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The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund exceeds $3m target

Please thank the people at The Straits Times for me. My children would have had nothing to eat at recess if not for them.
- Security guard Madialagam Seenivasagam, 50, whose three children, aged 10, 12 and 14, receive $1 a day from the School Pocket Money Fund.

I used to get nothing so $1 a day really helps. Thank you very much.
- Ahmad Rais, 9, a beneficiary.

SINGAPORE, February 27, 2003 – Singaporeans of all ages have responded tremendously to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, helping the fund exceed its $3-million target despite the tough economic conditions.

The Fund raised $3.4 million, bringing its three-year total to over $7.2 million. The monies raised will help 7,200 needy children pay for a meal or transport to school this year.

The National Council of Social Service (NCSS), which administers the fund, has estimated that 2,000 more students will apply to the fund in the next 12 months, bringing the number of children who need support to over 7,200.

Mr Han Fook Kwang, the Editor of The Straits Times, said: "We are grateful to the many Singaporeans who have come forward to support the Fund despite the uncertain economic climate. It shows what big hearts Singaporeans have.

"On behalf of the needy children and my colleagues at The Straits Times, thank you Singapore."

Ms Tina Hung, NCSS director of service development, said: "During tough economic times, low-income families get hit the hardest because they tend to have lower education and fewer skills. They need help. So we are very grateful to The Straits Times for continuing to spearhead this effort to help the less-fortunate children in our community."

The fund was initiated by The Straits Times on Children’s Day on October 1, 2000, to raise public awareness on the plight of children from low-income families who often go to school without pocket money for bus fare or to buy food during recess.

It raised $1.3 million in the first year to help 3,258 children, and $2.5 million last year for 5,150 kids, from donations from individuals, companies and orgnisations and other fund-raising activities.

Children helped by the fund get between $30 and $50 a month.

It is this sense of community spirit which helped The Straits Times clinch the Newspaper of the Year, a prestigious award given by the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers’ Association last August.

Details of the School Pocket Money Fund and its selection criteria are attached.

ABOUT THE STRAITS TIMES SCHOOL POCKET MONEY FUND
The School Pocket Money Fund was initiated by The Straits Times on Children’s Day (October 1) 2000 to heighten public awareness of the plight of children from low-income families who were attending school without proper breakfast or pocket money to sustain their day in school.

The aim is to alleviate the financial burden faced by parents in providing for their children’s education. At the same time the funds will help children who are already facing difficulties in remaining in school to stay on.

Members of the public including schools and corporations in the public and private sector, responded generously after reading stories highlighting children especially those from single parent families who were most affected.

In its first year, donations from the public amounted to just over $1.3 million. And in its second year, donations amounted to more than $2.5 million that went on to support more than 6,000 kids who had applied for the fund.


How is the fund disbursed?

The National Council of Social Services, which administers the funds, makes quarterly disbursements to agencies, such as the Family Service Centres (FSC), Special schools and Children’s Homes to benefit their eligible clients.

Currently 34 FSCs, 22 Special Schools and 14 Children’s Homes have been commissioned to administer the scheme.

Agencies’ approval is based on set of eligibility criteria and assessment of the family’s financial situation. Based on the assessment of the case, social workers recommend the disbursement.

The approval of either the Director of the Family Service Centre, Principal of a Special School or Head of a home is required for each application.

How much does a beneficiary receive?

The amount disbursed is as follows:

Primary Level $30 per month
Secondary, ITE & Pre-U Level $50 per month

Disbursement of the pocket money to the beneficiary is done on a monthly basis, up to 10 months per school year. Administering agencies are still receiving fresh applications as more needy families are identified.


What is the eligibility criteria?

To apply for the School Pocket Money Fund the applicant (i.e. the child) must be:

A Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident
A full time student
From a low-income family (gross household income not exceeding $1,500 per month)
Live in a HDB 4-room flat or smaller

Known case or beneficiary of one of the following:
Family Service Centre, Special School, Children’s Home or any Welfare scheme such as Public Assistance, Rent and Utilities Assistance Scheme (RUAS) or General Welfare Fund

For those who want to apply for the fund, please call 1800-838 0100.

Issued by the Singapore Press Holdings Limited

For more information, please contact:

Peter Khoo
Assistant Vice President, Branding
The Straits Times
And
Organising Chairman
The School Pocket Money Fund
Tel: 63195512
Email: pkhoo@sph.com.sg


Main board listed Singapore Press Holdings Limited is the leading news and information provider, offering quality content for print, Internet, TV and radio. It is licensed to publish 15 newspapers in the four official languages and six lifestyle periodicals. Everyday, 2.78 million individuals, or 90 per cent of people above 15 years old, read one of 15 newspapers published by SPH while online publication of its six main dailies enjoy some 120 million page views a month. SPH has ventured into the broadcast medium and operates two popular free-to-air TV channels, Channel U in Chinese and Channel i in English.


Speech by Mr Lim Chin Beng, Chairman of Singapore Press Holdings Ltd at The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund Cheque Presentation Ceremony on Thursday, February 27 2003, at SPH Auditorium

Good afternoon Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Acting Minister for Community Development and Sports, Mr Gerard Ee, president of the National Council of Social Service, distinguished guests, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.

