How Financial Assistance Might Be The Most Important Investment In My Life

How I Benefited From Financial Assistance

If you’ve read enough About Me, you would realise that I was not born with a silver spoon. In fact, with one working parent and a household income below $3,000 for a family of five, I often qualified for bursaries back when I was in school.

I still remember receiving my first bursary in Primary 3. My grades, especially English, improved rather dramatically in the second half of the year and the “Most Improved Student” award was conferred on me.

Even though only a token sum of about $200-$400 was awarded, this amount meant the world to me. Really. I could now buy my storybooks… (albeit with the leftovers after getting a Nintendo console… 😳 )

Back then, the only library in the Western region of Singapore was the Jurong East Library and the stock of books it carried were pretty limited.  Books with torn pages were a common sight and it was pretty frustrating to read them. Furthermore, I had to travel by bus for up to 45 minutes to get there. Aargh… But still, I had to rely mostly on the library as storybooks were expensive and a luxury for me.

Therefore, the bursary helped me to get some Famous Five and Secret Seven books, made me enjoy reading even more, improved my English and of course eventually giving me the confidence and ability to start writing this blog which you enjoy so much. Yeah, all great things come from humble beginnings.  😉

And even though I subsequently did well enough in PSLE to get into a top Secondary school, (somewhat unfortunately) I was a few marks short of being exempted from paying the school fees. The $400 per month school fee would have been a heavy burden on the family, if not for the bursaries that I received for 4 straight years.

Financial assistance continued all the way till Year 1 of my undergraduate studies, when I took up a mid-term scholarship.

How Education Enabled Me To Climb Up The Economic & Social Ladder

Honestly, I doubt the 9-year-old me could imagine that 20 years later, he would be sitting on a net worth of close to $300,000. Interestingly, I could easily use that money to buy 15,000 books, enough books to build a small library of my own.

A combination of giving tuition during my undergraduate years, higher than average income during the first three years of employment and some financial savviness enabled me to build up this stash of savings. And the common denominator to the above three factors?

A good education and a strong interest in reading developed in my early years.

OrangeAid’s New Future Development Programme

Even though I didn’t have it easy in my youth, the picture wasn’t that bleak for me either. For instance, I was never forced by circumstances to work to support my family during my teens and I had my Mum who was fully supportive and extremely concerned about my studies.

Therefore, I am much more fortunate compared to Siew Fang below.

And apparently, Siew Fang is just one example of many deserving students who might not continue their tertiary education due to financial concerns.

Talk about being entrenched in a poverty cycle.

Therefore, I was heartened to find out about the launch of NTUC Income OrangeAid’s new Future Development Programme. By offering 1,000 bursaries to students from low income families over the next three years, it will help them to get into a better position to help their family get out of the poverty cycle. The bursaries will provide students from polytechnics $3,000 annually while those from ITE will receive $1,800 a year.

And it’s not just that. Beyond providing financial assistance for their school fees and living expenses, OrangeAid also believes in developing other important aspects of their lives, such as equipping them with financial literacy skills.

Short digression: If “the person-in-charge” on that front comes across this post, let’s just say that I would gladly volunteer my services. Especially if I am deemed “qualified and orthodox” enough. Nothing on EARLY semi-retirement, I assure you.  

Furthermore, there would be personalised career guidance and internship opportunities at NTUC Income for these bursary recipients.

So How Can You Help These Students?

This is not an appeal for donations. Nonetheless, if you want to contribute to this worthy cause, you can definitely do it over here.

By writing this post and sharing my story (and of course risking my cover being blown), I am trying to create more awareness of this Future Development Programme.

Some years ago when I was doing some research for a project at work, I found out that many low-income families do not seek help from social services as many are unaware of available schemes. Therefore, you can definitely help to create more awareness by sharing this post or this link here.

Otherwise, if you know of any students who may be deprived of the opportunity to be educated because of financial hardship, do refer them to OrangeAid.

You can find out more about this scheme by clicking on this link.

I want more social justice in Singapore, and I hope I have played a small part with this post.

How about you?

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    6 thoughts on “How Financial Assistance Might Be The Most Important Investment In My Life

      1. My 15 HWW Post author

        Hi Jared,

        Thanks for the compliments. However, I really think I should be doing more than this. Oh well…

    1. Singaporemm

      I wasn’t born into upper middle class, and during my schooling days I was with very modest means as well. I think education is very important for young people. I hope that they will be taught frugality and saving as well. 🙂

      I’m glad that all the bursaries helped you so much, you would have been a different person today if you didn’t get all the education!

      1. My 15 HWW Post author

        Hi Singaporemm,

        You are right. Education enabled me to mix with and learn from the right people and sort of “level up” in the social hierarchy.

        And thanks for sharing your upbringing. It probably explains your “quite extreme frugality” on certain fronts. =p

        Anyway, kudos to you for not submitting to society’s pressure to study in a uni after college. It takes great self-awareness to know you do not need a degree at that age and of course at the same time, having the guts to take that decision.

    2. Rolf Suey

      Hi 15HWW,

      Recently I received a call from a student from NTU. She sound a bit shaky on the phone when she requested me to donate to bursary as she is one of the beneficiary.

      I had been donating to bursary each year and I agreed to donate again this year. Though the amt is not huge, I somehow feel great as my small token had helped students in this country.

      Even better, is students benefiting from financial assistance is making the call. It really inject a sense of gratitude in them.

      I agree that financial assistance is important in education, somehow better than charity itself as education is something a person carry with them forever while charity can be only one time.

      1. My 15 HWW Post author

        Hi Rolf,

        A big thank you to you. Perhaps I have benefited from your donations in the past? =)

        I am a big believer that investing in the education of the children is probably the best way to help create “opportunities” for them to break out of a poverty cycle. At least, it sort of worked for me and I can speak from personal experience.