Kids earn $100k for President's Challenge

8,000 pre-schoolers did community work for six months to raise cash

President Tony Tan Keng Yam adding his touch to artwork by children from PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Eunos Block 650. With the President is Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin.
President Tony Tan Keng Yam adding his touch to artwork by children from PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Eunos Block 650. With the President is Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Timothy Tang remembers Father's Day vividly. It was when he had to put on his swimwear in school, the five-year-old said shyly.

It was not for a swimming lesson but to wash cars with 120 schoolmates aged between three and six at Pat's Schoolhouse (Ridgewood) in Mount Sinai Drive - all for a good cause. "When I wear the swimwear, it is okay to get wet," said Timothy.

After washing 40 cars over a week, they raised more than $1,800 as part of the Start Small, Dream Big initiative launched by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) in April as part of Singapore's Golden Jubilee year.

Over the past six months, 8,000 pre-schoolers took part in a variety of community service projects - collecting more than $100,000 in cash for the President's Challenge.

This year's beneficiaries include All Saints Home, Jamiyah Singapore and The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.


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    Over a few weeks, the children interacted with their neighbourhood cleaners to learn the importance of caring for their environment. They also got hands-on by picking up rubbish in the neighbourhood. To thank the community, the children designed bookmarks and gave them to residents.

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    An old shampoo bottle has been transformed into a pen holder while an old pot is now a terrarium. In May and June, 37 kindergarten children gave old household items a new lease of life. They each took charge of a project and, together with their parents, created over 180 pieces of new and useful items to be sold at a garage sale to raise funds.

    Flashback Friday (PCF Sparkletots @ Eunos Block 650)

    Children learnt to appreciate Singapore's vibrant heritage from local batik artist Sarkasi Said when he visited the centre to share about the craft.

    Together with the children at the Jamiyah (Singapore) Home, they completed a 2m long batik piece.

"These children have done very well to think beyond themselves and made a difference to the lives of others," said President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who graced the initiative's finale yesterday morning at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The President's Challenge, which is into its 15th year, is an annual fund-raising and outreach campaign that aims to bring the community together to help the less fortunate.

Certificates of appreciation were presented to representatives of 150 pre-school centres yesterday. The President, along with Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, took a tour of the exhibition booths, much to the excitement of the children.

Their charity projects ranged from expressing appreciation to family and friends to serving the elderly in the community.

Children at My First Skool @ Punggol Central Block 166 got creative by making useful items from recycled materials, said principal Cathy Chew.

"The children came up with many ideas to give these scrap items new life. Through this, they learnt how to give to nature and understand that our environment is vulnerable," said Ms Chew, whose centre later organised a garage sale for these items and raised more than $1,000.

Said ECDA chief executive Eugene Leong: "A good early childhood education experience not only prepares our children for school but, more importantly, to lead a happy and fulfilling life."

Timothy's mother, Madam Caroline Liow, a bank director, feels proud that her son has learnt to give back to local communities at a young age. "He realises that not everyone is as fortunate as him, but he and his friends can make a difference," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 27, 2015, with the headline 'Kids earn $100k for President's Challenge'. Print Edition | Subscribe