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BT's charity efforts make significant inroads

BT Budding Artists Fund brings joy to kids, and boosts their confidence and school performance, says research firm.

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BTBAF was established in 2004 and adopted by The Business Times in 2005, and has helped more than 18,000 children and youths undergo programmes conducted at the arts training centres (above).

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The emcees for ChildAid 2019 are (above, from left) Rey Phua, 11; Gisele Chiam, 10; Steven Simopoulos, 12; and Sri Qaseh Nuraisyah Abdullah, 12.

A STUDY by research firm Kantar found that The Business Times Budding Artists Fund (BTBAF) has had a significant impact on the lives of underprivileged children.

Carried out in March 2019 and released recently, the study involved 233 students, parents and alumni. Among its findings were that confidence, focus and a sense of direction more than doubled among beneficiaries of the fund. Meanwhile, happiness, self-discipline and attitude towards school were boosted by as much as 48 per cent.

Aminah Hussien, head, Arts & Community Development of The RICE Company Limited (TRCL), a charity with Institutions of a Public Character (IPC) status which manages BTBAF, says: "The study is a strong testament to our belief that an avid engagement with the arts, coupled with a positive and supportive learning environment, cultivates creative skills and benefits a child's socio-emotional development."

The Kantar study was commissioned by BTBAF to examine its impact on beneficiaries over the past 15 years. Established in 2004 and adopted by The Business Times in 2005, the fund has helped more than 18,000 children and youths undergo programmes conducted at the arts training centres, The Little Arts Academy, or LAA (for kids aged 6 to 12), and 10 Square Youth (for youths aged 13 to 19).

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The study showed that early exposure to the arts has had a dramatic effect on the children. Before receiving training in the arts, only 31 per cent of respondents rated themselves positively on two categories: "confidence" and "ability and willingness to express feelings". After the training, that figure more than doubled to 72 and 71 per cent respectively.

Significant improvements were also found in other categories such as "focus or direction in life" (from 36 to 71 per cent), "emotional control" (from 44 to 71 per cent), and "happiness" (from 51 to 74 per cent). On the whole, 77 per cent of the respondents say that the BTBAF and its programmes have been "very good" or "excellent" in helping students.

Alvin Tay, deputy chairman of TRCL and advisor to BTBAF, says: "The research affirms that BTBAF programmes have impacted and uplifted the lives of our children and youths . . . A big 'thank you' to the team at LAA and 10 Square Youth, our trainers as well as our donors for being our staunch supporters all these years."

One success story is 12-year-old Sri Qaseh Nuraisyah Abdullah. The daughter of an office administrator and housewife, Sri Qaseh had an early interest in the arts but her family could not afford enrichment classes. Her mother approached TRCL administrators who accepted the girl into the programme and trained her in various art forms such as dance, drama and visual arts.

Madam Sri Noordin Asmar, 47, says of her daughter: "As a kid, she sulked as a lot. But after six years of arts training sponsored by BTBAF, she's come out of her shell. She's confident, she can hold her own among adults, and she's no longer intimidated by kids from more privileged backgrounds."

Sri Qaseh, who is studying at Yishun Primary School, says: "The training has helped me mature and become focused on my goals. I don't have to be told to do my homework and revision . . . I want to do them, because I want to do well in school and become a paediatrician someday."

On Nov 20 and 21, she will be taking to the massive stage of Esplanade Theatre in the role of emcee at ChildAid 2019, an annual concert organised by The Business Times and The Straits Times to raise funds for BTBAF and The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund respectively.

She says: "It's such an honour to be an emcee for such a big event. . . Six years ago when I enrolled into the Little Arts Academy, I never imagined I'd make it to this stage."

  • ChildAid 2019 runs at the Esplanade Theatre on Nov 20 and 21 at 8pm. Tickets available from Sistic.