Many Singaporeans remember 2002 as a bleak year. Unemployment rose as many lost their jobs. Some had their salaries frozen or cut. But despite these economic difficulties and the uncertainty ahead, Singaporeans responded tremendously to help the less fortunate. Charity drives like the President’s Challenge, the Sharity Gift Box and the National Kidney Foundation Show – just to name a few – all met their fund-raising targets. Today, I am happy to announce that The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund has exceeded its $3-million target by over $400,000. This brings the fund’s three-year total to over $7.2 million.
To the whole of Singapore, I wish to say "Thank You. You have certainly given the nation a good reason to remember 2002".

The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund was set up by our journalists in the year 2000 to help needy children pay for a meal at recess or transport to school. Every cent collected goes to the beneficiaries, with The Straits Times absorbing all administrative charges.

The Straits Times strives to inform, educate and inculcate the sense of caring for the less fortunate in our community. Our journalists tell stories of the needy and how you can help in print, TV and over the Internet.

Many of you in the audience today have responded to our call. Some, like 10-year-old pianists Benjamin Boo and Abigail Sin, have used their talents to help raise funds. Others, like 43-year-old blind busker Daniel Ng, have proven that anyone can help. I’m told that even our Guest of Honour today, Acting Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, donated to the fund when our staff went out on Children’s Day last year to sell flags.

The tremendous support from the people, plus the corporate sector, are proof that the Singapore society is one that has heart. This gives hope to us as a nation as we face the challenges ahead.

SPH recognises that more is expected today of companies as good, corporate citizens. Businesses around the world are doing more to fulfil their social responsibilities to help improve the lives of the communities they operate in. Healthy companies need healthy communities.

It just leaves me to thank you once again for joining us in our fund-raising efforts and for being here today. We look forward to your continued support for this worthy cause. Have a good year ahead.


SPEECH BY MR GERARD EE
PRESIDENT, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF SOCIAL SERVICE
AT THE SCHOOL POCKET MONEY FUND
CHEQUE PRESENTATION CEREMONY
THURSDAY, 27 FEBRUARY 2003, 3.00 PM
SINGAPORE PRESS HOLDINGS AUDITORIUM

Good Afternoon
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Acting Minister for Community Development and Sports
Mr Lim Chin Beng, Chairman of Singapore Press Holdings
Mr Alan Chan, Chief Executive Officer of Singapore Press Holdings
Ladies and Gentlemen

  1. It is my pleasure to be with you this afternoon at the School Pocket Money Fund cheque presentation ceremony. This ceremony today marks the third year running that the Singapore Press Holdings has successfully raised funds and campaigned for the needs of less privileged school children.

  2. The School Pocket Money Fund project has come a long way and achieved much since its initiation by The Straits Times in October 2000. When the project was first launched, it shed light on the plight of a group of children who often went unnoticed. The inaugural School Pocket Money Fund appeal stirred public awareness about the needs of children from lower-income families and over $1.3 million was raised to help more than 3,700 children. In its pursuit to continue helping more such children, The Straits Times embarked on yet another tireless fund-raising appeal in 2001, raising more than $2.5 million for nearly 7,000 children.

  3. Currently, Singapore is experiencing a difficult economic climate. It is precisely during such times, that the needs of the less privileged are greater and must not go unattended. The Straits Times is well aware of this and the School Pocket Money Fund project aptly titled "Got Heart" reflects a compassionate organisation, persevering to meet the needs of the less privileged, despite the difficult times.

  4. Indeed it is commendable that The Straits Times managed to raise over $3.4 million last year, far exceeding the original $3 million target. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to The Straits Times for its efforts. This is also a heartening testimony of care and generosity, seeing that corporate donors and individual donors alike have contributed to this worthy cause. My deepest gratitude goes out to all donors.

  5. The funds raised will help alleviate the daily struggles faced by more than 7,200 children from lower-income families. Children who previously had to worry about when they would get their next meal or transport allowance, can instead focus on and continue with their studies now. With over $3.4 million raised, there is new hope for these children, and greater room and opportunities for their growth and development.

  6. As a strategic partner of The Straits Times, the National Council of Social Service will continue to administer the School Pocket Money Fund this year. The Council has also put in place systems and processes, which ensure that the assistance received by lower-income family children is holistic. This means that if necessary, the pocket money assistance will be complemented by social assistance programmes like casework and counselling.

  7. As in previous years, the Council will administer the Fund through Family Service Centres, Special Schools and Children’s Homes. I would like to take this opportunity to thank and acknowledge these administering agencies for their tireless commitment in providing for their clients. The frontline social workers from these agencies especially, play a pivotal role. Their work does not stop at identifying the needs of children from lower-income families and conducting regular case reviews ensuring that funds go to children who are most in need. Beyond that, in the course of assessing applications for the School Pocket Money Fund, these social workers identify other problems faced by families such as family violence and marital conflict, thus adding value. They also provide much needed assistance and appropriate referrals to these families.

  8. The School Pocket Money Fund is a resounding testimony that even in hard times, Singaporeans will come together to help the less privileged. And it is my fervent wish that The Straits Times will continue to inspire many more to lend a helping hand. May I end by reiterating that each of us has the ability to make a positive difference and brighten the lives of the less privileged children in our community.

  9. Thank you.