'I feel grateful'

Mr Syaryan Ruzaini is a recipient of the Future Development Programme bursary from NTUC Income. Last year, Mr Ruzaini's father suffered a heart attack and died. To support his family, Mr Ruzaini has been working every weekend while he is studying nursing at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Hari Raya is a time when Muslims come together to enjoy the month-long celebrations.

But for Mr Syaryan Ruzaini, 19, the month opens up old wounds.

Last year, during the third week of the festive period, his father, Mr Ahmad Ruzizad Mohammad Isa, died from a heart attack. He was 47.

The loss of his family's sole breadwinner meant Mr Syaryan, a first-year nursing student at Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP), had to work on weekends, time that he could have spent on his studies.

Then NTUC Income stepped in.

Under its new Future Development Programme, Mr Syaryan will receive a bursary of $3,000 a year to help with his family's expenses.

The programme is designed to help needy students from the polytechnics and the Institutes of Technical Education with school fees and living expenses, so they can focus on their education.

"I feel grateful, I cannot even express it. It really helps my family financially and I can work harder at my studies," said Mr Syayran.

"The money means I can take fewer shifts at work, and will also help with the daily expenses at home, like groceries."

Recalling his father's death last year, Mr Syayran said he was out celebrating with friends on Aug 17, when he got a call from his older sister at around 5pm.

His father had collapsed at home and was unconscious.

Mr Syaryan rushed to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in a taxi.

On the way, he kept telling himself his father would be all right.

Two weeks earlier, Mr Ahmad had complained about chest pains and had gone to a traditional doctor, who told him that it was just muscle aches and he had no reason to be worried.

Mr Syaryan said: "At first, I really thought he had just fainted, and he would wake up."

He did not.

When he reached the hospital, doctors said that his father had suffered a heart attack.

Nearly a year on, Mr Syaryan blames himself for his father's death: "I am disappointed in myself for not being at home. If I had been, I could have done CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and attended to him. I could have saved his life."


Ever since the loss of his father, a taxi driver, Mr Syaryan has had to work to support his family.

His mother has been battling cancer for about five years, and he says her medical bills amount to more than $500 each month.

Both his sisters are still in school.

His younger sister, 10, is in Primary 3 at De La Salle School, while his elder sister is studying English at the Singapore Institute of Management.

To cover the costs, Mr Syaryan spends his Saturdays and Sundays working at least eight hours a day at a fast-food restaurant at Universal Studios Singapore.

Mr Syaryan said this has affected his studies: "There are a lot of group projects and we meet up during weekends. Since I have work I cannot make it."

To catch up, he stays behind longer in school to study on his own or with schoolmates.

Despite all that is going on in his life, Mr Syaryan still finds time to care for his friends.

Miss Muhyya, 17, one of Mr Syaryan's coursemates, said: "He will always ask around how every one is feeling and he has this ability to calm people down when they talk to him."

Mr Aiqil, 17, who is in NP's Malay Cultural Club together with Mr Syaryan, agreed: "He is very relaxed and calm. Even when we are stressed about our club's activities, he will ask and make sure we are fine."

This article was first published on July 28, 2015.
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