A group of nine students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) recently attended an Appreciation Tea held to thank members of the Lions Community Service Foundation Singapore for their bursaries.
Among the students receiving the bursaries are Gursharn Singh Gill and Ying Zhi Jun John (Political Science), Poh Choon Yang (Psychology), Wong Sze Theng Bertilla (Sociology), Lee Yuan Ting (Social Work)… and many of them have, in their young lives, experienced hardship and heartache. The bursary is a very welcome helping hand, they say.
Gursharn lost his father to a sudden heart attack in 2010 and as the eldest of four children has a lot depending on his success. His mother works as a kitchen helper. Choon Yang is one of three brothers. His father passed away in 2003 and his elder brother is physically disabled due to brain cancer. Bertilla and her sister suffer from systemic lupus erythematosus, a chronic auto-immune disorder, which means they are on long-term medication.
These are some of the 18 students who have received the Singapore Lions Clubs Bursary Award since it was set up in 2009 to mark the community service organisation’s 50 years of service in Singapore. The Lions Clubs of Singapore is known primarily for their service to the elderly in Singapore, but reaching out to the youth is “a natural progression”, says Mr Eric Ng Jwee Phuan, Chairman, Lions Community Service Foundation Management Board. He adds, “We want to help the students financially. We also want them to know what the Lions Clubs does and involve them in community service. We want to inspire them so that when the time is right for them, they will give back to society in their own way.”
On the day of the Appreciation Tea, students and donors mingled over tea and snacks. The conversation flowed freely – about studies, career options and hopes and dreams. Political Science students discussed International Law with Mr Steven Seah, District Governor, a lawyer by profession, while Mr Ng was eager to find out what careers Social Sciences students were looking at after graduation. Mr Ng says, “The social background and career aspirations of these students make them deserving recipients.”
Says Gursharn about receiving the bursary, “This bursary is my safety net. It helps me pay for expenses like transport and stationery. Most important, it gives me peace of mind that I will not be caught out by a sudden expenditure.”
Choon Yang, who is graduating this year, is thankful that he has the bursary to tide him over till he lands a job. He says, “Those who give to others are usually people who have been helped in their times of trouble. They understand how it feels to be in such situations, and know that their help can really make a difference. A little help can go a long way for one’s education, which then allows that person to earn money and give in return.”
Many of the bursary recipients are already giving back. Gursharn has participated in the Lions Flag Day programme, blood drives and community service trips, and visits old folks homes. He is also interested in joining the Lions Befrienders programme, which offers support services to the elderly. He says, “Life is not easy but there are others in similar, if not worse, conditions. If I can give to someone, in a tangible or intangible way, I will. I have seen firsthand how it improves one’s life. That’s the greatest pull in community service – to improve someone’s life.”
Ying Zhi Jun John, who is enrolled in the multi-disciplinary University Scholars Programme, has been volunteering for the last four years. He says that receiving this bursary has freed him up to devote more time to his commitments to The Boys’ Brigade and the National Youth Council. John Ying’s ambition is to join the Civil Service. He says, “I would like to be involved in policies that make a difference to the man on the ground. I think I can bring a different perspective and talk for people who struggle with their finances while studying, live in a one-room flat, which they share with five people, and worry about their next meal and basic tuition.”
Yuan Ting who is majoring in Social Work, says that she was attracted to the subject as it would give her a lot of hands-on experience. She says, “I would like to give back to others by using my Social Work skills.”
And so the virtuous circle is perpetuated. As Mr Chim Hou Yan, Trustee of the Estate of the late Eng Ah Koon, one of the benefactors of the Lions Community Service Foundation Singapore, puts it, “In life we have opportunities given to us – a chance here or a chance there. Even if we don’t want to recognise it, we have doors opened to us. To live your life meaningfully, you have to do your part and get the next generation to enjoy this as well.”
It seems like the Lions Community Service Foundation Singapore has sown seeds of hope on very fertile ground.
To discuss setting up a named bursary in honour of a person or organisation, please contact Ms Ho Yuen Kwan on 6516 5755 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
To make a gift to the FASS Student Advancement Bursary Fund, which supports student bursaries, visit here.
You can also support student bursaries by making a gift to Annual Giving. Visit the Annual Giving Campaign.