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没有受教育世代穷 - 居士林34年颁发1400万元助学金
— 专访新加坡佛教居士林林长李木源
Any Generation That Misses Out On Education Will Naturally Suffer From Poverty
Singapore Buddhist Lodge Distributes $14 Million in Educational Bursaries Over 34 Years
By Law Sue Fan
Photos courtesy of the Singapore Buddhist Lodge
Published: EduNation, Issue 5, September-October 2013
An Interview with Mr Lee Bock Guan, President of the Singapore Buddhist Lodge

The SBL donated 600,000 yuan to rebuild Jiujiang City, Jiangxi, China, after an earthquake in 2005.

In December last year, Mr Lee Bock Guan, President of the Singapore Buddhist Lodge (SBL), was hospitalised after the onset of a stroke. This, however, did not stop Mr Lee from fulfilling his official duties as Lodge President during the difficult period of his recovery. Admirably, his main concern at the time was that his sickness would “delay much needed help to the needy”. For 40 years, this man has called the SBL his home, and has contributed tirelessly to the welfare of the Lodge and to society at large. He is also the man behind the initiation of the SBL Education Foundation in 1979, an educational funding programme that awards bursaries to needy students and families. Currently, nearly $1 million is given out annually. The total amount distributed by the Foundation from 1979 to 2012 comes to $14,269,900. This money went out to 30,268 beneficiaries.

In seeking to understand how a religious organisation like SBL can centre its charity operations on education, and how it reaches out to other religious bodies like the Muslim, Hindu and Taoist organisations to collaborate on educational funding projects, EduNation spoke to Mr Lee about his views on how community partners can come together and be a catalyst for the development of education in Singapore.

Any Generation That Misses Out On Education Will Naturally Suffer From Poverty

The origin of the SBL Education Foundation can be traced back to the 1970s, when Mr Lee was a young man in his twenties. At that time, Mr Lee, an active participant of SBL activities, was tasked to survey the circumstances of the financially needy. He realised that the fundamental problem plaguing these poverty-stricken families was the lack of formal education. Families that had several generations missing out on formal education invariably found themselves stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty with no means of improvement.

These real life case studies made him acutely conscious of the fact that education has great bearing on a person’s fate and future, and therefore any project that seeks to elevate social circumstances on a global scale must first start with elevating standards of education. Mr Lee said, “Generally, an educated person will not fare too badly in terms of contentment. Any development seeking to elevate poverty across national, racial and domestic levels must therefore begin with a common starting point — the elevation of educational standards. If a country’s educational standards are well established, it will thrive and prosper, and its citizens will not live in poverty. I have witnessed the consequences of many countries not having developed their educational infrastructure. And the uneducated masses that result are easily incited and manipulated to protest and strike. A two-dollar note and a packet of rice can easily send a population into disarray, and a country into chaos.”

It was this that drove him to convince Mr Linn In Hua, then-president of the SBL, to begin the funding project that is SBL’s Education Foundation.

Revenue from the Memorial Hall Helps to Spread Good Deeds

In the initial stages of the project, the Foundation’s fundraising fell short of its $500,000 target, raising only $35,000. The funds were sufficient only for about a hundred beneficiaries, but that was more than enough to raise Mr Lee’s spirits. At the time, money was not given to students beyond Secondary 4 but in the years that followed, Singapore would experience economic development and its associated increase in demands for formal qualifications. Mr Lee therefore decided to assist older students. Consequently, the bursaries are now distributed across polytechnic and university students as well. Mr Lee resolutely believes that “Buddhism is founded upon compassion, and that charitable acts are mandatory, and the focus of these should be the elevation of education”. To this end, he spares no effort in maximising the Foundation’s means of accumulating funds for the benefit of the needy.

The SBL has a memorial hall on its third floor. This is where devotees can place their ancestral tablets at a cost of $8,100 a unit. Ever determined to increase the volume of funds for the needy, Mr Lee once again convinced then-president Mr Linn In Hua to channel all the revenue from the memorial hall into the Education Foundation. The annual revenue received by the memorial hall amounts to approximately $1 million and channelling these funds into the Foundation meant that the SBL could distribute more than $900,000 in bursaries every year.

