Retired businessman donates $500,000 to ST School Pocket Money Fund for fourth consecutive year

The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund chairman Warren Fernandez (left) receiving a cheque from retired businessman Loh Kiong Poot at SPH News Centre on Sept 3. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Retired businessman Loh Kiong Poot has donated $500,000 to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (STSPMF) for the fourth consecutive year.

The 77-year-old told The Straits Times he lives simply and finds joy in helping others.

"Why would I need so much money when I'm so old already? What can I do, where can I go, what can I eat?...

"I have peace of mind when I help out those with financial difficulties, instead of still having the money when I kick the bucket," said Mr Loh, whose son and two daughters are married with their own children.

The self-made businessman, who said two years ago that he hoped to make the donation a yearly affair, presented a cheque to the fund's chairman Warren Fernandez at the SPH News Centre on Friday (Sept 3).

Mr Fernandez, who is also The Straits Times editor and editor-in-chief of SPH's English/Malay/Tamil Media group, said: "Mr Loh is a very generous repeat donor who is willing to come forward and support people when he hears the need in the community. We really appreciate his generosity."

The retiree has never forgotten his own struggles to make ends meet when he was young.

He said his parents divorced when he was five. When he was 14, he ran away from home and quit school.

He worked odd jobs, sometimes as a shop assistant at grocery stores and bookstores, living on around $20 a month. His nights were spent in a small shophouse owned by one of his employers.

Mr Loh went into the trading industry in 1974, selling "a bit of everything", from textiles to paper cups, and built up his business until his retirement in 1990 at the age of 47.

Since 1991, Mr Loh has been donating to charities, orphanages and temples in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

He has also given money to medical institutions such as Ren Ci Hospital, Singapore Chung Hwa Medical Institution and Singapore Thong Chai Medical Institution.

Mr Loh, who lives in Telok Kurau, said: "My wife and I (usually) eat at hawker centres and don't go to restaurants because there is no need to stay (for) long. We eat and then leave."

STSPMF provides pocket money to children from low-income families whose per capita gross monthly household income does not exceed $690.

Funds raised go towards school pocket money disbursements and support of the social and educational development of these beneficiaries.

Around $6 million is disbursed each year, supporting around 10,000 needy students.

Since it was started in 2000, the fund has helped over 180,000 children and youths in need and disbursed more than $85 million.

The fund's chairman, Mr Fernandez, said: "We have a few regular donors who make a lot of difference in helping us come up with long-term plans we can sustain.

"There is greater need for aid now, as more families and kids are struggling with the economic downturn (wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic).

"Any amount, small or big, will make a difference."

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