Sherman Dang Xi Heng, a Year 3 student from the NUS School of Computing, is one of many students at NUS who is establishing himself in the world, after overcoming various challenges in their personal lives. Read on to learn more about his inspiring story. 

What are some of the challenges you have had to face? 

In my first two undergraduate years, I always hesitated to take part in campus activities that might put additional stress on my family’s finances. My mother was the sole breadwinner, as my father has a disability as a result of a work accident. Not highly qualified, she earned enough to keep our family of four going. In my third year, my mother lost her fight against cancer, making me the eldest able-bodied individual in the family. This was an extremely difficult period for me, coping with not only the loss of my mother, but a radical change in my responsibilities, as I had to ensure a steady flow of income for my family.  

How has the bursary enabled you to achieve your goals? 

When I started my NUS journey, my goal was to share knowledge and improve student life at the University, which I accomplished in my time as a faculty student union leader. I was able to hold office in my faculty student union, organise academic and career-boosting activities in my first year, and represent my faculty’s students as President in my second year.

The bursary I received in my first year helped ease the weight of tuition fees, and I could take part in campus activities instead of having to work part-time to maintain finances. Both positions occupied a significant amount of time, and the bursary meant that I was able to serve my fellow students and play my part in improving campus life. In my third year, a new bursary had helped to stabilise my family's financial situation, allowing me to stay in school and weather through this troubled time. After my mother’s passing, I took some time to recover, and am now looking forward to helping students and fresh graduates prepare for life after graduation. 

Why do you think giving is important? 

I am realistic that philanthropy cannot stamp out every inequality that exists in our system. However, for all students who receive financial aid thanks to the support of donors, philanthropy provides a transformative opportunity for them, and their lives, to beat the system where their circumstances may have failed them. A gift that arrives at the right time, means the world for those who receive it. Let me recount the story of an old man, a young girl and a shore of starfishes: 

At the break of dawn, an old man walks along a beach, tides washing in and out. Along the way, he sees a girl picking up something and throwing it into the water. He gets closer and sees the starfishes that had washed up on the shore. One by one, the girl tosses them into the sea, only for the waves to carry more back onto the sand. The old man asks, “What does it matter? You can’t save a whole beach of starfishes.” The girl stops to consider his words, then picks up another starfish to lob back into the sea. Pointing to the ripple where the starfish landed, she said, “It mattered for that one”

Dear Reader, thank you for giving students like me the chance to continue pursuing our studies, and the freedom to take part in enriching campus activities, just like the rest of our peers. Many of us do not lack in ability; we are merely held back by our circumstances. Gifts like yours truly help to level the playing field for us, and uplift not only us, but also the people who are counting on us to transform the trajectory of our lives.