At 21 years of age, Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) accountancy student Tay Yu Ying already boasts an arsenal of work experiences under her belt. Having worked since she was 16, she had gone from waitressing at a confectionary to working as an events crew member, bartending at a Japanese restaurant and now, holding an administrative job at a wholesale trading company. During the circuit-breaker period, she worked at a community centre to help distribute masks and answer residents’ queries about government grants and relief funds.
Sharing her story candidly with the interview panel for the ISCA Cares Bursary Awards 2020, Yu Ying let on that she started working part-time to help with household expenses and to lighten her mother’s financial burden. Since Yu Ying’s father passed away a few years ago, her mother had been singlehandedly supporting her and her 18-year-old sister.
Mature and sensible beyond her years, Yu Ying recounted, “My father’s passing took a toll on us. My family’s lifestyle changed drastically and initially, it was extremely challenging mentally and emotionally. I am grateful to my mom for selflessly caring for me and my sister. It made all the difference.”
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 crisis exacerbated their troubles when Yu Ying’s mother lost her job as a sushi chef, leaving the family without a stable income and throwing the family into greater uncertainty.
Yu Ying was just one of many youths from disadvantaged families who received the ISCA Cares Bursary Award. A total of $54,000 were presented to 28 bursary recipients at the annual ISCA Cares Bursary Awards Ceremony on October 16. This was in addition to the 55 bursaries awarded in May to offer timely help to a group of beneficiaries earlier; beneficiaries are now known as ISCA Cares Ambassadors.
Held for the fifth year running, the ceremony, which was conducted virtually, was attended by close to 80 student beneficiaries and their family members, donors, ISCA Council members, ISCA Cares Board members and distinguished guests.
ISCA Cares, the charity arm of the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA), is a collective effort of the accountancy profession to give back to society. The ISCA Cares Bursary goes towards subsidising beneficiaries’ tuition fees and basic living expenses. It is part of the ISCA Cares Education Programme, which aims to provide needy youths with access to quality accountancy education at the local polytechnics and universities.
To render timely help to financially distressed youths in view of the difficult economic climate arising from the Covid-19 crisis, ISCA Cares awarded a record $164,000 to 83 ISCA Cares Ambassadors this year. This is the highest amount of bursary disbursements and the largest number of beneficiaries in a year, since ISCA Cares’ inception in 2015. In 2019, ISCA Cares disbursed $110,000 in bursaries to 36 beneficiaries.
“In times of crisis, low-income families are one of the hardest-hit groups. This makes it more vital for ISCA Cares to step in and help youths from disadvantaged families tide through this challenging period,” said ISCA Cares Chairman Mrs Lim Hwee Hua. “Recognising that many such families need urgent financial assistance, we brought forward the disbursement date of the bursaries, and gave bursaries to more beneficiaries.”
Similar to previous years, bursaries were awarded to accountancy students from tertiary institutions including Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore, Singapore Institute of Technology, Singapore Management University, SUSS, Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP), Singapore Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic.
“Our youths represent the future and, with the uncertain economic outlook, we remain committed to investing in them to ensure that no one is left behind. We would like to thank all ISCA Cares donors for their generous support. Their contributions have made it possible for ISCA Cares to reach out to some of those who have been the most financially impacted by the pandemic,” acknowledged Mrs Lim.
Apart from awarding bursaries, ISCA Cares runs mentorship programmes where ISCA Cares Ambassadors are mentored by experienced accountancy professionals for a year. ISCA Cares also connects them to internship programmes at the offices of corporate donors, where they can gain valuable accountancy work experience.
New ISCA Cares Ambassador Yu Ying, when accepting the bursary, said, “I would like to sincerely thank ISCA Cares and the donors for this award. This award will be very helpful to me and my family in tiding over this tough financial period. I am very grateful.” She looks forward to participating in the mentorship programme and is keen to learn new ways to improve herself.
Even as Yu Ying straddles work and studies to supplement the family’s income, she finds opportunity in her predicament. She sees her numerous work experiences as good exposure to gain insights into different industries. Through this, she hopes to chart a clearer career path. For starters, Yu Ying aspires to work in one of the major accountancy firms upon graduation. In the meantime, she wants to accumulate more work experience while focusing on her studies, and in so doing, get a good head start when she enters the workforce in a few years’ time.
Beneath her petite frame and sweet voice is a steely resolve. “Simply escaping from problems will only make matters worse. When you can embrace the challenges you face with grace, you will emerge stronger and grow as an individual too,” Yu Ying shared.
Another ISCA Cares Ambassador, Nur Suhaila, a Year 3 accountancy student at NP, was recently featured in an article “Bursaries lighten the burden of students from difficult families” in Berita Harian on 27 October 2020. Click here to read the article.