By Sadia Roohi
Some of the fondest memories Mr Eric Chua has of NTU was his time with the NTU Symphonic Band as a trumpeter. He still remembers walking uphill to reach Nanyang House located at Nanyang Hill for band practice. Mr Chua quipped that he and his bandmates took it all in stride as a good form of exercise.
Mr Eric Chua having engaging conversations with participants at an event organised by REACH Singapore.
The former NTU band concertmaster has grown his career in civil service and is now a political office holder as Singapore’s Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).
Mr Chua (first row, far left) played the trumpet in the NTU Symphonic Band in early 2000s.
Looking back on his university days, he said that the proudest moment for him was when the NTU Symphonic Band, led by the late conductor Mr Luk Hoi Yui, competed in a music competition in the Netherlands and brought back the first prize trophy in the 1st Division (Harmony Band Category) in 2001 – the first for a tertiary school band from Singapore. Previously in 1997, his seniors won the first prize when they competed in the 2nd Division.
The ambitious young Mr Chua thought that NTU band stood a good chance to compete in the 1st Division which has more stringent judging criteria and convinced the university to let them do so. True enough, the band returned victorious with Mr Chua as the concertmaster then.
Mr Chua continued to serve the NTU Symphonic Band as its Alumni Association’s President for years until 2017.
Running for a worthy cause
Going the extra mile for NTU, Mr Chua took it upon himself to start a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign last year where he jogged 30km for Best Foot Forward and rallied his friends and peers to support him with a donation. The results? His personal campaign brought in close to S$11,000 in donations and he donated another S$1,000, taking the top spot on the leaderboard.
Last year, Mr Eric Chua rallied his university mates on his Facebook and Instagram to pitch in for Best Foot Forward.
He said: “The friendship ties amongst the bandmates still hold strong until today. When I started to raise funds last year, I reached out to them, and many came forth to support NTU. This goes to show the unity of NTU alumni network.”
Best Foot Forward is one of the three signature events under We Belong campaign. Donations from the run will go towards the NTU Bursary Fund, NTU Wellbeing Fund and School Advancement Funds.
This year, he is throwing his weight behind Best Foot Forward and will be returning to the NTU campus to flag off the physical run titled “X Campus Run” on 3 February 2023 at The Wave.
Social mobility through education
Today, Mr Chua is a firm believer of social mobility through education, and hence his support towards his alma mater.
He said: “How we have lifted the entire society is synonymous with the Singapore story over the past two generations. Education is a key enabler for social mobility. I have always supported the NTU bursaries as I understand and feel for financially needy students. I too came from a humble background with parents who were blue-collar workers.”
Mr Chua went on a trek with Youth COP (Community Outreach Patrol) student leaders as part of an annual campaign by SHINE Children and Youth Services.
In his current political portfolio, Mr Chua is championing the Community Link (ComLink) national project where volunteer befrienders work with MSF and partners to uplift 14,000 families with children staying in rental housing, to journey with each family as they work towards achieving stability, self-reliance and social mobility.
“We want to support them as they run the race as they must all have an equal chance. If we don’t do anything about inequality, it will persist across generations. That is why we must continue investing in education, making sure that it is accessible to all,” he said.
Mr Chua also believes in the power of mentoring as a social leveller, particularly for youths. He and his colleagues at MSF started a mentoring programme for students from the Institute of Education (ITE) who did not manage to complete their studies and help them explore alternative skills-based careers.
In his leisure time, Mr Chua has been running 5km a few times a week to prepare for X Campus Run. Encouraging fellow alumni to participate in this year’s virtual run, Mr Chua remarked: “Think back about your days in NTU and what you remember fondly. There would be something about NTU that made it special. Remember all that and give back to NTU via a cause that resonates most with you.”
Thanks to all participants and our top individual fundraiser, Mr Eric Chua, the Best Foot Forward virtual run concluded on 31 March 2023 and raised a total of over S$100,000 for NTU.