With its tax-exempt status, all incoming funds can be fully channelled into helping the needy and the SBL absorbs all administrative costs of operation. Mr Lee said, “Each and every penny from this fund is used for bursary distribution — the SBL administrative staff members are contributing on a voluntary basis.”

Bursary Distribution is Based on Need, and Transcends Race and Religion

Race and religion have no bearing on the SBL’s judgement and decisions regarding bursary distribution. The only deciding factors are necessity and family circumstances. A significant portion of the funds is awarded to non-Chinese and non-Buddhist students. The bursary awarding ceremony is sensitive to other cultures, void of religious elements and does not deliver any religious teaching. Beneficiaries do not pay salutations to figures of Buddhism.

In 2000, the SBL invited the Jamiyah Singapore and the Hindu Endowments Board to form a joint foundation. The Taoist Federation (Singapore) soon followed. This is a real life example of racial, language and religious boundaries being overcome to usher in progress and inclusivity for the good of all needy students.

Things were not necessarily easy for Mr Lee, whose intentions were naturally questioned when he first initiated the collaboration. “They [the other religious bodies] questioned my motives at the beginning, and suspected my work as having religious inflections,” said Mr Lee. “But we remain insistent on not having such inflections in our charity work, and after ten years of collaboration, we have reached an understanding that the SBL’s work stems from nothing other than pure intentions of helping the needy.”

Mr Lee is adamant that charity must be driven by sincerity and purity. “This is analogous to the duty of doctors,” he said. “It is not okay for a Buddhist doctor to forsake patients who don’t believe in Buddha. Similarly, we do not choose to help the needy based on their beliefs. We welcome any religious organisations to collaborate with us. Even the vegetarian food we provide here is safe for consumption by devotees of other religions. We welcome them. These dishes are definitely not inflected with religious significance by any rites. We would never do that.”

Mr Lee is of the firm belief that society will always stand to gain from religious bodies reaching out to help each other. He said, “Individually, we are like lamps with limited reach. If the lamps come together they can shine brighter, and reach out further. I believe our different lights can blend harmoniously.”

A significant portion of the Education Foundation’s funds goes to aiding the needy from the Institutes of Technical Education (ITE). The demography of these beneficiaries is largely made up of non-Chinese students. Many of these youngsters have a weak academic foundation as they missed out on kindergarten. This has further hindered them from doing well when they started primary school. Mr Lee is happy to note the betterment of the current situation, and that many Malay parents now see their children’s education as a priority.

Every year, the SBL Education Foundation publicises its bursaries in the press. They fall into two categories: the primary/secondary and the tertiary, which includes ITE, junior college, polytechnic and university students. Families receiving assistance must have a combined monthly income below $750, and each family is entitled to a maximum of two beneficiaries.

“Applicants need to request for the official application forms from the list of beneficiary schools and organisations. If the application is approved, the SBL will transfer funds to the school twice a year. We emphasise that the funds are not interchangeable for use between different needy students. The money can be channelled only towards helping one specific student. It can be used to pay for uniforms, school fees and other miscellaneous academic spending. If the student withdraws from class, the school needs to return any unspent amount. We never transfer funds directly to the parents — this is to guard against any propensity for misuse.”

If the needy student’s school does not appear on the provided list of beneficiary organisations, he or she is still welcome to meet Mr Lee personally at the SBL. Mr Lee said, “If we find these applicants to be truly in need after a home visit and survey, we have another charity group on the side that can provide funds to pay for basic provisions as well as academic spending.”

A Home Visit Veteran Shares His Experiences

Mr Lee has a considerable amount of home visit experiences under his belt. A short amount of time within a home can tell him what he needs to know to judge whether a family requires financial assistance.

“If we feel there is something off with the application form, we will normally make calls first to get a better understanding of the family’s residence type, and whether they have a maid,” he said. “If I make a house visit in person, I will normally enter the kitchen first and maybe think, ‘This fridge is not all that bad.’ The quality of groceries inside the refrigerator is a good tell-tale sign whether the family is genuinely in need of assistance. Sometimes, the strong smell of essential balms and medicated oil hits you the moment you enter a unit. This usually indicates the presence of sick family members. If the living room is in tatters, and the family members are sickly, the family is naturally not doing financially well.” If the SBL suspects applicants of intentionally withholding information or attempting to deceive, then the surveyors will interview their neighbours to discern a clearer picture.

