SINGAPORE - Former national sprinter U.K. Shyam's project to provide underprivileged children with laptops kicked off on Monday (April 13) as the 43-year-old - in partnership with non-profit organisation The Engineering Good - and his Sport Singapore colleagues delivered their first batch of equipment to a secondary school in the east.
Besides a refurbished laptop, the 10 students also received a special note handwritten by a national athlete and a surprise video from Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling.
Shyam told The Straits Times: "Our special surprise hopes to remind students that we at Team Singapore come from all walks of life, just like them, and that they can achieve anything they set their minds on.
"While life might be challenging at times, courage and self-belief will always light the way."
The idea was first mooted last week when Shyam was mulling over how to help lower-income families during this circuit breaker period. His wife pointed out that he could help students who did not have laptops and tablets as schools were moving to home-based learning to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
He then sent out a request on his Facebook page for donations of unused laptops and devices, which garnered donations from national athletes such as golfer Jen Goh, short-track speed skater Lucas Ng and wushu athlete Jowen Lim.
The Singapore athletes are not alone in their quest to help the less fortunate, with National Basketball Association player Russell Westbrook of the Houston Rockets also donating 650 laptops to underprivileged children in Houston after schools were shut there.
Sport Singapore has since received around 400 laptops that could be distributed to schools and other beneficiaries. The devices are refurbished and sanitised by the team at The Engineering Good, who also ensure that all the software required for learning is installed before they are handed over for delivery.
The Engineering Good has also collected over 600 laptops, with 111 sent by its volunteer team to 13 beneficiaries such as Reading Roots and Beyond Social Services.
Refurbishing of the laptops can take between two hours and an entire day, depending on the state of the computer, said Mr Johann Annuar, executive director of The Engineering Good.
Mr Johann has been touched by the spirit of Singaporeans as the organisation has received more than 100 laptops a day since the initiative began. "With everyone trying to survive during this period of time, it is a very good Singaporean effort with everyone coming forward to donate their laptops," he said.
"We really hope to help as many kids as possible because at the end of the day, we hope to promote inclusivity and not leave anyone behind."