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Charity, Education

Seeds of Hope Award Ceremony Goes Virtual

The Seeds of Hope Merit Awards Ceremony was held virtually for the first time in 2021. Heartfelt well-wishes were delivered to student beneficiaries instantly through the internet. The Tzu Chi team and parents witnessed 49 beneficiaries of different ages who remained steadfast in their studies despite adversity, flourishing with newfound confidence.

Despite the absence of a physical award ceremony, the well wishes sent virtually carry the same weight. (Screenshot by Holly Foong)

“I am grateful to the brothers and sisters from Tzu Chi for giving me tuition. My school grades have improved tremendously, especially in Mathematics, where I obtained an “A” in my PSLE!”

Aakshank (as per the screenshot below), who received four Seeds of Hope Merit Awards, shared his fruits of labour from the past year with his mother through the screen. Both were radiating joy and gratitude on the screen.                                   

With the pandemic persisting, it continues to decrease the frequency of social interactions between people. However, through technology, the care from Tzu Chi volunteers toward the student beneficiaries saw no distance. On January 16th 2022, Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) held the Seeds of Hope Merit Awards Ceremony 2021. Due to the pandemic, the ceremony was held virtually instead. A total of 49 beneficiaries and their parents participated in the event.  

Despite the absence of a physical award ceremony, the attending student beneficiaries were seen to have sat through attentively and respectfully, many accompanied by their parents. Some home visit volunteers also made trips to the student beneficiaries’ homes to attend the ceremony with them personally. When the awards were given out, the presenter and award recipient thanked each other by putting their palms together to greet each other. The atmosphere was grand yet heart-warming.

Aakshank received the Diligence Award, Filial Piety Award, Conduct Progress Award and Academic Progress Award. With his mother by his side, he shared his thoughts on his achievements. Aakshank, who just entered Secondary One this year, said, “In the past, I did not like Mathematics. My foundation was weak. Last year, when I was in Primary Six, the thought of having to face the upcoming PSLE made me feel terrified. Thankfully, there was help from Tzu Chi volunteers.”

When volunteer Will Lo learnt about Aakshank’s need during a home visit, he roped in his friend, Ida, to help arrange weekly tutoring sessions for Aakshank at the communal resting corner of his void deck.

It was not a comfortable environment for studying, but Aakshank earnestly seized each tutoring session. Rain or shine, he would turn up for every single session. In the end, he did not let the hard work of the Tzu Chi brothers and sisters go to waste and obtained good grades.

Feeling pleased, Will Lo said, “Aakshank has a determined attitude. No matter the number of setbacks he encountered, he would always try his best to overcome them and think of ways to avoid repeating those mistakes. Besides helping Aakshank with his studies, we also instilled humanistic concepts aimed at nurturing love and kindness in him. We hope that he will become a kind and helpful child.”

Aakshank is full of gratitude towards the dedication of the Tzu Chi brothers and sisters, “I used to be very naughty and rebellious. This year, the company and understanding from the brothers and sisters made me more mature and independent. I am so grateful for them!”

In the days to come, Will and Ida also plan to continue tutoring and accompanying Aakshank to assist him with issues he might face in school or life. Their hope for Aakshank is that he will be able to work hard in his studies regardless of any difficult circumstances and will proactively shape his future.

When presenting the awards, award recipient Aakshank (right), his mother (centre) and the CEO of Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore), Mr Low Swee Seh (left), put their palms together to express gratitude for each other. (Screenshot by Holly Foong)

The Seeds of Hope Financial Assistance Scheme was rolled out in 2009, while the Seeds of Hope Meritorious Awards was introduced in 2014 and later renamed “Seeds of Hope Programme” in 2021, combining the elements of charity and education into one. Its goal is to encourage learning and inspire student beneficiaries to develop their potential and strengths in various aspects. 

At present, the Seeds of Hope Programme has a total of six awards, namely the Diligence Award, Filial Piety Award, Special Talent Award, Academic Excellence Award, Academic Progress Award and Conduct Progress Award. The bursary amount stands at S$300 per recipient in the Primary School category and S$500 per recipient in the Secondary School category. The presentation of these awards is to encourage student beneficiaries who face adversity to continue striving in life and in studies while rendering them support and care on their learning journey.

The sibling duo of a single parent family strives to be at their best    

To Tzu Chi volunteers, the sibling duo, Cassandra Ee Xin Ying, age 14, and Lucas Ee Jin Le, age 11, are not only filial and well-behaved children but also studious and diligent students.

Despite their young age, the sibling duo are pretty mature. With their father suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), they have been able to empathise with their mother’s pressure to support the family. When their father was sick, and their mother was busy, the siblings took the initiative to help with the household chores. In their ways, they removed some burden from their mother’s shoulders while maintaining their academic performance.

The Ee siblings were both award recipients in the Seeds of Hope Merit Awards Ceremony. Both received the Conduct Progress Award and Filial Piety Award, while the brother, Lucas, was also presented with the Diligence Award and Academic Excellence Award.

Mr Ee was diagnosed with ALS eleven years ago and was later admitted to a nursing home due to health reasons. All these years, Mrs Ee has become the family’s sole breadwinner who took on all the responsibilities of upkeeping a home and a family. She relied on part-time work to support the family. During an interview, Cassandra lamented that Mrs Ee works very hard, that she is always leaving home early but only returning home late at night. “I know when she gets home, she is already exhausted. So, I try to help her with the household chores the best I can.” 

Lucas added, “When my mother returns home, she looks fine. But when she lies down, she would groan in pain, which means that her back hurts.”

Whilst life is not easy, Mrs Ee finds solace that her two children are well-behaved and sensible. She shared that Casandra takes great care of her brother in every possible way and would proactively take on the responsibility of caring for her brother. She also often helps with the preparation of dinner to lighten her burden. Lucas, on the other hand, is very warm and caring. He would give his mother a full body massage, but he also helps out with the household chores.

Madam Dante Lynette said, “I am happy for my kids, and I hope they will continue to do their best.”

Cassandra Ee Xin Ying (second from the right) receives her awards from the Deputy CEO of Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) Mr Tan Chai Hoon in the company of her mother Madam Dante Lynette (second from the left) and her brother Lucas Ee Jin Le (first from right). (Screenshot by Holly Foong)  

At the award ceremony, Lucas said, “I would like to thank my mother and sister, who have always been supporting, encouraging and teaching me many things when my father entered the nursing home.”

He said that he has always been studying hard and further shared his learning experience, “I work hard in my studies. Every day, I will do revision and practice dictation when I am back home.”

Although there are obstacles on the path of learning and growing up, Lucas overcomes them with positivity and gratitude. He hopes to continue to study hard and make his family proud. “I hope to be able to obtain good grades. Not only to make my mother and sister happy but also to show them that their hard work pays off.” 

Lucas has also set a goal to improve his grades this year. Notably, he hopes to achieve good results in his Chinese subject so that he will be allowed to attend Higher Chinese lessons next year.

The award ceremony ended in a note of warmth and gratitude. It was undoubtedly a simple ceremony, but what remained unchanged was the intention to encourage student beneficiaries to develop their potential and strengths in various aspects while they work on their studies. May all the Seeds of Hope student beneficiaries continue to shine brightly and enthusiastically on their roads ahead, learn earnestly and reshape their future.    

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