Recipients of the Kuok Foundation’s financial assistance show their gratitude to society.
EVER heard of a place called Beranang? No? It’s OK, because not many people have either. Back when Charles Lim Chee Pang was growing up, the population of Beranang, in Selangor, was only 2,000.
His father had a sundry shop there, and the family was so poor, they used to buy one apple and cut it into nine pieces to be shared among his siblings.
Hokkien mee was a luxury they could only afford once every few months, and chicken was only for festive celebrations.
Lim, 45, who is the second youngest in his family, barely had any money for university, but with the Kuok Foundation’s help, managed to graduate with an engineering degree from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM).
The Kuok Foundation is a non-profit charity organisation set up in 1970 by the Kuok family of Johor Baru to alleviate poverty.
Lim’s friends, Dennis Yong, 44, Ng Teck Seng, 48, and Alan Poon, 35, all share similar experiences.
Ng, from Malacca, whose father passed away during his first year in university, received financial assistance from the foundation in his third year, and graduated in computer science.
Yong, who studied property management in UTM, had to beg his father, a hawker, for money to further his studies.
It was the Kuok Foundation that got him through it.
Poon started in Universiti Malaya during the worst of times. It was the Asian financial crisis of 1997. His father was retrenched. Poon had to give tuition to pay for his course in chemical engineering.
After three rounds of interviews with the Kuok Foundation, he managed to secure a loan in his second year.
“Because of the stringent way they approved applications, it forced me to work hard and try again for my second year,” said Poon.
And today, they are still grateful for the help they got, and wish to pay it forward to the generations to come.
In 2007, a group of recipients of the foundation’s financial assistance, known as the Kuok Foundation scholars, decided that they could do more with their network than just organise reunion dinners for themselves. They formed the Kuok Foundation Scholars Club (KFSC), got it registered and have been doing charity work until today.
In the beginning, they started off by helping at various homes, painting their playgrounds, and raising funds to improve their premises, among other things. Now, they also give inspirational and guidance talks to students, among other charitable work.
They decided to hold more activities nationwide, after getting requests from people in other states on their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/KFScholars/info).
“We held two events in Penang and Johor Baru last year,” said Yong, who is the KFSC president.
“Because of our club constitution, we can only accept members who have addresses in Selangor and KL. But when we went to Johor Baru, there were 10 engineers from Singapore who were not members but only scholars, yet they contributed by guiding the students in Johor Baru.
“For those who are overseas, they can’t be physically here to contribute but perhaps they could contribute in monetary terms.”
According to Yong, there are 9,000 Kuok Foundation scholars all over the world today. And although membership in the KFSC is relatively low, he hopes more scholars will be aware of what the club is doing.
“A lot of them are willing to come back and do something for the club,” said Ng, who is the club’s advisor and immediate past president.
Among the activities held by the KFSC, two main ones stand out.
The first is FunHub which is aimed at helping scholars, members and their friends to grow their network, and promote self-actualisation and develop leadership skills.
The second is the GOAL Youth Development Programme to create awareness of vocational education and careers among less privileged children.
“We guide teenagers from Form Three to Form Five,” said Yong. “They are about to become school-leavers. This is especially for less privileged students such as those in orphanages, and those who are not doing so well academically.”
KFSC recently held a training camp for 40 youngsters from orphanages and homes in the Klang Valley.
“We believe education can change a person’s life,” said Yong. “We are fortunate to have received financial aid, but there are others who are not as fortunate.”
Yong was the first in his family to have a tertiary education.
Before that, his parents and grandparents believed that all one needed in life was to be able to sign a cheque, and that was good enough.
But now, because of him, he has seen how his family has changed.
“I strongly believe that education doesn’t only give you knowledge but it also changes the way you think,” said Yong.
“We are not your typical charity organisation,” said Lim. “We don’t just go out and raise funds to help poor people.
“All of us share a common background, where we all received timely assistance tied closely to education. Every one of us strongly feels that that gave us a push in life. This is the core value that binds us together.”
> The 9th Kuok Foundation Scholars’ Reunion Night will be held at Concorde Hotel, KL, on March 15. For more information, scholars can call Teong Hooi (03-7728 8446) or Pei Yan (016-281 5308), or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.