SINGAPORE - In his primary school days, businessman Mohamed Abdul Jaleel had to juggle odd jobs and help his father in a small sundry shop to earn more money for his family.
Today, he hopes to help other needy students with a donation of $500,000 to The Straits Times School Pocket Money (STSPMF) Fund, which provides pocket money to children from low-income families.
Mr Jaleel, the founder and chief executive of Mini Environment Service Group, has contributed $5 million to the fund since 2010.
He presented a cheque to chairman of the fund and ST editor Warren Fernandez at the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) News Centre on Friday (Oct 8).
Asked about his repeated contributions, Mr Jaleel said: "Not everyone comes straight into the limelight to seek help. So I think SPH and schools are doing wonders to seek out and help students in need."
Growing up as the only son in a family of seven, he had to stop school and start working full-time at a construction company to support his family.
Now, he heads the S. M. Jaleel Foundation, a charity that has provided bursaries to students in local schools such as the National University of Singapore and the Singapore University of Social Sciences, as well as through organisations like Mendaki.
"I will try my best to continue helping with this fund as long as I'm around, and I've even told my children to continue with it beyond that," he said.
Mr Jaleel was also presented with a framed caricature of himself that was drawn by 17-year-old Deyi Secondary School student Nurlis A'syura Abdullah, a beneficiary of the fund.
STSPMF has helped more than 190,000 children and youth in need and given out more than $90 million in aid since 2000.
It disburses about $6 million yearly, helping about 10,000 needy students from families whose per capita gross monthly household income do not exceed $690.
There has been a spike in the number of applications for aid, with this year seeing the highest number of applications since the fund was started. Close to 14,000 students are expected to receive about $9 million in aid this year.
Last year, $4.6 million in additional financial assistance was given out by the fund during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Fernandez, who is also editor-in-chief of SPH's English/Malay/Tamil Media group, said: "What we found during this Covid-19 period is that the need for support among low-income families is very real, and it is growing. We found that the demand kept growing and the support grew as well."
He said that it was a shame that an appreciation day for all the donors of the fund could not be held due to the pandemic.
"That is why today's cheque-giving ceremony is meaningful in not only remembering the founding of the fund, but also to thank all the donors. Without donors, we can't do anything," he said.
"We are very heartened to see that they share our belief in what we are doing, and that they've taken on board why this fund is important. That encourages us to keep going."