ST school fund bags Asean award

THE Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund yesterday received an international award for its work to help eradicate poverty.

It was presented with the prize in Yogyakarta, along with eight other organisations from the region.

Fund chairman Han Fook Kwang, who accepted the inaugural Asean Leadership Award on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication, paid tribute to the charity's donors, volunteers and social workers.

"Without the extensive support that we have received from so many organisations and individuals, we would not have been able to help the more than 100,000 cases we have supported these last 12 years," said Mr Han, who is also managing editor of Singapore Press Holdings' English and Malay Newspapers Division.

The charity, which was set up in 2000, helps disadvantaged young people to pay for school- related expenses. National Council of Social Service (NCSS) deputy chief executive Tina Hung said it had been "vital in raising the much-needed funds" for children from low- income families.

The award, which aims to honour those who help the disadvantaged, was given out to one non-governmental organisation or civil society group from each of the 10 countries in Asean.

Myanmar was the only country that did not send a nominee.

The fund was recommended for the award by Singapore's Ministry of Social and Family Development. The fund's general manager, Ms Martina Wong, said that education is crucial when it comes to breaking the poverty cycle.

"The children worry less about where their next meal is going to come from and they can concentrate better in school," she added.

Every year, the charity disburses an average of $5 million to support 10,000 primary and secondary school children in Singapore.

It has also set aside a $1.5 million pot to help students in post- secondary institutions, such as junior colleges and polytechnics.

Those who benefit come from families with a net income of below $450 per head. The fund works with NCSS to disburse the money. Primary school pupils receive $55 a month, while those having their secondary education get $90 and post-secondary school students are given $120.

Last year, the fund launched a tutoring programme to boost upper primary pupils' English literacy skills and knowledge of current affairs.

staceyc@sph.com.sg