The home visits of Malay and Indian families are conducted with the assistance of Jamiyah Singapore and the Hindu Endowments Board. Mr Lee feels this is “more appropriate”.

Giving Without Expecting a Return

The SBL awards bursaries without any expectations of return. Mr Lee said, “I will tell the children, ‘We do not want any returns for the bursaries we give you. If you wish to make any return contributions, make them to your family, your racial community, and your country.’ We give university students volunteer work application forms to encourage them to give back to the community. We encourage them to volunteer for their own religious organisations as well. They do not necessarily have to volunteer for the SBL.”

Although there is no expectation of return or rewards, the SBL still has a considerable number of beneficiaries who can never forget their roots and go on to show their appreciation after graduation. Prominent examples include an Indian student who later became a lawyer, and another Indonesian beneficiary who went back to his home country. Both regularly contribute thousands of dollars to the SBL every few months. There are also beneficiaries who invite the SBL to their weddings.

Mr Lee said, “I meet SBL beneficiaries wherever I go — some of them go on to become pilots, lawyers and doctors. It is a joy to see them fulfil their potential. Some show their appreciation to me with food, and there was this occasion where I met a cab driver and ex-beneficiary who did not want to charge me for my ride — I insisted on paying, of course. Even when I was recuperating in the hospital, I had the joyful experience of having many doctors who were ex-beneficiaries show their concern for me in person.”

Thus, one can observe that there is no lack of gratitude. As the Chinese saying goes, “give the person who gives you a drop of water a fountain of gratitude” — the SBL now has around a thousand volunteers. Polytechnic students and bank employees are regular participants as well. Mr Lee said, “50 to 60 Temasek Polytechnic students often come here to cook for us, and we provide the opportunity for them to practice. Other schools also tell us that they are more than willing to help should we ever be in need. This is why all our activities and performances are covered by school emcees and performers. One year, students from LASALLE College of the Arts came to perform contemporary dance.”

A Bothersome Principal is a Good Principal

The SBL Foundation approves more than 90 per cent of its annual applications. On average, every beneficiary school receives ten bursary awards. There are some principals who take the initiative to earnestly request for more — and the SBL will make exceptions for these. Mr Lee said, “Normally, our policy dictates that applicants need to use the official application forms. However, many schools have an overwhelming number of applicants, and the principals end up having to photocopy the forms for them. Many of these principals actually turn up in person to make requests, and send their teachers to follow up on them. We approve almost all of these.”

There are some principals who give SBL “a difficult time”, as Mr Lee jokingly put it. “These bothersome principals are all good principals. Only good ones would actively seek us out. The ex-principal of Crescent Girls’ School is a good example — after we gave the School ten official application forms, she came and requested more on a daily basis until she got 30 of them. The ex-principal of River Valley High School, Mdm Leong Fan Chin, often used to visit us to make requests for assistance with the needy in her School.”

The most unforgettable principal in Mr Lee’s experience is the ex-principal of Bukit View Secondary School, Mr Ow Chiong Hoo. Mr Lee said, “Other than turning up in person to request bursary application forms from me, this principal also delivered provisions like rice to his students. His tires often threatened to burst from the heavy load he carried in his car — now that’s an example of a good principal.”

Mr Lee also made special mention of NorthLight School, which specialises in taking in and assisting students who have difficulty in handling the mainstream curriculum and passing the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). Mr Lee said, “The past and current principals of NorthLight School, Mrs Chua-Lim Yen Ching and Mr Martin Tan Siew Kin, are both good principals who have not only come to us but have also distributed our provisions and fruits to their students. Many of the students from NorthLight come from needy and single parent families. I particularly admire how the school has a 24-hour open gate policy to allow students to take refuge during the night if they need to — some of these students do come from more complicated backgrounds. We too, will try our best to help this kind of school.” Mr Lee often takes the initiative to write letters to the Ministry of Education (MOE) to commend the diligence and compassion of these excellent principals.

