist deities help him with his pain and suffering?
Doing a U-turn
The turning point in his life came one week just before the Christmas holiday season. One evening in his apartment, Andrew listened to an evangelical preacher on TV saying, “Jesus can save you tonight. He loves and cares for you.” Quietly, he went down onto his knee in the living room, alone, sober and desperate; he decided to accept Jesus. He repented and turned to Jesus for the solutions to his despair and suffering. One week later, Andrew went to Calvary Chapel, Honolulu, a Christian church’s Sunday service across from his apartment. When the pastor made an alter call, he went forward and confessed and accepted Jesus as his Savior. Andrew’s life was transformed from that point. For the next several months, Andrew experienced spiritual attacks. He prayed for deliverance and for the cleansing of his home to remove any spirits and the spells of the fortune-teller. Having a new faith and a transformed life, Andrew participated in Bible fellowships, studied at the Bible College, and volunteered for mission trips.
THE LIGHT TIMES caught up with Andrew Tay in June. Andrew told us that he is a Singaporean businessman, aged 42, the director of a five-star hotel apartment block, the Himawari Hotel Apartments, situated along the emerald green waters of Tonle Sap, on the Mekong River, in the heart of Phnom Penh. The Himawari Hotel Apartments has just celebrated its 13th anniversary of excellent service to VIPs who work for non-governmental organizations, embassies, businesses, and tourists from all over the world.
Andrew meets his wife
Andrew says he fell in love with his wife, Alicia, “at first sight” when they met during the Cambodian Independence’s Day event in Singapore. Taking Alicia’s trusted godparents, god brother and a former Cambodian Ambassador “stirred up our hearts and interest toward each other,” Andrew says. “God had a plan for me as well as Alicia. Looking back, He had a plan for me to have a Cambodian wife.”
“Marrying a Cambodian woman made sense to me,” says Andrew.“Alicia knew the culture, language, society, and ways of life. Also, I have a business here in Cambodia.”
In 2010, Andrew married Alicia. Now, they have two energetic and cute children—a three-year-old boy and a one-year-old girl.
Attention to family
Says Andrew, “My wife and I committed to caring for our children and family. We committed to being strong in Christ and having a stable life in order to raise our family.” He says, “I must be a good role model to my family and attentive to my children. I must give back to my children by being a real father to them, spending and sharing with them about God. After several trips overseas, my older child at first failed to recognize me as his father. I committed to balance life between work and family. My wife often reminds me that our children observe our attitudes and behaviors. My attitudes should be reflected in my actions and words towards my family, staff, and guests. I try to be a true servant to God, to my family and my business.
Family Legacy
The family’s legacy of business knowledge and skills, along with a Buddhist-Taoist background were implanted in Andrew’s life and character. From a very young age, Andrew was immersed in business activity. In 1960s, his father set up a trading company that imported and re-exported wine, tobacco and duty-free goods, locally and internationally. During the 1980s, European and North American countries were finding it difficult to trade directly with Cambodia and Vietnam, hence, Andrew’s father set up his trading businesses in the Indo-China region to assist. When the Cambodian government started to open its doors to direct foreign investment and trade—around 1995—his father together with his siblings went in a new direction—developing a 5-star hotel, known as Himawari Hotel Apartments.
Developing Character
Andrew is one of 11 siblings. Both his parents passed away in 2002. Andrew did not have many friends. He recounts how in childhood he was left to play alone in the house. So crowded by family and yet alone, how did he cope and build up his character and self-confidence?
“I studied a lot,” Andrew says. “And I participated in community clubs. My father often told us, ‘Give back to the community and help the poor.’ ”
During his secondary school days, Andrew volunteered with the St. John Ambulance Brigade Singapore. St. John Ambulance recruits primary and secondary school students as volunteer cadet first-aiders for major events. At the national level, adult first-aiders, nurses and doctors were called into service as first-aid responders before the civil ambulance gets to the crisis sites. The non-profit organization taught him leadership skills, character and social relationships improvement in addition to life-saving techniques. As a result, he says, “I have gained self-confidence, was able to give back to the community, learnt moral values, and cared for the needy. In a practical way, he learned first-aid, public duties, collaboration, commitment, leadership, organizational and communication skills. Most importantly, Andrew learned to bring joy and peace in the service of humankind.
