27 needy pupils go on special tour of the zoo

(From left) Mohd Elfrian Abdullah, 11; Nur Fadiah Abdul Mutalib,11; Rifqi Irfan, 11; and Tan Jun Hian, 10, getting a close look at a jungle nymph yesterday when the School Pocket Money Fund beneficiaries visited the insect room, which is not accessib
(From left) Mohd Elfrian Abdullah, 11; Nur Fadiah Abdul Mutalib,11; Rifqi Irfan, 11; and Tan Jun Hian, 10, getting a close look at a jungle nymph yesterday when the School Pocket Money Fund beneficiaries visited the insect room, which is not accessible to regular zoo visitors. Their outing was jointly organised by The Straits Times and SamsungST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Many had been to the zoo before, but the 27 beneficiaries with the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (STSPMF) had a special treat yesterday.

They were taken on the Wild Discoverer Tour, including an informative tram ride and an exclusive behind-the-scenes visit to the insect room, which is not accessible to regular zoo visitors.

"I wasn't nervous at all," said Wong Hong Chak, 11, a pupil from Red Swastika School, who had cupped the insects in his palms.

"We live in a city, so an experience like this, getting so close to animals, is invaluable," said Ms Tan Li Lan, 26, a Samsung assistant marketing manager who took care of Hong Chak.

He was among the beneficiaries selected for the outing. All were accompanied by ST staff volunteers and 20 Samsung staff.

The zoo visit was the final of three outings jointly organised by ST and Samsung. First organised in November last year, HeadSTart is an ST initiative to bring journalists and beneficiaries together.

At the white tiger enclosure, the children, who are in the upper primary levels, were inquisitive, asking about the lifespan of a tiger and its weight. Zookeepers also touched on animal conservation facts. After lunch, the children took a tram ride to the Fragile Forest, a biodome of free-ranging animals.

Ms Tan Bee Heong, STSPMF's general manager, said: "It was a memorable one for the children, who may not have the means to visit the zoo in their own time. Getting the behind-the-scenes tour was also special. They were very excited to be there."

Each beneficiary also received a Samsung Galaxy Tab A tablet with S Pen, worth $498 each. They snapped away throughout the outing, hoping to win a photo competition set by the organisers.

"The interaction between the children and volunteers was heartwarming," said Ms Esther Low, head of public relations and corporate marketing in Samsung. "For them to know that there are adults outside of their circle of friends and family who do care as well will really touch them for a long time."

Ten-year-old Chan Soon Keong, who has been to the zoo seven times, summed up the day by saying every exhibit was as exciting as ever. "I never get tired of the zoo," the Stamford Primary School student said, while snapping pictures at the white tiger exhibit.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2017, with the headline '27 needy pupils go on special tour of the zoo'. Print Edition | Subscribe