Million-dollar boost for Pocket Money Fund

THE Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (SPMF) has had a surge in donations, receiving nearly $1 million from seven groups in the past three weeks. It now has more than $4 million in its kitty.

The latest donations are from various organisations, ranging from HSBC bank to Inspire, a youth social entrepreneurship group. Donations also came from steel engineering firm TTJ Holdings, the S.M. Jaleel Foundation, the National Cadet Corps (NCC) and a network of concierges, Les Clefs d'Or.

The SPMF, a community project started by The Straits Times in 2000, aims to support some 11,000 needy students with school-related expenses this year, and will need to raise $5 million by year's end.

Commenting on the outpouring of donations, the fund's organising chairman Bertha Henson, who is also an associate editor of The Straits Times, said: 'The money's great, of course. But look at who raised it, and how they went about doing it.

'A whole range of people made the effort - from people still in school and people who had a rough time in school, to someone who never went to school. It shows that here, in Singapore, we know that a good education gives every child a shot at a better future.'

The biggest donor this month is HSBC, which gave $408,516. The bank, which takes corporate social responsibility seriously, rallied its employees to raise funds for SPMF in various ways, such as by selling cookies and bubble tea and sponsoring a marathon running team; it then matched every dollar raised. HSBC also roped in its corporate partners to create study areas in 67 children's homes and, on top of that, pledged $5,000 to the fund for every firm which responded.

Through its Youth Excellence Initiative, HSBC collected $180,840 from a concert by classical guitarist Kevin Low, 13, who performed at The Esplanade in February. The donation was split between the SPMF and The Business Times Budding Artists Fund.

Mr Alex Hungate, HSBC Singapore's group general manager and chief executive officer, said: 'We are inspired by the educational opportunities that these funds provide for needy children to unlock their potential and improve prospects for themselves and their families in the future.'

On Thursday, steel specialist TTJ Holdings gave $100,000 to SPMF to mark its 30th anniversary celebrations. At the gala dinner, the representative of Super Galvanising, one of TTJ's guests, separately pledged $30,000.

TTJ's founding chairman and managing director Teo Hock Hwee, 56, whose family was too poor to send him to school, said he picked the SPMF to support because he sees it as a way to give needy children what he never had.

He said: 'My father died when I was six, and times were hard. I never had the chance to go to school, not even kindergarten.'

On Tuesday, Les Clefs d'Or donated $12,000 to the fund as part of its 25th anniversary celebrations. Two days before that, businessman and philanthropist S.M. Jaleel, 53, gave $200,000 at the launch of the charity foundation bearing his name.

Separately, four students working under the banner Inspire raised more than $120,000 with the help of 1,432 volunteers, who sold souvenir toy bears and Post-It notepads on the street.

Seah Yi Jing, 16, Vong Shi Ting, 16, and Wu Wen Jing, 17, of Hwa Chong Institution, and Yow Shuning, 15, from Nanyang Girls' High School made up Inspire, which was formed under the Citi-YMCA Youth for Causes programme. The money they collected was made in a single day on May 29.

The nine-year-old Citi-YMCA programme provides young people with seed funding with which to raise funds for a charity of their choice.

SPMF will get another donation of about $135,000 from the NCC today.

The cheque for the amount will be presented to Ms Irene Ngoo, SPMF's organising vice-chairman, at the NCC anniversary parade at Amoy Quee Camp. President S R Nathan will be at the event.

To donate to SPMF, e-mail stfund@sph.com.sg

seanlai@sph.com.sg

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