Want to help someone? Help educate them, says National University of Singapore (NUS) alumnus Mr Kong Mun Kwong (’71), who has set up the Kong Mun Kwong Scholarship at the School of Design and Environment at his alma mater. Mr Kong graduated from the University of Singapore, NUS’ predecessor institution, with a Bachelor of Science (Real Estate) from the then Faculty of Architecture and Building.
Mr Kong speaks from experience when he says, “In this world everything can change suddenly – government policies, economic situation – and you can lose everything. But no one can take your education away from you. If you have a good education, you can survive anywhere. And, a well-educated person can benefit many others and the community far beyond himself.”
Mr Kong, who is, among other things, the Chairman of Seacare Holdings Pte Ltd and Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises, and the winner of many awards including the Singapore Meritorious Service Medal (PJG) and the Public Service Star (BAR) (BBML). He lived as a child with his three siblings and parents in one room in Chinatown. Their family, which migrated to Singapore from Hong Kong after losing everything before the war, had to share a kitchen and bathroom with 12 families. Times were hard but what they did receive in abundance were family values. “We benefitted greatly from our parents’ teachings,” says Mr Kong. Among the lessons learnt were ‘Country and community first before family’ and ‘If one generation is taught well, 10 good generations will follow’.
Mr Kong, who has been volunteering his services to the community for more than 35 years, has made those teachings his mantras. Among his many community projects are the Yellow Ribbon Project and the Yellow Ribbon Fund, which he helped conceptualise and develop. He says that the Scholarship is one way of projecting the giving spirit beyond his lifetime. “I can do what I’m doing for the community and society during my life, but hopefully the Scholarship will perpetrate the same spirit of giving and encouraging others in the recipients.”
Mr Kong, who was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Service Award, established the Kong Mun Kwong Medal at NUS in 2004 for part-time programmes of BSc (Building) and BSc (Construction Management). When those programmes ceased to be offered, he established the Scholarship, which was awarded this year.
Dong Wenjuan, who is receiving the Kong Mun Kwong Scholarship, is a keen volunteer and a part of the faculty club, which serves the needs of the students. She says, “There is no better feeling than knowing you’ve helped someone.” She adds, “The Scholarship has helped me financially and also reinforced my self esteem.” Dong’s father is the sole breadwinner of their family of six.
Mr Kong’s passion for volunteerism started during his days at the University, where he received the Loke Hong Kee Scholarship, the Lee Foundation Gold Medal and Humes Industries Gold Medal. As a student leader, he played a key role in assisting in the creation of the then University of Singapore’s new degree courses in Building and Estate Management. Thanks partly to his activities then, he and generations after him graduate from the department with a degree instead of a professional diploma as was the case at that time. He says, “As an active student leader, during the 60s, I benefitted from more than just the academic education I received. I learnt that the advancement of one’s own interest cannot be exclusive of the interests of others.”
Mr Kong, in 2011, was awarded the Singapore Volunteer of the Year Award by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) for his life-long work in volunteerism and in the public services.
Talking about alumni supporting the alma mater, Mr Kong says, ”Through its large pool of multifarious experience, knowledge and resources, the alumni is in the best position to do more than just provide money and scholarships to help students. More exposure and interaction among established alumni and undergraduates can be promoted to develop greater sharing of thoughts, experiences and bonding between generations.”