The SBL Also Assists with Overseas Immersion Expenses, Exam Fee Payments and Computer Purchases

Among the beneficiary schools, there are some that appear to be “rich”. Do these schools with resources also require financial assistance? Mr Lee explained, “These schools still have poor students; even rich people have poor relatives. Sometimes, when students want to participate in overseas immersion programmes, but cannot afford to do so, their schools will take the initiative to request for our assistance. Hwa Chong, for example, has come to us before to help some needy students attend an overseas immersion course in the United States.” Mr Lee said that the SBL feels a strong obligation to assist students with the desire to participate in these immersion programmes, “We must let them go. Students with good family circumstances will not have difficulty going overseas — eight hundred to a thousand dollars is not a problem to their parents. But a needy student will not find such opportunities easily — that is why we will financially support them.”

The SBL funds also cover the students’ examination fees. “There was a year where Nan Chiau High School came to me requesting for assistance with five students’ examination fee payments. These students did very well for their examinations in the end. Families with a number of children, especially children at the primary school and secondary school leaving levels, will often incur very high expenses. Entering secondary or pre-university education will incur associated expenses such as buying uniforms, bags and texts. These expenses can amount to a thousand dollars. How can a poor family withstand such a burden?”

In recent years, many schools have adopted the approach of educating students through the use of tablet computers. Naturally, the SBL has received a substantial volume of requests for assistance in purchasing such devices for students. “Some schools have come to us hoping that we can purchase computers for the entire student body. How is that possible? I do feel they can try seeking assistance from MOE. MOE has a very substantial budget as well. It is impossible for us to help an entire school body. Besides, if we do it for one, another will immediately follow.”

However, as far as computer purchases go, the SBL does provide assistance on a case-by-case basis. For example, it assisted a young man from China who was studying at Nanyang Technological University but who could not afford his own computer. This student had to wait for his schoolmate to go to bed before borrowing his computer, which naturally had consequences for his biological clock. Mr Lee recalled, “When he finally laid his hands on a computer that he could call his own, he was so affected that he burst into tears holding it. He even slept with it in his arms.”

Introducing the Endeavour Award as a Form of Motivation

In trying to motivate beneficiaries in their studies, the SBL has introduced three Endeavour Award cash prizes in 2010. These awards are also designed to encourage students with satisfactory results to strive further for academic excellence. The cash prize is handed directly to the students themselves, and they are allowed to reward themselves with this money.

Mr Lee said, “I recall a little girl who was given the prize money. After getting the award she wanted to give it up. She said, ‘Even though I am poor, I have a Malay schoolmate who is poorer than me. This should go to him.’ Thus, we ended up transferring the prize money to this schoolmate, but at the same time we also awarded another special prize to this girl. We saw in her a community spirit that transcends race and religion, something that left us very touched.”

Building Schools in the Remote Areas of China

The SBL’s light seeks to be far-reaching. Through the Project Hope channel, its charity work has taken root in certain remote areas of China like Yunnan, Guizhou and Gansu, and has given rise to the construction of around a hundred schools. “In the past, the construction of a school building only required seventy to eighty thousand dollars. Now, with demands for computers and central heating, we need to set aside $200,000 for each school. And because each school building needs to last 70 years, we need, before construction starts, to secure reassurance from the government on transport, water and electrical infrastructures. Their education ministry also has to guarantee a continuing supply of teachers, and a restriction on the use that the building can be put to.”

Other than the construction of school buildings in remote areas, the SBL also funds the overseas studies of outstanding students from these regions. A female student of an ethnic minority numbering only 30,000 managed to seek out the SBL through the channel of The Buddhist Association of Yunnan. As a result, she managed to get her PhD, and return to Shanghai to work in the finance sector. She is the sole overseas graduate from her ethnic group.

Additionally, the SBL has financially assisted a hundred or so foreign students to pursue their education in Singapore. Mr Lee feels that encouraging outstanding talents to come to Singapore is the right thing to do. Whether these individuals stay or return to their home countries, they will still play a part in contributing to Singapore’s development. He describes this as “an investment for establishing a firm foundation for our country’s future”.

