Running can be meaningful, with participants giving back to society by championing a cause

30 September 2018

Jed Senthil (right) at the 10km start line of The Straits Times Run last weekend. He believes that every runner can play a part in giving back to altruistic causes through running.PHOTO: RUNONE ST FILE PHOTO


Over the years, and especially in recent times, our society has become more sensitive towards the needs of the less privileged and more supportive of philanthropic causes.

While multinational corporations and big corporates engage in corporate social responsibility initiatives, social enterprises have also sprung up, promoting sustainable charitable causes.

Riding on this momentum, there has also been a significant effort within the local sports community to mobilise active individuals and runners to commit to a larger good while keeping fit at the same time.

So before you put on your shoes and go for your next run, here are ways that you can help contribute too.

To send our future generations to school and ensure that they are in the best physical, mental and emotional state to learn.

This is exactly what The Straits Times Pocket Money Fund (SPMF) endeavours to do - to give every child the gift of knowledge, and an opportunity for a promising future.

SPMF works with various mainstream schools, VWOs and NGOs to identify schoolgoing children in need and provide them with the resources to do well in school, primarily by helping them meet basic physiological needs.

Since its inception 18 years ago, SPMF has disbursed more than $60 million and supported over 160,000 underprivileged children and youth by providing them with monthly school pocket money.

As someone who came from a low-income family background, I can vividly recall filling up application forms for funding when SPMF had just been rolled out. I would use the funds to pay for my meals during recess, transport, and uniforms and books.

If you were one of the 13,000 runners who participated in The Straits Times Run 2018 last weekend, then you have also made an important contribution in supporting this worthy cause.

While serving in the social-services sector, I met a primary schoolboy who stayed in one-room rental flat with his single mother and four siblings. His mum was working multiple odd jobs, and was unable to commit to full-time regular employment as she had to take care of her children who were frequently ill.

As a result, the boy, was undernourished, slept poorly and clearly lacked the energy a young boy should have. Later, we discovered that he had been bullied and mocked at school due to his family circumstances. He refused to attend school after that.

While this boy's situation may not necessarily be representative of all underprivileged children, he is not the only one.

We may think that young people are at a stage in life where multiple stress factors are part and parcel of their maturing, and that adults are not able to make much difference to their situation.

But nothing can be further from the truth. In the case of the boy mentioned earlier, with a little support, he was able to overcome his odds courageously.

As the saying goes, you might not be able to save every starfish on the beach but, to each starfish saved, you make all the difference.

You too can help contribute indirectly by participating in a community run like The ST Run, or directly by rallying your running group to befriend/mentor the children and youths through the VWOs (as mentioned in the July 29 article).

You will be pleasantly surprised by the resilience and courage these children embody, in pursuing a life of dignity and independence.

While more than 10,000 children and youth benefit from the SPMF every year, I also learnt from social workers that current funding support is insufficient.

Furthermore, in recent years, the SPMF has revised the criteria and expanded application touch points, to support more needy households and ensure that help is readily available, especially for those who might fall through the cracks. As a result, the need for support and funding is expected to increase.

While a majority of charity and social causes depend on big corporates and philanthropists, we as individuals can also give what we can.

It could be a widow's penny, but it's truly the thought that counts. Do consider championing a cause in your running club or your company.

If you too, have the opportunity to do good, and are eager to remember the children and youth from low-income families, you can also donate through SPMF's website

Don't forget to encourage your running kakis to give too.

•Jed Senthil is a former civil servant who serves professionally in the community work and social enterprise sectors. The avid runner and youth advocate is also the co-founder of the RunONE running community.

The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission



CONTACT US The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund
1000 Toa Payoh North
News Centre
Singapore 318994