Temasek Polytechnic student wins Harvard Prize Book
Selva Raju Arumugam helps at-risk youth and special-needs children
He lost both his parents to illness at a young age, but Mr Selva Raju Arumugam made the best of his struggles and began improving the lives of others.
Now 26, the Temasek Polytechnic (TP) final-year student becomes the first TP student to receive the Harvard Prize Book for his civic-mindedness.
Presented by the Harvard University Association of Alumni in Singapore, the award aims to give recognition to altruistic individuals who have, over a sustained period of time, gone beyond the call of duty to perform acts of kindness.
Mr Selva Raju has worked with Youth Corps Singapore, helping at-risk youth since 2015. In the past year, he has been working with special-needs children, ensuring they have the necessary mentoring and social support.
He told The New Paper: "Growing up, I faced many of the same problems as these youth... I struggled financially and did not have enough support and mentorship, so I am able to understand where they are coming from.
"I hope to provide them with support and be a listening ear or a supportive friend to help them feel valued.
"I want to be somebody they can go to when they feel alone or when they have nobody to talk to, because I know what that feels like."
Mr Selva Raju said that after his mother died when he was 16, and his older sisters got married and moved out, it fell on him to take care of the home and his father, who was ill.
He said: "It was difficult then, I had to miss classes and examinations, but it was all worth it because my priority was to take the best care of my father."
He said his sisters supported him financially and were always a source of comfort.
He would go to them when he had problems, but still, they had their own lives, and he felt alone at times.
Mr Selva Raju has spent the past 13 years volunteering with various organisations and was nominated for the award by the TP Community Service Club's adviser, Ms Catherine Ng.
He said he feels proud to have received the award.
"This award has encouraged me to do more for the community and inspire more young people to spend their time wisely to do good for people around them," he said.
"For me, it can be a simple gesture like a smile or a thank you from a child that makes me feel like it is all worth it."