Completion of the Singapore Buddhist Lodge Cultural Activities Centre in 2017

The SBL is planning the construction of a Cultural Activities Centre beside its Grand Hall. The building will be six storeys tall with three levels of underground parking space. The building’s estimated completion date is 2017 and it is estimated to cost $50 million. Mr Lee hopes that the new building, with 70,000 square feet of usable space, will provide room for young people to expand the scope of their activities. In some earnest he said, “I came into the SBL in 1970. At that time the then-new buildings became my responsibility. It has been a long run of 40 years, and I have grown old with them. Before my own term is up, I must see this new construction project through, and hand it over to the next generation. If I don’t see it through within my term of service, I don’t know when it can happen. Fortunately, I have broad connections, and this makes fundraising an easier task.”

When Mr Lee first joined the SBL, he made a vow “to always do good for mankind, and to never falter spiritually”. In his 40 years of service, he has been loyal to his duties, and turned his ideals into tangible contributions. From the bursaries, the spread of free vegetarian meals, and the number of its charity events, one can see that under his guidance the SBL has maximised its potential as a religious organisation that aims to contribute to the good of all, regardless of race or religion.


 


封面故事 > 没有受教育世代穷 — 专访新加坡佛教居士林林长李木源
没有受教育世代穷 — 专访新加坡佛教居士林林长李木源
居士林34年颁发1400万元助学金
文:刘素芬
图:新加坡佛教居士林提供
刊载:《新学》, 第5期,2013年9月-10月
去年12月,新加坡佛教居士林林长李木源中风入院,休养期间,他在病榻上不间断办公,还担心“因为自己而耽误了许多需要帮助的人”。这位40年来以新加坡佛教居士林(简称居士林)为家,凡事以居士林和大众福利为中心点的佛教工作者,于1979年发起居士林助学金计划,如今一年颁发近百万元助学金。从1979年至2012年,居士林共颁发了1426万9900元的助学金,受惠学生有3万零268人。

为了了解居士林作为一个民间宗教组织,如何以教育当作主要慈善工作,而且还聚合了其他宗教如回教、兴都教及道教组织,共同颁发助学金,《新学》新加坡教育双语双月刊采访李木源,请他谈居士林如何以民间力量协助新加坡教育的发展。居士林不只帮助新加坡人,它的“保护伞”还是跨国界,几乎有求必应。

没有受教育世代穷

居士林助学金的来由追溯至1970年代,当时20多岁的李木源参加居士林活动,他上门调查许多要求经济援助的人,发现贫穷家庭的问题根源是没有受过教育,一家几代人因为没有受过教育而陷入贫困的魔咒,无法翻身。

这些社会实例,让他体悟到,只有接受教育,才能改变一个人的命运。要帮助全人类就从帮助提高教育水平着手。他说:“一个受过教育的人,怎么坏都坏不到哪里。要解决国家、族群和家庭的贫穷,必须先从教育着手。一个国家的教育办得好,就会强盛,人民就不会穷。我看很多国家因为教育不普及,没有受过教育的人民,被人唆使罢工就罢工,示威就示威,给他发两块钱一包饭,国家就乱了。”

是他说服当时居士林林长林荫华开展助学金计划。

功德堂收入全用作助学金

颁发助学金初期,以50万元为目标,第一期才筹到3万5000元,能够发给百多名学生,已经让李木源感到很高兴。当时只颁给到中四程度的穷学生。几年后,随着新加坡经济发展,学历要求跟着提高,居士林把助学金范围提高到高中。现在则到理工学院和大学水平。李木源深信 “佛教以慈悲为怀,要做慈善工作,而慈善事业中又以教育为第一。”为增加更多名额,让更多穷学生受惠,他挖空心思,想尽办法为助学金筹钱。

居士林三楼有一个功德堂,让信徒设祖先灵位,每个神主牌位进来要交8100元。为了加大助学金的力量,李木源再次说服了林荫华林长把功德堂神主牌位的收入悉数拨入助学金基金。每年功德堂大概有百多万元的收入,全都用来颁发助学金,因此,一年约能颁发90多万元的助学金。

