From The Straits Times    |

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At the age of 12, Chng Rui Jie has raised more than $1.2 million for charity.

She started organising online fund-raisers through Giving.sg when she was nine to raise funds for primary school pupils who might go hungry during recess because of their families’ financial woes.

This desire to help was spurred by Rui Jie’s own experience when she was in Primary 1. She had forgotten to take her wallet to school and had to go without food during recess.

“That was an unpleasant experience for me,” recalled the Gongshang Primary School pupil. “And to know that there are people who don’t get to eat three meals a day, I feel really sad about it. That’s why I decided to help.”

Her first fund-raiser in 2020 raised more than $56,000 for The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (STSPMF) in six months.

To date, Rui Jie has raised $332,000 for the fund. She is also its youngest fund-raiser, said a spokesman for STSPMF.

Rui Jie has also organised 60 online campaigns for charities such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Assisi Hospice.

Despite having to prepare to sit the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), which ended in October, Rui Jie still managed to raise $285,717 in donations in 2023.

“The PSLE is my first national exam, and my mother advised me to spend more of my time studying for it instead. So during that time, I asked my father to help me check on some campaigns and start new ones.”

Rui Jie’s father, Mr Anthony Chng, 46, helped her start her first online fund-raising campaign for STSPMF. He told her she would be able to help more people by raising funds for the causes she cares about, instead of just donating her pocket money to these causes.

Mr Chng is director of the enterprise division at Children-At-Risk Empowerment Association, a charity that focuses on helping at-risk youth, and his wife is a housewife.

Since her fund-raising debut in 2020, Rui Jie has encouraged more people to contribute to society. For example, she was the youngest person to be invited as a guest speaker at Fundraising Online 2022, an event organised by Resource Alliance – a global community of changemakers and fund-raisers – where she shared insights with professional fund-raisers worldwide about her experience doing online campaigns.

In 2022, she was featured on Cartoon Network’s Redraw Your World campaign, where she spoke about how young people can make a difference.

When asked where her desire to help others comes from, Rui Jie said she had always wanted to play the big sister role for children and animals in need.

“I am the youngest in my family and an only child, so I never had the chance of being a jie jie (Mandarin for elder sister). So I want to help those younger than me and to look out for them like a jie jie,” she said.

Chng Rui Jie with her parents, Ms Joan Sim and Mr Anthony Chng. ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

Apart from fund raising, Rui Jie has also done volunteer work. She has helped to pack and distribute sponsored items to needy residents in Punggol and Pasir Ris. She has also volunteered as a part-time photographer and media talent at the SG Cares volunteer centre in Pasir Ris.

In 2023, she assisted with festive decorations and food distribution for Tampines Changkat Community Fridge, an initiative where residents can share surplus food with their neighbours.

She said: “You don’t really have to do what I did (online fund raising) in order to make a difference. Something as simple as using some of your time to volunteer on weekends or during the holidays is good enough to make a difference.”

Her mother, Ms Joan Sim, 45, said of Rui Jie’s plans to do more volunteering instead of fund raising: “We want her to try different stuff and do something that is more hands-on, instead of being behind a computer screen. By volunteering at the community fridge, she gets to meet and see the beneficiaries she is helping.”

Mr Chng feels his daughter has blossomed in the past few years, and that her campaigns are successful because of her authentic, simple and straightforward way of asking donors to help a cause.

“Her messaging is not sanitised, and there is no corporate crafting. I think her innocence carries across to people, as it is very different from professional fund-raisers who are overly concerned over the choice of words.”

He added: “She has learnt that if she believes in something, she has to do something. There is no point in complaining or waiting for someone to take the lead, as long as she has tried her best and followed her heart.”

This article was originally published in The Straits Times.