ST: Remember The Poor

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 30 September 2018

JED SENTHIL – Over the years, and especially in recent times, our society has evolved to become more sensitive towards the needs of the less privileged and more supportive of philanthropic causes. While MNCs and big corporates enthusiastically engage in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, social enterprises have also sprung up, promoting sustainable charitable causes. Riding on this momentum, there has also been a significant effort within the local sporting community to mobilize active individuals and runners to commit to a larger good while keeping fit at the same time.

So before you put on your shoes and go for your next run, there are ways that you can help contribute too:

Support a worthy cause

To send our future generation to school and ensure that they are in the best physical, mental and emotional state to learn while at it. This is exactly what The Straits Times Pocket Money Fund (SPMF) endeavors to do – to give every child the gift of knowledge, and an opportunity for a promising future. SPMF works with various mainstream schools, VWOs, and NGOs to identify school-going children in need and provide them with the resources to do well in school, primarily by helping them meet basic physiological needs.

Since its inception 18 years ago, SPMF has disbursed more than $60 million and supported over 160,000 underprivileged children and youth by providing them with monthly school pocket money. As someone who came from a low-income family background, I can vividly recall filling up application forms for funding when SPMF had just been rolled out. I would use the funds to pay for my meals during recess, transport, and uniforms and books.

If you were one of the 13,000 runners who participated in The Straits Times Run 2018 last weekend, then you have also made an important contribution in supporting this worthy cause.

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Jed participated with his nephew and niece in The Straits Times Run last weekend, with an aim to inculcate the habit of giving back to social causes. Photo credits: RUNONE / MOK YING REN


Impact ‘one starfish at a time’

While serving in the social services sector, I met a  primary school boy who stayed in a one-room rental flat with his single mother and four siblings. His mum was working multiple odd jobs and was unable to commit to full-time regular employment as she had to take care of her children who were frequently ill. As a result, the boy was undernourished, slept poorly, and clearly lacked the energy a young boy should have. Later, we discovered that he had been bullied and mocked at school due to his family circumstances. He refused to attend school henceforth.  

While this boy’s situation may not necessarily be representative of all underprivileged children, he is certainly not the only one. Perhaps one might be tempted to think that youths are at a stage in life where multiple stress factors are part and parcel of their maturing and that we as adults are not able to make much difference to their situation. But nothing can be further from the truth. In the case of the schoolboy mentioned earlier, with a little support, he was able to overcome his odds courageously!

As the saying goes, you might not be able to save every starfish on the beach, but to each starfish saved, you make all the difference. You too can help contribute indirectly by participating in a community run like the Straits Times Run, or directly by rallying your running group to befriend/mentor the children and youths through the VWOs (as mentioned in the 29 July article). You will be pleasantly surprised by the resilience and courage these children embody, in pursuing a life of dignity and independence.

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As the saying goes, Jed believes that you can make a difference to one starfish at a time. Photo credits: RUNONE / MOK YING REN


Give (what you can) eagerly

While more than 10,000 children and youth benefit from the SPMF every year, I also learned from my interaction with social workers that current funding support is insufficient. Furthermore, in recent years, the SPMF has revised the criteria and expanded application touch points, to support more needy households and ensure that help is readily available, especially for those who might fall through the cracks. As a result, the need for support and funding is expected to increase.

While a majority of charity and social causes depend on the donations from big corporates and philanthropists, we as individuals can also give what we can. It could be a widow’s penny, but it’s truly the thought that counts. Do consider championing a cause you feel the tug for in your running club, or your company.

If you too have the opportunity to do good and are eager to remember the children and youth from low-income families, you can also donate through SPMF’s website (www.spmf.org.sg/how-to-donate). Don’t forget to encourage your running kakis to give too!

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Jed takes part in runs that champions social causes regularly. He believes that every runner can play a part in giving back to altruistic causes through running. Photo credits: RUNONE / MOK YING REN
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Jed Senthil is a former civil servant who serves professionally in the social and social enterprise sectors. The avid runner and youth advocate is also the co-founder of the RunONE running community.

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