居士林将助学金的经费转换为基金,申请豁免所得税,所收到的钱一律拨作助学金,行政费则由居士林负责。李木源说:“这笔基金的每一分每一厘,都用在助学金,当中没有行政开销,居士林的职员和负责人都是义务为助学金基金工作。”

颁发助学金不分种族、不分宗教,只看家境

居士林颁发助学金的原则是不分种族、不分宗教,只看家境。其中有半数是给非华裔学生,非佛教徒。而且在颁发助学金的仪式上,完全不含宗教色彩,绝不要学生向佛陀行礼,也绝不传教。

2000年起,居士林把新加坡回教传道协会及兴都教基金会拉进来成为助学金联办组织,后期新加坡道教总会也加入, 它打破宗教和种族的隔膜,让更多人参与,也让更多学生受益。

李木源找其他宗教组织合作时,开始也被怀疑其背后动机。“他们怀疑我们为何要这么做,是否要趁机传教?但我们真的是完全不带任何宗教色彩,所以合作了10多年,彼此都很熟络,他们了解我们纯粹是为了慈善。”

他指出要行善就要真心协助:“做慈善不可以谈宗教。就像医生看到一个人晕倒,不能先问‘你信什么教?不信佛教,你就去死吧。’这是不行的。我们欢迎任何宗教组织来找我们合作。比如我们这里提供素食,任何宗教信徒都适合吃,我们欢迎大家来享用,这些素食绝不是先拿去拜拜后才给人吃,我们不会这样做。”

他体悟到各个宗教之间要互相帮忙,为社会带来更多和平,就如“一盏灯的光有限,集合很多盏灯,就会发出更亮的光,灯光是可以融合的。”

居士林助学金就有很多是颁给工艺教育学院(ITE)的学生,那里以非华裔的马来学生为多。他们许多是因为没有念幼稚园,基础打得不够好,上了小学后跟不上,成绩不好。李木源看到现在情况有所改善,很多马来家长也开始重视孩子的教育了。

居士林助学金每年两次在报章上刊登申请助学金的通告,助学金分中小学组及高中以上组(包含初级学院、理工学院、工艺教育学院及大学)两组,通告列出受惠学校名单,及申请条件:家庭平均月收入低于750元,每个家庭最多给两个助学金名额。

“申请者必须向名单中的学校和组织,索取居士林发给学校的正式表格申请。批准后,我们一年分两次给钱学校,并强调要专款专用,这笔钱只能用在这个学生身上,可以用来买校服、交学费等。学生退学就必须退还余款。我们绝不把钱交给家长,以免有家长把钱拿去赌博花光。”

穷学生的学校如果不在助学金的名单上,可以直接到居士林去找李木源。他说:“经过家访调查,如果真需要帮忙,我们还有一个慈善组,可以用那里的钱给这名学生的家买米买油,以及一笔买书、买书包、交学费的钱。”

家访心得

李木源有丰富的家访心得。他说,只要走进屋内在短时间内,就可以判断出这家人是否需要援助。

他说:“申请表格看来不妥当的,我们会先打电话了解,问他住什么样的房子,家里是否有女佣。若是登门访问,就去厨房看看,说‘你的冰箱不错哦’,打开来看,看里头是大鱼大肉还是青菜豆腐,由此判断这家人是不是需要受助。还有一些家庭,一走进去深呼吸,闻到的是风油、药酒味,就表示家里有病人。如果客厅破破烂烂,还有病人躺着,当然一看就知道情况不好。”若遇到有意欺瞒者,只要问一问左邻右舍,即可查明真相。

马来族和印度族学生的家庭访问,会请新加坡回教传道协会和兴都教基金会协助。他说:“这样比较好。”

不求回报

居士林发出助学金不盼回报。李木源说:“我会告诉孩子,给你助学金,不必回报。你要回报,回报你的家人,回报你的族群,回报自己的国家。我们只给大学助学金生发义工表格,欢迎他们去自己信仰的宗教做义工,不必一定到居士林来。”

