Schoolchildren chip in to help needy peers

THE easy part was raising a grand sum of $592 through a holiday project.

The tricky part for John Phang, 11, was how he should hand over the money that he and his younger sister had collected for The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (SPMF).

Get your parents to write a cheque, he was told after he sent an e-mail to the SMPF highlighting his deed. His parents did so, surprised that he took the initiative to get in touch with the newspaper-initiated charity.

John and his sister Mary-Anne, nine, had bid, as part of an Ikea children's programme, to run a pushcart at its store for a day last month.

They are among a growing crop of children and young people who are helping their peers by contributing to the fund. Last year, five groups of young people used seed funding from the Citi-YMCA Youth for Causes programme to raise money for the SPMF through organising street sales and concerts. Students from schools such as Victoria Junior College raised funds through busking, old-clothes collection or running carnival stalls.

This month, a 10-year-old boy, Aidan Lau, gave money collected from his birthday party to the fund.

John from Catholic High contributed his train sets, while Mary-Anne from CHIJ St Nicholas donated her dolls and handmade paintings. With items the family no longer used, they parked themselves at the Ikea store in Tampines and dragged along their brother Joel, four, to 'front' the stall.

Said John: 'We just let him smile sweetly at all the customers.'

The children chose the SPMF as they had gone hungry on occasions when they left their money at home.

Said John, whose mother is a lawyer and father is an air force officer: 'It's an honourable charity that helps kids who cannot afford meals at recess. We know we're very privileged.'

Added Mary-Anne: 'We feel for kids who don't have pocket money.'

The SPMF will support 9,500 children this year. Said its general manager Martina Wong about the children's donation: 'It is very heart-warming to see the young reaching out to the young in need and $592 is certainly a grand sum... I hope to see more children with such generous hearts.'

For more information on the SPMF, visit www.stschoolpocketmoneyfund.org.sg