In affluent Singapore, thousands of children have problems attending school every day. This is because their parents can't afford to give them pocket money for recess or even the bus fare to school.

Some students - as young as seven years of age - sit through classes on an empty stomach and guzzle tap water to ease their hunger pangs.

On Children's Day (Oct 1) 2000, The Straits Times launched the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund to give poor children pocket money for school.

The children can use this sum to fill their stomachs, pay for their bus fares or use it to meet their other schooling needs. The financial help also relieves the burden of many parents, who are already struggling to feed their families on their meagre incomes. This year (2010) , primary pupils get $45 every month, while those in secondary school receive $80 each month. 12,400 students need the fund's assistance today, almost four times the number of students supported when the fund started a decade ago.

In the past 10 years, the fund has lifted the lives of 73,542 children and it is now Singapore's largest financial aid scheme for children.

The Straits Times' unique partnership with the National Council of Social Service, the umbrella body for social service agencies here, has allowed the fund to provide such comprehensive help for needy families.

The Straits Times raises money for the fund, while the National Council of Social Service administers it. The money is disbursed through social workers working in agencies such as family service centres. Besides providing monetary aid, these social workers now have an additional access to assist families with their other problems. They have helped families plagued by multiple woes, such as mental illness, marital conflicts and violence.

Of the funds raised each year, most of the funds goes to the children. A cap of 10 per cent of the donations received is used to cover the administrative costs borne by the National Council of Social Service to administer the fund. Another 10 to 15 per cent goes to fund-raising activities and the processing costs incurred by family service centres. Singapore Press Holdings and The Straits Times do not take any cut of the donations