Two years ago, he was a rebellious pre-teen who loitered on the streets with his friends until late into the night.
Today, Nicholas Tan, 14, is one of the top students in his class at Ang Mo Kio Secondary School, and spends his free time playing badminton, a sport that he loves.
Nicholas, who comes from a low-income family, is a beneficiary and ambassador of The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (SPMF).
The $95 a month he receives helps to cover many of his school-related expenses.
Nicholas' 34-year-old mother suffers from a bad right knee, which makes it painful for her to walk and prevents her from working.
His father, 38, works as a casket bearer, and brings home about $1,000 a month.
His salary is hardly enough for the family of five, which includes Nicholas' two sisters, aged eight and 17.
Both are also recipients of the fund.
The monthly allowances go a long way to help the family make ends meet.
"It really helps us with our expenses," said Nicholas' mother, Madam Cheng Poh Gek.
"The money helps to cover my children's transport costs."
Nicholas, who receives about $4 to $6 a day, said the pocket money fund helps him pay for basic necessities like food.
"I don't have to worry very much about lunch and dinner, which allows me to concentrate on my studies."
The money also helps him pursue his passion for badminton, an activity that has been key to his change for the better.
Fares for the bus and train trips he takes to attend additional training are also covered by the allowance he receives.
He saves some of the money to buy sports equipment, like rackets and court shoes.
"Badminton taught me perseverance, that I shouldn't give up on my studies even though I'm not that good."
Madam Cheng said SPMF has gone beyond helping her children individually.
She said: "The money we've received has helped us out as a family, and I would also like to thank the social workers at Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre for opening doors for us when we needed it."
ABOUT THE FUND
The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund was started in 2000, and aims to help youth from low-income families meet their schooling needs.
Students can use the money for meals during recess or pay for transportation, among other things.
The fund benefits Singaporeans and permanent residents from families with a net per capita income of $450 or lower.
Since its inception, it has disbursed more than $42 million, and has helped over 130,000 students from low-income families.
The fund is expected to give out about $7.5 million to a record 14,000 beneficiaries this year.
To apply for the fund, families can call the ComCare helpline at 1800-222-0000.
This article was first published on Dec 16, 2014.
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