When the Covid-19 pandemic hit her family's finances, Miss Yap Phei Rong worried about how she would pay for her education at the Singapore Management University (SMU).
Her funding problems were solved when she got a scholarship from Ngee Ann Kongsi last year. This year, she has again received a scholarship from the non-profit Teochew philanthropic body. "Ngee Ann Kongsi has supported my education since polytechnic... with the yearly ceremonies and the other programmes they organise I feel like there is a community behind me," she said.
Miss Yap, whose father is from the Teochew dialect group and mother is Indonesian, is one of 302 students who received the Ngee Ann Kongsi Tertiary Awards this year.
Ngee Ann Kongsi gave out about $2.23 million in scholarships this year - a 30 per cent increase from last year. There are three categories for the awards, two of which are for those with top grades. The study award is for those who need financial assistance.
All Teochew Singaporeans and permanent residents are eligible to apply.
This year, the group increased the value of the scholarships amid the rising cost of tuition fees. Those getting a scholarship will receive $12,000 or the full amount of their tuition fees. Previously, there was a $12,000 cap on the scholarships' value.
Ngee Ann Kongsi president James Teo said the Kongsi is a social welfare organisation that is committed to advancing education as it believes in empowering people through education. "Over the years, the Ngee Ann Kongsi has strengthened and expanded our philanthropic support for Singapore's education sector beyond the Teochew community to benefit all Singaporeans - through scholarships, study awards and donations to education institutions," he said.
Last Thursday, the organisation also gave out about $1.2 million worth of scholarships for students at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.
For Miss Yap, who is studying business management at SMU, the scholarship means having the peace of mind to pursue her interests, including dance sport. "The scholarship is really a validation of my academic abilities and gave me time to focus on my passion for competitive Latin-style dance by freeing me from having to worry about finances."
It also means a connection to the Chinese and Teochew culture and access to opportunities for mentorship. Miss Yap, who hopes to get work experience overseas, was linked to a mentor on a career path similar to what she wants through Ngee Ann Kongsi's Ignite mentorship programme.
She did her polytechnic diploma in the tourism and hospitality field, and hopes to go into the industry after she graduates from university.
She said: "They also organise trips to Teochew cities in China like Shantou… being associated with and meeting people from the Ngee Ann Kongsi definitely helps me connect to part of my heritage."