School money for HIV’s young victims

First Published- 04 Dec 2008

ESTHER NG

estherng@mediacorp.com.sg

SINCE her HIV-positive stepfather died in June, 15-year-old Jane has been skipping lunch because she cannot afford it. And when she goes home for a meal, it is always instant noodles.

“It would be nice to eat rice, or some chicken rice,” said the wistful teen, whose hopes of entering polytechnic to study drama and psychology seemed dim.

But now thanks to a new education bursary scheme, youth like Jane and her younger brother — who have parents with HIV, or are themselves infected — can ease their financial worries about going to school.

World Vision International Singapore launched the One Life Fund yesterday with $50,000 seed money from the M.A.C Aids Fund, set up by cosmetic firm M.A.C to fight HIV and Aids around the world.

World Vision Singapore’s executive director James Quek said: “Many of the children and youth affected or infected with the disease typically come from low-income households. If they’re not orphaned, they’re affected by their parents’ loss of income. The family cannot afford to educate them because most of their income goes to medication.”

The bursary will cover school fees, textbooks and some living expenses.

“Unlike most bursaries where you have to apply every year, they only need to apply once, giving them security until they complete each educational level, subject to satisfactory performance review,” he said.

The fund is open to children and youths between two and 25 years old, who are Singapore citizens or permanent residents.

To qualify, the child or youth has to be HIV positive, or else one or both parents (alive or deceased) must be HIV positive.The household income must not exceed $3,000, and applicants must be enrolled in a fulltime accredited educational programme.

The fund will be administered by Patient Care Centre (PCC) which helps HIV/Aids patients and their families. Coordinator Gina Quek said: “We’ve identified between 20 to 30 households that qualify for the grant. We hope to disburse the grant by March.”

Application forms will be available at PCC, the Communicable Disease Centre and on World Vision Singapore’s website by the year’s end.

World Vision International and MAC hope to grow the fund to $300,000 in three years. “We hope more corporate donors will come on board, and, yes we do welcome private donations,” said Mr Quek.