“Giving back is part of an ecosystem. I’m reproducing a piece from my life’s jigsaw puzzle, so that it can be given to somebody else to help complete his puzzle,” shares Mr Mohamed Faizal Mohamed Abdul Kadir (Law ‘05). Listening to the 37-year-old, a Legal Service Officer who currently serves as a Deputy Chief Prosecutor at the Attorney-General Chambers, sharing his perspectives on philanthropy, one gets the sense that this is someone who has put much thought into making an impact by giving back.
Though Mr Faizal is currently in the process of setting up a book grant at his alma mater, the National University of Singapore (NUS), his journey in giving back in the field of education in fact started more than a decade ago. In 2007, the then 26-year-old decided to start a scholarship in his former secondary school. The Bedok View Secondary School Scholarship was the first-of-its-kind in the school and aimed to inspire others who come from underprivileged backgrounds. Although the scholarship applicants’ academic performance served as the primary criterion, their family income levels and housing types were also considered.
Happy with how that scholarship had developed with time, Mr Faizal began to look at other platforms to give back. In 2014, he launched the Tampines Junior College Scholarship which espoused similar objectives. His work on this front was recognised when he was awarded the President’s Volunteerism and Philanthropy Award by then President Tony Tan Keng Yam in 2015.
As Mr Faizal shares, “I wanted to give something back because my own journey has largely been shaped by philanthropic support towards the community and the different institutions I was in. My parents’ philosophy has always been that the lack of something cannot hold you back. If you have the willingness to thrive, the willingness to push yourself, resources will come your way. Their own philosophical approach to such challenges and hurdles has served as a constant reminder to me in my own journey to never let financial circumstances dictate outcomes and restrict one’s aspirations.”
In line with such advice, Mr Faizal’s undergraduate law studies at the NUS Faculty of Law were, in part, funded by community support, loans, scholarships and awards, including the Kwa Geok Choo Scholarship, CJ Koh Scholarship and Shook Lin and Bok Award. Mr Faizal was one of the nine in his cohort to be conferred a first-class honours. After working for a few years, he went on to secure concurrent Legal Service Commission and Kathryn Worth Foundation scholarships to read a Masters of Law at Harvard University, where his thesis was awarded the International Insolvency Institute Gold Medal.
Acknowledging how much he has received, giving back to NUS was, in Mr Faizal’s own words, “only natural”. He sums up, “I think that once you’ve had that opportunity to pursue your interests as a result of segments of the wider community taking pains to assist you on that journey, you can’t help but want to do the same in some small way or other, and to be a catalyst for the success of others.”
Spurred on by the desire to do more, Mr Faizal contacted NUS Faculty of Law on his own initiative to find out how he could help. “We discussed the possible options, keeping in mind what I wanted to achieve and the financial commitments that the various options entailed, I thought that a book grant for underprivileged law students would be a wonderful way to make a difference and to give back to the current generation of students at an institution that has given so much to me,” he says.
When asked about his desire to make a difference through education, Mr Faizal says matter-of-factly, “The transformative power of education and the value of NUS as an institution are subjects close to my heart. I have been privileged to have had the opportunity to meld these two in various ways, including teaching in the NUS Faculty of Law as adjunct faculty for some time.” He views the book grant as a means to extend that association, while at the same time, making a difference. “I see education as a good way to give back and where an impact can be felt most profoundly. If you give someone a good education, almost invariably, the spill-over effects will be massive.” He hopes to inspire the next generation of Singaporeans to pay it forward as well, and ‘perpetuate the good that exists out of giving’.