虽然不求回报,还是有不少受惠学生在毕业后,饮水思源,尽力用各种方式回馈。有一个是后来当了律师的印度学生以及已经回去印尼的学生,都是每隔几个月就寄来几千元。也有一些受惠学生结婚前,亲送请柬来邀请林长出席。

李木源说:“我到哪里都会遇到领过居士林助学金的学生,有做飞机师、律师、医生的,看到这些人成才,我很快乐。他们有的会拿东西给我吃,我还遇过当德士司机的不收我车资,我当然坚持一定要给。连我在医院养病,也有很多医生来看我,其中有妇科的医生也来。”

可见世上还有不少懂得感恩之人。所谓“滴水之恩,涌泉相报”,居士林现在就有千多名义工,其中不少是学生。他说:“淡马锡学院有五六十个学生来这里煮饭,我们给他们机会在这里练习。其他学校也要求我们有需要帮忙时尽管提出。所以我们的活动,司仪和表演都由学生负责,有一年拉萨尔艺术学院的学生就来给我们表演现代舞。”

爱找居士林麻烦的校长是好校长

居士林助学金每年批准超过90%的申请,每所受惠学校平均获得10份助学金,有校长主动且不断要求居士林多提供几份的,居士林也会破例多给几份。“我们规定要用居士林发出的正式表格,但许多学校申请人数多,校长还是复印让更多学生申请。很多是校长亲自上来要求,又再派教师来。我们几乎都批准。”

一些经常给居士林“麻烦”的校长,李木源笑称, “这些经常给我麻烦的校长都是好校长,只有好校长才会经常来找我们。其中克信女中的前校长就很好,我们给10份表格,她会天天来找我多要,最后拿到30份。立化中学前校长梁环清也是常来找我们,说学校很多穷学生,需要协助。”让李木源难忘的校长,还有百德中学前校长欧钟富,“他除了亲自来要求多几份助学金表格,还来拿米拿粮食回去给学生,我常看到他的车重得几乎爆胎,这种校长是好校长。”

李木源也提到北烁学校这所专门录取小六会考不及格的学生的特别学校。“北烁前校长林艳卿和现任校长陈绍健很好,经常联络我们,从我们这里拿一些米粮和水果分给学生,他们的学生很多来自穷人家或单亲家庭。我特别欣赏他们学校24小时开着校门,让学生可以半夜跑回学校避难,有些学生的家境的确比较复杂。我们会尽量帮忙像这样的学校。”李木源还经常主动致函教育部表扬这些认真又关心学生的好校长。

也协助穷学生出国浸濡、缴交会考考试费和购买电脑

助学金的受惠学校名单中,有一些是大家印象中的“有钱学校”。这些学校资源多,是否需要资助?李木源解释,“这些学校还是有穷学生的,富有的人还是有穷亲戚。有时学校要让学生出国参加浸濡活动,穷学生负担不起,学校会来找我们帮忙,比如华侨中学就请我们资助学生到美国参加浸濡课程。”他表示居士林是一定要支持拿助学金的学生参加浸濡课程:“我们一定要给他们去。家境好的学生要出国不难,家长拿一千、八百出来不是问题,但家境不好的学生就不那么容易,所以我们会资助他们出国参加活动。”

助学金也包含学生缴交会考的考试费:“有一年南侨中学找我帮忙替五个学生交会考费。这几个学生的会考考得很好。一个穷家庭有几个孩子,尤其是有小六和中四的,要花的钱很多。升读中学或高中,要买校服、书包、书本等,都要整千元,这叫穷家庭如何负担?”

近年来许多学校纷纷采用平板电脑教学,居士林自然也接到不少要求资助学生购买平板电脑的要求。“有些学校找我们资助全校学生买电脑,这怎么可能呢?我觉得他们可以去找教育部,教育部的预算也很多。我们不可能全都帮忙,帮了一所学校,下一所马上就来。”

但居士林还是会依个别情况帮忙,例如曾赞助一台笔记型电脑给一名在南洋理工大学念书的中国学生。这学生买不起电脑,每次要等同学睡了才借用电脑,搞到晨昏颠倒,“当他拿到属于自己的电脑时,感动得抱着电脑哭,晚上还抱着电脑睡觉。”

