Turning Gratitude into Action
He may be thousands of miles away in Chennai, but as it’s often said, “home is where the heart is” — and Singapore will always be home to Mr Daniel Chew. Outside of work, the India-based process manager at Shell Petroleum actively engages Singaporean youths through a mentorship programme that has its roots in an initiative he started as president of the student union in NTU. The 44 year-old father of three has also set up two bursaries: the Chew Yew Hock & Lim Sew Lan Scholarship, established in 2009; and in 2012, the Daniel and Joanna Chew Scholarship. Including government matching, both bursaries amount to a total donation of $200,000. The gift funds up to four bursary awards in each academic year for financially-challenged students at the Nanyang Business School.
“Having benefited from scholarships and bursaries myself during my school years, I know first-hand how important such help is for those who do not have the financial means to pursue their educational dreams,” shares Mr Chew, who also launched the NTU Student’s Fund in 1995, in response to a tuition fee hike. He even got then-Minister of Education Lee Yock Suan to secure dollar-to- dollar matching to raise a few hundred thousand dollars for needy students.
The School of Hard Knocks
During Mr Chew’s A-Level days at Victoria Junior College (from 1989 to 1990), his father became unemployed, putting the family in a challenging financial situation. “The bursaries I received, as well as the money I earned by giving tuition, provided me with the financial means to achieve my first degree – which was instrumental in providing me a head start in my career.” Mr Chew entered the Nanyang Business School to study Accountancy as he believes that “iron sharpens iron – the faculty had the most stringent admission criteria and competitive cohort.”
Mr Chew’s parents came from poor families and had little formal education — a few years in primary school at best. Yet they did all they could to give him and his two younger brothers an education for as long as possible. “My late father was a bus driver and odd-job worker. When he lost his job, my mother took on a series of odd-jobs to help make ends meet. They certainly made huge sacrifices for us, including giving up the prospect of having more children — which they had always wanted — due to financial constraints,” he says. “But even though we didn’t have money, my parents taught us always to do the right thing — and to never trade our characters and integrity for financial gains.” And the right thing to do for him, is to give as he has received.
A Guiding Hand
Believing that the best way of showing gratitude is to pay it forward, Mr Chew goes out of his way to donate not just his resources, but also his time. He tries to meet the scholarship recipients on the few trips he makes back to Singapore every year, and even takes time out to evaluate potential awardees.
Through the bursaries he is also passing on his own values. The recipients are assessed first on financial needs, then on extra-curriculum achievements – and results last: “I believe that someone who is not doing well in studies might yet have leadership qualities and be able to make a bigger difference later in life. In fact, two of my union executive committee members who didn’t do too well academically now have very successful careers! I didn’t do too well academically in the first one-and- a-half years of university either. But ultimately, it isn’t about results but how one can make a difference to the people around them.”
Mr Chew also uses the funds as a means to teach life lessons to his children, aged 10, 14 and 17 years. “I always bring my children along to meet the recipients to let them hear first hand how such financial support can help the lives of others. My wife and I want to be good role models for our children and want them to be able to contribute to the endowment fund even when we’re no longer around!”
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