HSBC project homes in on study areas for kids

Aim is to give needy children a more conducive study environment

FEW things are more important for a school-going child's future than having a place to study in peace and comfort.

More than 200 needy youngsters have been given just that after their homes were done up by 600 HSBC staff members and customers to include a refurbished study area.

The All In A Day's Work initiative involved volunteer teams of between six and 10 people each working to create a better study environment in individual households.

'We believe that education is the key to unlocking a child's potential. By helping them to do better in school and improving their prospects, we see it as a most effective way to help these children break out of the poverty cycle,' said HSBC chief executive Alex Hungate.

Earlier this month, 67 homes were done up. Each was completed within a day.

The initiative - part of HSBC's Corporate Responsibility Challenge - is now in its third year.

Review visits by social workers and volunteer coordinators show that half of former beneficiaries see an improvement in their school results.

'I (would) love to study more and study harder now,' said Junior Terrence Cubinar, 13, whose home was done up on Wednesday.

He is part of an 11-member household living in a two-room flat, and used to study on the floor or along the corridor outside his flat.

Besides items like a table and desk lamp for the study area, he also requested a white board.

'I want to teach my sisters maths and English,' he said proudly.

The project also provided furniture like beds and wardrobes, depending on each family's needs. Volunteers also repainted homes and tidied them up.

The children were identified with the help of voluntary welfare organisations, and come from households with a per capita income of between $100 and $450.

HSBC has also raised $239,874.88 by collecting pledges from corporate partners and staff, and matching them dollar-for-dollar.

Proceeds go to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, which helps low-income children with school-related expenses.

Mr Hungate led the way by helping volunteer teams with the work.

He believes that the volunteers are also acting as good role models for the children.

'Beyond a brand new study area, we want to inspire them about how important their studies are, and the power of knowledge, by being good role models,' he said.

gkaishi@sph.com.sg