Singapore Buddhist Lodge ups charity efforts in dire times

By Joy Fang, AsiaOne, Dec 11, 2008

Singapore -- These may be financially dire times, but some organisations are not slowing down their efforts to help those in need.

The Singapore Buddhist Lodge will give out $1.2 million in bursaries next year instead of $1 million - a 20-per-cent increase from this year.

The charity's president, Mr Lee Bock Guan, also said that they will up their hongbao or red packet amounts given to the elderly by $20 to $120.

This is part of their annual tradition of giving to the needy elderly during the Chinese New Year celebrations. The charity predicts a 15- to 20-per-cent decline in donations, but Mr Lee said they will use their savings of $10 million.

Asked why it is not cutting down on its philanthropic efforts, he explained: "In these bad times, most charities will give less. The less fortunate people will suffer the effects. Money is to be used, not kept."

In June, it gave a cheque for almost $2.3 million to Madam Zhang Xiaokang, China's Ambassador to Singapore, for Sichuan earthquake-relief efforts.

Mr Lee spoke to my paper at a cheque-presentation ceremony held at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Iseas) yesterday.

The lodge donated $1 million to Iseas for the establishment of the Buddhism in Asia Studies Centre.

The centre will carry out research on the impact of Buddhism across Asia, and invite expert scholars to reside in Singapore.

Asked why Buddhism was chosen as the centre's focus, Iseas director K. Kesavapany said: "The religion connects different parts of Asia, and we are interested to know what the connection is. There is also increasing interest in Buddhism."

Mr Lee hopes the centre's efforts will give "different religions more exposure to Buddhism and improve multi-racial and multi-religious ties".