Ex-dropout's $1m a year to help poor children

BUSINESSMAN S.M. Jaleel, 53, grew up poor but now leads a company that builds and runs workers' dormitories.

The philanthropist, a school dropout who began work as a construction worker, has set up a foundation to pump $1 million a year into causes for disadvantaged children.

Yesterday, the launch of the S.M. Jaleel Foundation coincided with the presentation of $660,000 to 12 charities, including Mendaki and the Chinese Development Assistance Council.

The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, which gives underprivileged children money for recess, received the largest sum - $200,000.

Mr Jaleel said the rest of this year's million will go towards individuals.

He said at the cheque presentation at the Hotel Fort Canning: 'We arrive in this world with nothing and go in the end with nothing.

'Why not share a part of what you have accumulated and make life better for those in real need?'

School Pocket Money Fund organising chairman Bertha Henson said: 'I'm a little surprised at the huge sum, but then I gather that Mr Jaleel has a very strong affinity for children's organisations, having himself grown up in some really tough childhood circumstances.'

President S R Nathan, who was at the event, said many have benefited from Mr Jaleel's charity.

He added he would continue his involvement in charity events even after stepping down as President.