Retiree makes third $500k donation to ST Pocket Money Fund

Retired businessman Loh Kiong Poot, who donated $500,000 to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund yesterday, said: "Recently, many families are facing difficulties because people are losing their jobs or earning less. Since I have the capacity to give, I should." ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Retired businessman Loh Kiong Poot donated $500,000 to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund yesterday. This picture is a specimen cheque. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Retired businessman Loh Kiong Poot gave $500,000 to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund on Wednesday (June 24) - the third year running he has made donations of this size.

Mr Loh told the newspaper he wants to help children from less privileged backgrounds get through school without going hungry.

The fund started in 2000 to provide pocket money to children from families whose per capita gross monthly household income does not exceed $690. It has helped 170,000 students overall, disbursing around $68 million.

Mr Loh, 76, knows first-hand how important it is to help such children, given that he was kicked out of school at 14.

"I didn't get much of an education but times are different now, children have to complete secondary school and the money will help them," he said, after presenting the cheque to fund chairman and ST editor Warren Fernandez at the SPH News Centre. "Recently, many families are facing difficulties because people are losing their jobs or earning less. Since I have the capacity to give, I should."

Mr Loh lived hand-to-mouth as a teenager, earning about $20 a day working odd jobs as a shop assistant at grocery stores and bookshops. He slept in a small shophouse with three co-workers.

After he married and had three young children to raise in a small two-room flat, he left his job as a policeman at age 30 and went into the trading business. Over 17 years, his business flourished and he "sold everything, except coffins", said Mr Loh.

He sold his company when he retired at 47 and continues to make money through investments.

Mr Loh's donations to the fund are his most generous acts of charity although he has also donated to other charities and orphanages in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

"I can't take my money with me to my grave and my children are all independent, so it should go to the people who need it," he said.

Mr Fernandez, who is also editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English/Malay/Tamil Media Group, said: "What is amazing about Mr Loh is that he has stepped forward to donate, over and again, without any prompting.

"That shows we've touched people's hearts and they recognise the value of what we're doing to help those in need."

He added that amid the Covid-19 crisis, more families are in need, and the fund is seeking to help them in new ways. This could include providing resources needed for home-based learning, he said, adding that details will be announced soon.

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