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Kids flourish with help from two funds

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James Ng, 40, his wife Patricia Ng, 47, and their kids (from left): Shermaine, 16, Sarah, 12, Qian Tong, 10, Wei Sheng, 7. The children are enrolled in dance classes paid for by the BTBAF.

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S Mugunthesh, 9, a recipient of the ST School Pocket Money Fund with his mother, Narayanasamy Kavitha, 43, and his father, T Sivakumaran, 48.

Singapore

PRIMARY school pupil S Mugunthesh, 9, has been scoring As at Tampines Primary every year. "I'm always first in class. I'm good at English, Science, Math, Tamil . . . I love school," he says confidently.

When the pandemic struck, his mother, a relief teacher, saw her income fall drastically. His father works in security at Tampines Hub.

Since 2019, Mugunthesh has been receiving help from The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (STSPMF). The money goes into paying for his meals and transport fares. And whatever he saves is handy for what he calls "emergencies".

"Every time I accidentally break my eraser or pencil, I can buy a new one right away," he says.  "I don't have to wait to ask my mother for the money."

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Mugunthesh is one of thousands of socially-disadvantaged children who receive assistance from STSPMF and The Business Times Budding Artists Fund (BTBAF). Over the years, the two funds have assisted over 170,000 children.

While STSPMF helps kids with their basic school needs, BTBAF helps artistically gifted kids from low-income families pursue the arts. BTBAF believes the arts help unlock the full potential of a child, which includes his or her academic abilities.

In the case of Madam Ng Pei Woon, all her four children - Shermaine, 16; Sarah, 12; Qian Tong, 10; and Wei Sheng, 7 - are enrolled in dance classes paid for by the BTBAF. She says: "I put my children in dance class because I want them to build up their self-confidence. Children with self-confidence do better in life. And I want to prepare my children for the future as much as I can".

Madam Ng, who recently lost her job at a maid agency because of the pandemic, says: "Since my children started dancing, their academic performance has improved. They've become better at handling the academic stress. They've become more determined in pursuing their goals . . . I believe in the power of the arts."

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