Ever heard of the proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child’? For 4PM to come into being, it took four unstoppable youths to uplift an entire kampung. Over 70 years later, 4PM remains fresh and forward-looking.
This story is the last of a four-part series as we uncover the untold stories of Singapore’s charity pioneers who sought to meet the needs of our city.
Back in 1948, Singapore was recovering from the second World War and going through tumultuous political change. Four passionate activists were visionaries of their time, passionate about providing opportunities to others so everyone could better their lives in the post-war era.
How is that spirit carried forward?
Here are a few things you might not know about 4PM:
1. 4PM once held tuition classes and provided bursaries.
4PM’s core mission is to ensure every youth fulfils their potential. The organisation keeps its activities fluid, preferring to respond to pressing social needs.
Even during the early years, 4PM had envisioned the importance of education as a key driver for success. They often pioneered programmes, way before others caught on such as offering free tuition classes and introduced bursaries in post-war Singapore. These key initiatives have since evolved without 4PM losing sight of its core mission.
2. BAHAS attracted Malay and non-Malay students.
One of 4PM’s most prominent programs is Bahas 4PM, an inter-school debate competition. Past participants include prominent politicians like Zainul Abidin Rasheed and George Yeo.
According to Izzuddin Taherally, President of 4PM, Bahas 4PM sees education beyond just being good academically. BAHAS ensures one can speak well and think critically. Moreover, they view raising one’s self-belief as a precondition of success and a good education.
3. 4PM encourages youth leadership development.
Whilst leadership development is essential to 4PM, they are keen to redefine leadership. “Despite having notable alumni, we don’t feel it’s right to only acknowledge public figures in society as leaders. More importantly, you must become a leader in your family and a role model to your friend,” Izzuddin shares.
Considering Izzuddin started his journey at 4PM as a student volunteer in 1971, he is most touched when past students update him about their recent achievements – be it having a good job or being a good father.
4. 4PM works in ITEs to reduce the drop-out rates.
Noticing the high levels of premature school leavers from ITEs due to reasons such as not doing well in their studies or lack of family support, 4PM decided to look at holistic ways of reducing drop out rates. This eventually led to the development of Project bITE. Through activities such as Integration Camps, Frenz Mentoring Programme and more, bITE has helped over 24,000 students remain in the education system, enhance self-resilience and build confidence.
“After a year, the student has felt the difference which you have made in their lives. The programme instilled them with greater self-confidence and discipline, which can be lifelong traits that can help them secure their first job or pursue further academic studies,” Izzuddin elaborates.
5. Even 4PM’s ‘Ramadan on Wheels’ project pays tribute to their predecessors.
“I do tell my volunteers to remember that you are building from what’s been done by your predecessors. No matter how well you do, this is not your brainchild,” Izzuddin advises. This is the special meaning behind the name of their food distribution project ‘Ramadan on Wheels’. In the 1950s, 4PM volunteers would row their boat (sampan) to send food to neighbouring islands. This is why the project acronym is R.O.W.
Through all of 4PM’s projects, they provide opportunities for Malay youth to empower themselves, grow and give back to society.
Read other stories in our Origin Series: Charity Edition.
This article is written by our volunteer writer, Lim Jia Ying.