New emphasis on charity for Joseph Schooling

Bryan Liu, 11, along with four other children with life-threatening illnesses from Make-A-Wish Foundation Singapore, had his wish granted when he met Joseph Schooling yesterday at the launch of the Watsons Dream Tree Initiative. It was the University
Bryan Liu, 11, along with four other children with life-threatening illnesses from Make-A-Wish Foundation Singapore, had his wish granted when he met Joseph Schooling yesterday at the launch of the Watsons Dream Tree Initiative. It was the University of Texas student's first public appearance since returning home to Singapore last Friday.PHOTO: WATSONS SINGAPORE

Olympic champion grants children's wishes, says his priority is inspiring others to give back

While his first homecoming after the Rio de Janeiro Olympics was marked by celebrations as a nation rejoiced in his gold medal, Joseph Schooling's latest return is one where charity and outreach events have taken centre stage.

Yesterday, the Singapore swimmer, in partnership with Watsons Singapore, launched a nationwide wish-making campaign with five children from Make-A-Wish Foundation Singapore. It was the University of Texas student's first public appearance since arriving in Singapore on Friday morning.

Speaking after the launch at Ngee Ann City, where a crowd of about 100 people had gathered, Schooling said: "Society has given me a lot and I want to give back. It's also about setting an example and hopefully others in a similar position as me will be inspired to do the same.

"The idea of giving back comes with maturity. Before I didn't think too much about it, although my father insisted I give back to the community.

"But now it's become something important to me. I told Hafidz (Ja'afar, the Schooling family's media and commercial representative) to make sure there are more charity events this time.

"Giving back makes me happy."

TAKING THE INITIATIVE

Society has given me a lot and I want to give back. It's also about setting an example and hopefully others in a similar position as me will be inspired to do the same.

JOSEPH SCHOOLING, explaining why he wants to give back to society.

Yesterday's campaign, dubbed Watsons Dream Tree, encourages Singaporeans to pen their wishes and hang them on specially designed trees set up at selected Watsons stores.

The five children, who had all wished to meet Schooling, received autographed editions of his book Hello, my name is Joseph Schooling.

Bryan Liu, 11, was one of the five. He said: "I am very happy and excited to have met Joseph Schooling today. His Olympic win has inspired me and made me believe that I can achieve my own dreams too."

Watsons also donated $5,000 to Make-A-Wish Foundation as part of the initiative.

The event was the first of a number of charity outings lined up for Schooling.

Tomorrow, he will meet children from The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund during a book-signing session at the Singapore Press Holdings News Centre, where he will sign copies of two books published by Straits Times Press for the first 50 buyers in the queue.

Back in Singapore till next Friday, Schooling, who is the country's first and only Olympic champion, added: "Children are the future of the country, so if there's one group of people to support they are the ones."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 20, 2016, with the headline 'New emphasis on charity for Schooling'. Print Edition | Subscribe