A junior college classmate’s account of witnessing an operation conducted under torchlight at a Cambodian hospital left such a deep impression on Mr Jonathan Ng that he decided to start his own community project.
“Back in JC, it was difficult to find a place to put our energy into. If we went to a bigger organisation, it would just tell us to organise a flag day or build a house, which we felt was meaningless with its lack of accountability and sustainability for the money raised,” said Mr Ng, 26, now chairman of his organisation, Children of Cambodia.
Since its inception in 2006, the charity — consisting of about 40 volunteer members and 15 committee members, all in their early 20s — has raised more than S$1.5 million in cash and equipment.
Focusing its efforts on the Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap, the charity has, among its other accomplishments, established a paediatric cardiac unit that has carried out open heart surgeries for about 200 children.
“Our ultimate goal is to allow them to be self-sufficient. We provide the basic structure and know-how, then work towards handing it over to doctors there,” said the student from the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine of the charity’s role in the hospital.
Lamenting the lack of proper equipment and resources at the hospital, which he has visited several times, Mr Ng said: “The electricity gets cut off at random with no back-up generator, but the doctors there are capable, though few in number. There is a distinct lack of specialisation. Thus, the crux of our programme is education to facilitate training, not just the provision of tools.”
Mr Ng said his organisation hopes to empower youth to do good, along with a responsible and accountable mindset. “We aim to provide an avenue for people to use their skills in an appropriate manner. Everyone has their skills, be it marketing or design, and we aim to harness that.”
Mr Ng is one of 10,233 graduating students who will be receiving their degrees at this year’s Commencement ceremony at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Earlier this year, he received the prestigious NUS Student Achievement Award in recognition of his community work. Currently undergoing houseman training at the Singapore General Hospital, Mr Ng said charity work had made him a better person. “I hope to make it a lifelong passion of mine.”