ST School Pocket Money Fund beneficiaries enjoy Japanese lunch treat
There used to be days when Brayden Chng, 11, worried about not being able to afford enough food during recess.
On Wednesday (March 16), the Primary 5 student and his father relished a holiday lunch treat at Torasho Ramen & Charcoal Bar, prepared by its chef and director Sho Naganuma, 42.
The boy was one of four beneficiaries of the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (STSPMF) who, accompanied by a family member each, sampled the chef's "International Japanese Izakaya" dishes including wagyu-infused corn, shrimp tacos and ramen.
The lunch was part of the restaurant's second anniversary celebration.
Mr Naganuma, who is originally from Nagoya, Japan, said he wishes to give back to the Singaporean community that has welcomed him and given him opportunities in the 12 years he has been here.
"We want to say thank you with a meaningful contribution," he added.
He raised $8,888 during its anniversary events on Feb 20 and 21, offering its usual menu alongside special tacos created in collaboration with guest chefs.
The restaurant hosted a similar school holiday lunch treat for STSPMF beneficiaries in March last year, and Mr Naganuma raised $5,000 in donations for the fund through the sales of "birthday hot dogs".
He said he plans to continue with the yearly contributions and hopes to do more in the future, if the opportunity arises.
The chef attributed his desire to help to experiences in his youth, where he would assist his mother whenever she helped low-income families and individuals with special needs in Japan by volunteering at events or bringing them apple-picking for free at his grandfather's farm.
"Every child deserves a fair chance with equal opportunities and choices for the future... Financial difficulties should not take away these opportunities. Every small thing counts," Mr Naganuma said.
Brayden's father, Mr Jerry Chng, said his son loved the food.
Mr Chng, 35, who is unemployed, added that he was touched by Mr Naganuma's humanity and how he made the effort to interact with the beneficiaries and their family members.
He said he was grateful that the STSPMF helps cover his son's meals at school.
"Sometimes he would worry about not having enough to eat, but now I tell him, 'Just eat as much as you want.'"
STSPMF, which was launched on Children's Day in 2000, provides financial assistance to children and youth from low-income families.
It supports about 10,000 students each year and has disbursed more than $90 million to date.
Madam Toh Siew Beng, 44, said the fund has helped ensure her daughter Chey Sze Lei, 12, has enough for food in school and supplies.
The single mother of two, who works as a machine operator, said the savings helps her better manage her household budget.
Another beneficiary at the lunch, a 10-year-old girl in Primary 4, no longer goes hungry at school thanks to the fund, said her older sister. Both did not want to be named.
"On some days she wouldn't be able to eat during recess, but now it's much better," the older girl said.