Alvin Loke’s life hit rock bottom on 5 November 2011. His father, a seemingly healthy man in his early 50s, passed away in a sudden heart attack leaving the First Year National University of Singapore (NUS) student and his mother struggling to cope with hospital bills, funeral costs and daily living expenses. To Alvin, continuing his university education amid all this seemed like a luxury he could not afford. He wanted to drop out and get a job as his father, a lorry driver, had left minimal savings and his mother was too ill to work.
But help was on its way. Alvin, who is studying Project and Facilities Management at the School of Design and Environment, was awarded the NUS Bursary, which is funded primarily by gifts from donors to the University. He also received assistance from the Building and Estate Management Alumni (BEMA) fund, which helps students facing severe financial hardship due to unforeseen circumstances. BEMA’s fund is supported by graduates of the Department of Real Estate and the Department of Building.
“I was completely surprised by how much people cared,” says Alvin, six months after that dreadful day in November. “The last few months have completely changed my world view. I used to think this was a dog-eat-dog world. But now I believe the world is not such a cruel place after all.”
With the financial aid that Alvin is receiving, life has stabilised for him and his mother. He still works long hours, studying, giving tuition and taking on part-time work to increase his earnings, but Alvin is determined to look on the bright side and also help others. Some of the tutorial work he takes on is free of cost as, he says, “These kids are in my shoes. They have no money. So, I help them out.”
He adds, “I was so lucky to find so many helpful people who cared enough to reach out to me.” He mentions NUS staff, who helped him sort out his financial crisis, and Reverend Yap Kim Hao, Trustee of the Chen Su Lan Trust, which helps young people in need. “He was so inspiring and caring. Someday I hope I can be like him. Meeting him was an extraordinary experience.”
To all those who offered financial help or a kind word, Alvin says, “You have no idea how much your concern matters to someone whose world is falling apart. To you, it may seem like nothing much, but to the recipient, it means the world.”
Life will never be the same again for Alvin, who remembers his father – a close friend and a doting dad – all the time. But he is happy in the knowledge that he is living his dad’s dream of studying at university. His father had primary school qualifications and was terribly proud when his son was granted a place at NUS.
To all those who are struggling with challenges, Alvin says, “Don’t give up because you feel the world is against you. Be positive. As you can see from my story, everything is possible.”
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