Their happiness is his reward

Mohamed Abdul Jaleel, 54

Mr Mohamed Abdul Jaleel grew up poor, sleeping on the floor of the small market stall his father owned, doing odd jobs to make ends meet.

Today, the founder and CEO of Mini Environment Service Group, a construction logistics company, gives his time, skills and money - he aims to donate $1 million every year - to numerous charitable causes because he knows what it means to go without.

'I know what it is like to starve,' he says, voice cracking as he recalls the memory. 'I know how much a meal can mean.'

He came to Singapore from Chennai with his father when he was just five years old, leaving his mother and four sisters behind.

The hope was to make a better life here but the pair struggled and Mr Jaleel often went hungry in the early years.

He dropped out of secondary school and took on any job he could. While washing cars, he was introduced to the managing director of a construction company who brought him into the business.

He continued to take advantage of any opportunity, 'whatever job came in, we took it', he says.

By the time he was about 18 years old, he started his company by employing two people to help him with odd construction jobs. He started by cleaning drains, then maintaining construction cranes.

Today, the company has an annual revenue of more than $100 million but he does not take it for granted.

'We are born with nothing, we will leave with nothing. When you are blessed in transit, you should give back,' he says.

Mr Jaleel's charitable deeds began when he was a young boy volunteering at the Bencoolen Mosque.

He started helping with the mosque's upkeep, dusting and cleaning, preparing for prayers. Today, after almost 40 continuous years of volunteering there, he is chairman of the Bencoolen Mosque Management Board.

The married father of six has eight grandchildren. Children's issues, such as education, children with disabilities and those from broken homes are close to his heart.

He regularly donates to the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund and acts as an adviser, mentor and donor to grassroots groups in Bishan and Toa Payoh, and religious organisations such as Jamiyah Singapore.

When asked to calculate how many hours he spends volunteering, he says he cannot. This is because his charitable works are part of his daily work schedule, he says, as he fields calls and requests from the numerous charitable organisations with which he is involved.

Weekends, too, are spent attending charitable and social functions, often as an adviser or donor.

But you need not be well-off to help, he says. Anyone can find a way to give back to the community.

'Whether it is one hour or one dollar, we should all think about what we can contribute,' he says.

The most rewarding aspect of his volunteer work is the reminder of his roots and knowing that he can now help others.

He says: 'At the end of the day, the beneficiary's happiness will give you a lot of happiness that money cannot buy.'