Mission and Service
“My father wasn’t always thinking about earning money and being rich. My father encouraged me to visit poor countries. ‘You need to learn about the poor,’ he would say. My father lived through World War II and experienced poverty and hardship for himself, which taught him the importance of giving back to the community.”
Andrew is a cheerful and warmhearted person. The quietly spoken man shared his memories of his numerous short-term mission trips and adventures during his university years, visiting Malaysia, Taiwan, Russia, and Ukraine. “Jesus commanded His followers to go and make disciples to the nations,” Andrew says, “so I am passionate about volunteering my time, energy, and resources.” He has worked with Kehilat Ha Melech, a Messianic Jewish congregation, and also his former church (the Calvary Chapel, Honolulu) in its community activities, which include sharing the gospel and feeding the homeless. “My eyes were opened to the different cultures, languages, living conditions, and religious beliefs.”
Family Values
Andrew believes that his parents and family’s support was an essential element in his own success. His father and brothers gave him good support, but life was nevertheless tough, he admits.
The desire to be successful makes for hard work—one has to “work smart” as well, and think outside of the box.
“My father once told me, ‘You put a dollar—must make two dollar.’ Learning to stand on my own feet has given me a humble spirit, a willingness to seek advice to not be ashamed to ask others for help. No matter what, as human beings, we always attempt to do our best. A healthy and stable life depends on the choices we make, built on a determination developed in us during childhood.”
Andrew greatly values honesty and a commitment to maintaining harmonious relationships with siblings and parents, something he practices while he was growing up. His siblings are very supportive of him, even after their parents passed away. Andrew’s parents were his role models. Their love for him was unforgettable.
His mother cared, doing her very best to raise them to follow the moral Buddhist and Taoist practices. But she also involved fortune-tellers in order to make decisions for him. But when he came to know Christ, he felt recognized Jesus’ teachings were much better. “My father taught me about trading, import and export, and took me to his workplace. He spent time and talked about his business with my siblings. I remember my father took the effort to spend time with us during meal times, spoke with us and watched television together. Now I have two children of my own. I have committed to giving them the same sort of time, to put in the effort and energy to be with my children beyond my work.”
Transparency in all things
Standing on his own two feet also helped him to develop transparency in business, says Andrew. He early realized the importance of being transparent in his daily life. His Himawari Hotel Apartments is first of all committed to progress and excellence, and, second, it values its staff, as they are the key to excellence. Andrew has a commitment to help, train, and encourage them to develop and grow in their jobs. “They must serve every guest with respect, dignity, and safety,” he explains. “The hotel’s priority is to ensure the safety and comfort of their staff, who are trained in a servant attitude to leadership, with integrity, honesty, high morals, and respect for others as their ruling mores.”
“We have a clear goal and purpose, with Jesus’ teachings about life governing our business,” Andrew says. “Having money, cars, fame, popularity, and other materials things don’t bring me joy and peace. If I gain these things through unethical business practices, as a human being, how can I live with that on my conscience?”
Giving Back
Standing on one’s own feet is also to give back to the community. The Hotel Apartments have succeeded because their customers and community receive excellent service.
“We support NGOs who provide services and training to young people, so that they can in turn fish for themselves and stand on their own two feet.”
He supports the many NGOs who would build the next generation. Project Khmer Hope in Kampong Speu is one such, providing hospitality, computer, and English language training skills to young, needy people. Another is St. John Ambulance Brigade’s “Ray of Light,” which teaches young adults how to do basic first-aid and improve personal and community hygiene. He also provides scholarships for young musicians. Recently his Himawari Hotel sponsored Nicholas Ho, a 22-year-old Singaporean, and Touch Raksmey, 16, a Cambodian boy, in a classical piano recital, awarding a $500 scholarship to Touch Raksmey to continue his piano studies with Sronos Music school.
On Himawari Hotel Apartments’ Biz Café’s wall, there are plaques of appreciation from the Cambodian Red Cross, Operation Smile, Kent Ridge Education Consultancy, even one from the Cambodia-Singapore Internal Spelling Competition, and many others.
Andrew knows that in learning to stand on one’s own two feet means to have a stable life, being morally and ethically strong, and caring for others. But most importantly, it means a commitment to care for his own family, his workers, and then the community. Says Andrew, “I am called to be God’s servant. My mission field is at Himawari Hotel Apartments. Giving back to the community through caring for our guests and also sponsoring projects in the community is God’s will for me.”

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