ANIMAL lover Mark Hiew Wen Han, 20, was devastated when he had to give away his pet dog six months after bringing it home. However, being awarded the Joseph William Yee Eu Foundation’s Masonic scholarship will take him a step closer to achieving his childhood dream of caring for animals as a veterinarian.
Upon gaining entry into Universiti Putra Malaysia to do a Bachelor in Veterinary Science, Mark had applied for three scholarships and was overjoyed to receive word about his success from the foundation.
“I volunteered at the SPCA after SPM, and since I started my course at UPM in May this year, I've attended several faculty trips to animal conservation parks. I'm having a great time,” says Mark at the award ceremony held at Dewan Freemason on July 29.
The former St John's Institution student who scored 2As, 2Bs and 1C in his STPM added that the scholarship would ease his family's financial burden. His father works as an assistant shop manager while his mother is a personal assistant at a local company.
Worth RM4,000 a year, the non-bonded scholarship programme which started this year is given to six needy and deserving students for three years, although further extensions may be considered on special circumstances. However, scholarships are automatically terminated if students show poor results.
“The scholarship, to be conducted annually, is aimed at alleviating their hardship and to give good students a chance to pursue an education,” says past district grand master Joseph William Yee Eu.
The foundation was set up eight years ago in honour of Eu on the occasion of his 20th anniversary as district grand master of the District Grand Lodge of the Eastern Archipelago.
Its sole purpose is to provide scholarships, research grants and other financial assistance to needy and deserving students regardless of race, creed, religion or nationality to advance their education at schools, colleges or universities in Malaysia and Singapore.
“Loans are provided through recommendations from Freemason members only; however, the Masonic scholarship is an exception where any member of the public can apply,” says Eu.
There are currently 2,000 Freemasons from Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand under the same district. Members are limited to men only.
This year, the foundation awarded scholarships to only five students as “no one else qualified”, said president Tan Tock Yong. Students were selected based on merit and active participation in extra-curricular activities.
Other scholarship recipients are Phang Yuen Yee from Multimedia University; Shamila Somasundaram from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia; Leong Chee Weng from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman; and Surendran Chittiar Supramaniam from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.
Studying part-time for a degree in Electrical Engineering, Surendran Chittiar Supramaniam, 25, says the scholarship will be of great help.
“It costs RM2,000 per semester, four times more expensive than the full-time course, simply because they think part-timers are all working people earning decent salaries,” says Surendran, who works as a technical specialist in Texas Instruments Malaysia, a semi-conductor firm.
He works from Monday to Friday and attends whole-day classes during the weekends.
“It's not easy coping with both work and studies, especially when exams are coming up, but I try to be as positive as possible,” he says.
The youngest of three siblings, Surendran is the only one pursuing a degree in his family. His elder brother is doing a diploma at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.
For 19-year-old Phang Yuen Yee from Multimedia University, spending four hours a day on her studies and scoring 7As in the SPM probably landed her the scholarship.
“I'm also a squash club member in university and was the Red Crescent Society president, prefect, and sports captain in school,” says Yuen Yee, whose father is the sole breadwinner in the family.
At present, the scholarship is only offered to undergraduate students in local universities although “the foundation will extend it to graduate students if we get more funds,” says Eu, adding that current funds totalling RM1.3mil were donated entirely by members.
“It's not our policy to solicit funds from the public although we will not reject any if offered,” he adds.
To date, the foundation has rendered financial assistance to some 30 needy families and widows for their children's schooling with grants totalling RM110,000.
It has also donated RM5,000 to the Malaysian Association for the Blind to set-up a day-care centre for visually impaired children, and RM12,000 to four rural schools in Malacca.
Institutions such as Rumah Hope, Shepherds Centre, and Home of Peace which look after orphans, abused and underprivileged children have also been given annual grants for their day-to-day running.
A total of RM50,000 was recently pledged to the Cancer Research Initiatives Foundation to be paid over a period of five years for the fundamental study of cancer in Malaysia.