SINGAPORE - For Bangladeshi construction worker Ruman, a stroll among the striking blooms of Gardens by the Bay was a welcome distraction after a tough year.
The father of one, 41, turned to a humanitarian organisation for help after suffering a back injury and losing his job when the firm he worked for closed, leaving him with medical bills to pay and mouths to feed.
On Friday (Jan 15), he was able to enjoy Gardens by the Bay's ticketed attractions for free through a scheme that allows underprivileged individuals to visit.
And more people like him will now be able to do the same after the programme received a $250,000 donation, its largest yet.
Mr Ruman, who goes by one name, met President Halimah Yacob at the cheque presentation ceremony. He said: "I've been here a few times before this, but they did not feel as good as today. After talking to the President today, I felt even better."
The cheque was from financial news firm Bloomberg and private donor Lucy Yeo.
President Halimah, the Patron of Gift of Gardens, received it on behalf of Gardens by the Bay. The community outreach programme has enabled more than 100,000 beneficiaries from over 200 charities such as the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, TOUCH Community Services, and the Concern and Care Society to visit the gardens. A single adult ticket to each of its attractions usually costs between $10 and $12 for Singapore residents.
Speaking at the presentation ceremony, Gardens by the Bay chief executive officer Felix Loh said that the past year has been challenging for many, even more so for the vulnerable groups. "It is therefore crucial to reach out to the under-served communities, so that everyone can reap the positive benefits of being in a garden, and make the wish of visiting Gardens by the Bay a reality for underprivileged Singaporeans," he added.
Mrs Yeo, 79, who declined to provide more information about herself, was among the pioneer donors who contributed to the programme when it began in 2012.
She said: "What you need is a start, and then other people will come and join, and that's what happened the first time. That's why we have so many beneficiaries now."
Her daughter, Ms Laura Yeo, 51, said that they had hoped to inspire others to donate after seeing the benefits and impact of their initial donation.
Mr Loh also said that the amount donated will be matched dollar for dollar by the Tote Board, under its Enhanced Fund-Raising Programme.
Members of the public will also be able to contribute to Gift of Gardens through a newly set-up fund-raising platform on Giving.sg.
The President also toured the new Dahlia Dreams floral display, which features 2,000 dahlias grown in-house by the Gardens' own horticulturists, alongside Chinese New Year classics such as azaleas and chrysanthemums.
"The spring season plants are a symbol of good tidings," said Mr Loh. "They represent our wish for a fresh and brighter year ahead for everyone."
Correction note: This article was edited to change the honorific for Ms Laura Yeo.