Ex-dropout's $1m a year to help poor children

BUSINESSMAN S.M. Jaleel, 53, grew up poor but now leads a company that builds and runs workers' dormitories.

The philanthropist, a school dropout who began work as a construction worker, has set up a foundation to pump $1 million a year into causes for disadvantaged children.

Yesterday, the launch of the S.M. Jaleel Foundation coincided with the presentation of $660,000 to 12 charities, including Mendaki and the Chinese Development Assistance Council.

The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, which gives underprivileged children money for recess, received the largest sum - $200,000.

Mr Jaleel said the rest of this year's million will go towards individuals.

He said at the cheque presentation at the Hotel Fort Canning: 'We arrive in this world with nothing and go in the end with nothing.

'Why not share a part of what you have accumulated and make life better for those in real need?'

School Pocket Money Fund organising chairman Bertha Henson said: 'I'm a little surprised at the huge sum, but then I gather that Mr Jaleel has a very strong affinity for children's organisations, having himself grown up in some really tough childhood circumstances.'

President S R Nathan, who was at the event, said many have benefited from Mr Jaleel's charity.

He added he would continue his involvement in charity events even after stepping down as President.

LEOW SI WAN