By Ang Yiying
A SCHOOL dropout-turned-chief executive officer is setting up a foundation to support causes related to children's education and families.
Mr Mohamed Abdul Jaleel Shaik Mohamed, 52, will bankroll the foundation this year - and intends to name it the S.M. Jaleel Foundation - with an initial $1 million from his personal funds.
He said he did not know his worth but his company, which builds and operates dormitories for foreign workers and students, has four multimillion-dollar projects in Singapore and is expanding to the Middle East.
Children's education is close to the heart of the father of six and grandfather of five, because he did not have the opportunity to finish school himself.
In the late 1960s, Mr Jaleel lived with his father in Singapore after his mother and sisters went back to India. While schooling, he helped to sell groceries at his father's stall so that money could be sent back to India.
But it was not enough. He stopped going to school at 16 to work full-time doing odd jobs.
He hopes that no other child has to go through the same experience.
'I feel children should not be affected by financial constraints,' he said.
Since he made it good in business heading his firm Mini Environment Service, he has been giving money to various causes.
He recently donated $500,000 to six causes - $200,000 of which went to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, which helps children from low-income families with meals and pocket money for school.
The other recipients were the President's Challenge 2010 and the four community self-help groups.
One of six prominent Indian community leaders featured in a recently released book, Num Sathanaiyalargal (Tamil for Our Achievers), Mr Jaleel said he often receives requests for donations and sponsorships, so setting up a foundation will ensure that requests can be handled quickly and evaluated by an independent board.
He hopes to have the foundation up and running by the middle of this year. His children - eldest son, Mohamed Jinna, aged 27, and eldest daughter, Fathimunnisa, aged 26 - will sit on the foundation's board.
Mr P. Thirunal Karasu, 48, a grassroots leader who has known Mr Jaleel for 10 years through community work, knew of the latter's plans to launch the foundation two to three months ago. The businessman said it was in line with Mr Jaleel's philosophy of life: 'He thinks people who are comfortable in life should come forward to help.'
Mr Jaleel, also the chairman of the Bencoolen Mosque management committee and a long-time grassroots volunteer who now helps at Aljunied and Bishan-Toa Payoh GRCs, said the lower-income earners were always the hardest hit in downturns.
'The rich don't have to worry so much, they just see the bank balance dropping in terms of percentage. But the poor have nowhere to run. Whatever I can help with, I try to help.'
This article was first published in The Straits Times.