Fund gets girl dancing again

Business Times scheme pays for her ballet lessons

SCHOOLGIRL ballerina Natalie Chew might have given up pursuing her hobby - were it not for a fully sponsored arts education programme.

The CHIJ (Kellock) pupil had ballet lessons from the age of three.

But after about five years, she had to stop learning due to a lack of time and the cost of the classes.

Now, at the age of 11, she is able to take lessons again on weekends, for free, at the Little Arts Academy, a performing arts school for beneficiaries of The Business Times Budding Artists Fund.

Her hard work paid off yesterday when she took part in a performance by CHIJ (Kellock) pupils that showcased dances from America, China and Africa.

Titled My World, My Adventure, the performance was part of an event called Children for Children 2012, that also included craft activities and games for 1,255 children on the Ministry of Education's (MOE) Financial Assistance Scheme.

Natalie - the youngest of three children of a driver and a housewife - is both beneficiary of the scheme and a volunteer for the event.

"I'm helping myself and helping other people, so I think it's a good thing," she said.

She was one of 250 girls from CHIJ (Kellock) who helped with the event at Universal Studios Singapore. Currently in its fifth edition, the annual event is organised by CHIJ (Kellock), The Arts House and The Business Times. It is held in conjunction with Children's Day, which falls on the first Friday in October, and takes pupils to an iconic attraction of Singapore.

Previous venues include the Singapore Flyer, the Singapore Zoo, Underwater World, and the Maritime Experiential Museum and Aquarium.

Mr Chan Chun Sing, Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, was the guest of honour at the event.

A sum of $300,000 was raised for the event, $230,000 of which will be shared equally between The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund and The Business Times Budding Artists Fund. The rest will be used to cover the costs of the outing for the 1,255 children.

Sixty-two corporate and individual sponsors helped the organisers to exceed their target of sponsoring 1,000 children for the outing.

Business Times editor Alvin Tay said in a statement: "We are grateful to all our sponsors for making it possible for these less privileged children to have a more meaningful and fun-filled Children's Day."

He added: "The sponsors were very generous. And it's a nice story, children helping children."

Ms Martina Wong, general manager of The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, said: "I think the kids are awesome in spending their time to help people in their age group."

When she went to the school to see the preparations, she was touched to witness CHIJ (Kellock) pupils writing encouraging messages for each of the 1,255 children on the MOE scheme. One message said: "All of us have a bright future."

French bank BNP Paribas will also be donating $160,000 over the next two years to The Business Times Budding Artists Fund.

This will cover the costs of more than 100 beneficiaries during their two-year arts education at the academy.

Mr Jean-Pierre Bernard, the bank's regional head for South-east Asia, said: "BNP Paribas has always been a strong supporter of education. We are pleased to support The Business Times Budding Artists Fund and the Little Arts Academy in their efforts in making arts education accessible to children from low-income families."

Registration is now open for the academy's January 2013 intake. It closes on Nov 2.

Children on the Financial Assistance Scheme are from families earning $2,500 a month or under, or with an income per head of $625 per month or less.