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Nurturing scholars with a heart

26 Jan 2018

Mr Kuok Khoon Hong, Chairman and CEO of Wilmar International Ltd, and a long-time benefactor of SMU, paid a visit to our campus on 4 January 2018 during which he toured the new School of Law building and met with six past and present Wilmar Scholarship and the KKH Scholarship recipients. The visit by Mr Kuok was hosted by SMU President Professor Arnoud De Meyer.

During the session, Mr Kuok reiterated his belief in the power of education and the importance of giving back to society. He said that scholarships would provide a leg-up for needy students as these students lack the resources and opportunities which better-off students more readily come by.

The Wilmar Scholarship, established by Wilmar International Limited in 2009 and the KKH Scholarship, established by Mr Kuok Khoon Hong in 2012, are aimed at motivating full-time undergraduates in any programme of study at SMU to embrace a holistic education and achieve greater heights of excellence, whilst providing financial assistance with an aim of encouraging them to give back to society in the years ahead. 

Caption: Mr Kuok shared his belief in the power of education and the importance of giving back to society with SMU students at the tea session.

Mr Muhammad Firdaus Bin Mohamed Salleh, a Wilmar scholar and final-year student at the School of Economics, shared at the tea session about how he has benefitted from the scholarship. He said, “This scholarship has not just helped me meet my living and school expenses, but also provided me with financial stability and peace of mind. I do not have to worry about working enough hours to support myself financially and not be a financial burden on my parents in their old age. Beyond the financial support, this scholarship also provided me with the emotional reassurance that there are organisations and people that I can turn to in my time of need.

“In the last semester, I enrolled in a SMU-X experiential module called “Family & Society”, where our team worked with National Youth Council to conduct a study on social mobility of youth in Singapore. As someone from a less privileged background, this study made me even more appreciative of the aid and support given to me, as it allowed me to develop as an individual without being hampered by my family’s financial situation. It also made me realise the need for at-risk youths to have proper guidance and support, and I feel that I could give back to my community by helping and guiding youths who are in similar positions as I was in.”

Mr Derek Tay, a KKH scholar and final-year student at the School of Law added, “This scholarship has affirmed my belief that every act of kindness has a huge ripple effect, and that one should not underestimate the potential of his own actions. Receiving this scholarship motivated me to volunteer for causes that I feel strongly about, namely poverty alleviation and education. I am currently volunteering my time at a social enterprise called Angels of Impact, which assists women in impoverished countries to grow sustainable businesses. I am also assisting with pro-bono work at the Catholic Lawyers Guild Legal Clinic. During weekends, I teach Catechism at my Parish. I strongly believe that any act of kindness will not be forgotten, and that every bit of time or effort given towards social causes will eventually make this world a much better place to live in.”

Mr Benedict Seow Zi Ke participated in a Wilmar Community Service Project – Project Aurora - at a school in the mountainous region of Shijiazhuang city in China’s Hebei province from 24 July to 8 August 2017. The school - Ceyu Ye Hai Primary School - is one of the many schools in China supported by Wilmar International. While there, Benedict and 16 other SMU students put together a summer enrichment camp comprising of lessons in English and Science, as well as arts and sports activities for 57 primary school students.

On what he learned from this project, Benedict highlighted the importance of rallying others to volunteer. “Given the numerous volunteer opportunities at SMU, it is easy to get started on any volunteering initiatives as an individual but at the same time, we may be constrained by our own time and other commitments. During the trip, I realised how as a group, we can achieve so much more through our collective effort.” 

Caption: SMU President Professor Arnoud De Meyer presented Mr Kuok with a token of appreciation.

Mr Kuok’s steadfast support to SMU began in 2008 with the establishment of the KKH Applied Research Fund. Last year, Mr Kuok increased the value of the KKH and Wilmar Scholarships with an additional $3 million gift which will benefit as many as 16 financially disadvantaged students every year in perpetuity. Since the inception of these scholarships, 67 students have benefitted from Mr Kuok’s benevolence, enabling them to embark on an educational journey that is enriching and impactful. 

As one of our top five donors, Mr Kuok’s gifts have also opened doors to opportunities in the emerging markets. The Wilmar Overseas Internship provides exposure for up to five students each year to experience a diverse and culturally different working life in emerging economics across Africa and Asia; while the Wilmar Overseas Community Service Projects has helped foster the spirit of giving back to communities with our students undertaking 14 community service projects in various parts of China since 2011.

In addition, Mr Kuok has seed funded the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition, which is organised by our Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship biennially. The International Trading Institute at SMU is also a beneficiary of Mr Kuok’s generosity, with Wilmar as an industry partner.

Featured photo: Mr Kuok Khoon Hong (fourth from right) interacting with scholarship recipients during his visit to SMU on 4 January 2018.

Last updated on 02 Feb 2018 .