Juying Secondary School

Beary good idea sparks big charity drive

After 12 teddy bears made by Juying Secondary School students were sold for charity, teachers and staff members banded together to make another 18 bears for sale. (Back row, from left) Administrative assistant Wendy Chia, who is a member of the schoo
After 12 teddy bears made by Juying Secondary School students were sold for charity, teachers and staff members banded together to make another 18 bears for sale. (Back row, from left) Administrative assistant Wendy Chia, who is a member of the school's parents' support group; students Foo Shu Hui, Wan Jing Yi, Valerie Quek Kai Xin and Bryan Lai, who made the bears; and housewife Karen Chng, 42, who conducted the teddy-bear making workshop. (Middle row, from left) Principal Seet Tiat Hee; Mr Krish Phua, senior manager of corporate services at the Autism Association (Singapore); and Mrs June Lee, 50, chairman of the parents' support group. (Front row, from left) Among the people who bought the teddy bears are business excellence manager Christina Sim, headhunter Shawn Wong, researcher Dr Lai Kin Seng, consultant Tan Bee Lay, educator G. K. Toh, administrative executive Jasmine Lee and businessman Peter Hong.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

What started as a workshop to engage some students at Juying Secondary School in Jurong West became its major charity event.

Principal Seet Tiat Hee had asked a parent volunteer, housewife Karen Chng, 42, to teach more than 20 Secondary 3 students - who did not go on an overseas learning trip with their schoolmates in May - how to make teddy bears. The students were divided into six groups.

Each group made two bears in two days.

One of the students, Bryan Lai, 15, had quipped that he could sell his bears for $150 each.

"I thought our bears looked nice, and I was joking that we could sell them. I didn't think it would become reality," he said.

HAVING A GIVING SPIRIT

Most of our students come from very humble homes. But we want to encourage them to think outwards... I want the students to understand that even if they don't have much, they can still contribute to society.

MR SEET TIAT HEE, principal of Juying Secondary School

This prompted Mr Seet to ask his friends if they would be interested in buying the bears, with the proceeds going to charity.

"I managed to get a friend who was interested. He bought the first bear for $100," said Mr Seet.

Before long, all the 12 teddy bears made by the students were sold.

Teachers and other staff members made another 18 bears, with some bearing the Singapore flag and the SG50 logo.

These bears also found homes quickly, with one donor even paying $1,000 for a bear.

The sales raised $8,888 for the Autism Association (Singapore).

Last Thursday, Mr Seet invited those who had bought the bears to a presentation ceremony at the school to celebrate National Day in advance. The fundraiser was just one of the ways the school marked Singapore's 50th birthday.

It is also donating $20,000, given by the Ministry of Education under the SG50 Giving initiative to encourage students to work with charities, to the Tzu Chi Foundation.

The non-profit group conducts house visits and provides food coupons and transport allowances to the school's low-income students.

Mr Seet said: "Most of our students come from very humble homes. But we want to encourage them to think outwards, and how they can use their efforts to impact other people.

"I want the students to understand that even if they don't have much, they can still contribute to society."

Madam Chng said: "I was just happy to teach the students how to make bears, because not many are interested in this craft these days.

"I didn't expect the project to grow this big."

Dr Lai Kin Seng, 48, an old friend of Mr Seet's from their days as students at Raffles Institution, had bought the last bear for $698.

Dr Lai, a researcher at DSO National Laboratories, said: "Much as we hope the donation will help to raise awareness of autism, we can also see how this cause has shown the students of Juying how a thought carried out to implementation can go a long way."Pearl Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2015, with the headline 'Beary good idea sparks big charity drive'. Print Edition | Subscribe