增设精进奖鼓励学生

为了鼓励领取助学金的学生精进奋发,居士林从2010年开始,加设三份“精进奖”,鼓励成绩跃进的助学金学生精益求精。钱直接发给学生,让他们可以用这笔钱去买自己喜欢的东西。

李木源说:“记得一个拿到精进奖的小女生,得奖后却表示要放弃。她说‘我虽然穷,但有一个马来同学比我更穷,这个奖金应该给他。’后来我们真把她的精进奖给了这个马来男生,但同时也颁发了一个特别奖给这名女生。像她这样不分种族和宗教的互助精神,让我们很感动。”

在中国偏乡建百多所学校

居士林的慈善事业无远弗届,通过“希望工程”计划,居士林已在中国的偏远地区如云南、贵州、甘肃等建了百多所学校。“从前在中国建一所学校只要七、八万元 就可以,现在要求电脑化和暖气,大概要20多万元才行。一所学校建好后,至少可以维持70年。还没建以前,我们要求当地政府确保路通、水通、电通三通,而且教育局要担保永远有教师,学校只能做教育用途。”

除了在中国偏乡建学校,居士林也资助优秀的中国学生出国。一名来自仅有3万多人的少数民族的中国女生通过云南佛教协会找到居士林帮忙,得以去英国读博士,毕业后回到上海金融界服务。这个女孩子是该族里惟一出国留学的女孩。

另外,居士林也曾资助百多名外国学生到新加坡读书,李木源认为应该鼓励优秀人才到新加坡读书,他们日后可能留下来,或即使回国也有助于协助新加坡发展,他形容“这样的投资是为国家的未来打基础。”

2015年完成居士林文化活动中心

居士林将在大佛殿旁建立一栋楼高六层,并有三层地下停车场的居士林文化活动中心,预计2017年完成,斥资5000万元。李木源希望这栋实用面积有7万平方英尺的新大楼可以让年轻人有更多空间活动,他语重心长地说:“我在1970年进居士林,当时新的建筑物经过40多年,都变得老旧了。我必须在退休离开前完成这个新建筑计划,把它交给年轻人。如果不在我任内完成,不知要等到什么时候才建成。我人脉广,筹款比较容易。”

李木源参加居士林时,曾发愿“普渡一切众生,永远不退转”。这40多年来,他坚守岗位,把理想一一化为行动。从助学金、丰富的免费素食到各种慈善活动,居士林以一个民间宗教组织运用了最大力量,不分种族、不分宗教,为团结新加坡人作出了大贡献。

李木源 / Lee Bock Guan
李木源生于1945年,父辈从事驳船制造业。他接手公司后,把事业转型为进口建筑材料及机械油公司。十多年前,他将生意交给孩子,搬到居士林居住,全心服务社会。

李木源先后在居士林青年部、修持部、弘法部、慈济部等部门任职。2000出任代林长,后正式接任林长。在他的领导下,居士林不但在2004年完成了扩建,并且拓展及细化助学金及度岁红包这两项传统的慈善项目,将助学金延伸到高等院校,并先后创立了居士林教育基金及居士林福利基金,成立家庭服务中心、孩童托管中心及三间中医义诊所。

他也协助筹款建设文殊中学、菩提学校、弥陀学校等佛教教育机构,捐款支持兴都庙及回教堂的建设。居士林在他领导下,与回教及兴都教等宗教团体紧密合作,共同主办慈善、教育、文化及社区活动。

After handing his family business over to his children more than a decade ago, Mr Lee Bock Guan moved into the Singapore Buddhist Lodge (SBL) and dedicated himself to serving society.

Under his leadership, the SBL expanded and developed charitable projects for both students and the elderly. The SBL Education Foundation and Welfare Foundation were formed from these initiatives. Mr Lee has also spearheaded projects to build a family service centre, a childcare centre, and three Traditional Chinese Medicine clinics. In addition, he has participated in fundraising activities for the construction of several schools and organisations including Manjusri Secondary School, Maha Bodhi School, and Mee Toh School.

Under Mr Lee’s guidance, the SBL has forged strong synergies with other religious bodies to collaborate on charitable, educational, cultural and community projects.


 

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