Sustainable Philanthropy of a Common Teacher

When you love something you don't mind spending your hard-earned money on it.
That's why men are willing to part with ridiculous amounts of money for a ring with an enormous stone & then splash even more cash on elaborate preparations & celebrations.
Also, it's the reason why women are willing to purchase tons of merchandise bearing the images of pop artists although they do not understand a word they say in their catchy songs.

It also works the other way around.
The more you invest time/effort/money into something, the more you pay attention to it.
At the end of the day, you invest because you love it & then you cant let it go because you've put in too much. It could be a vicious cycle or it could be a wonderful synergy of motivation, passion & purpose.
I say 'invest' because putting time/effort/money into something you love is never a waste. You will always gain something from it that feeds your spirit.

Similarly, if you're a teacher & you love what you do, you will usually spend your own money on your activities or on your students.
Plainly because you don't mind parting with a little bit of money to make things better for others.
Then again, little things have a way of becoming really big.

By the end of 2012, I will have spent RM6240:

Birthday Cupcakes
450 students x RM2
Exam Rewards
30 students x 4 classes x 4 exams x RM0.5
3 top scorers x 4 classes x 4exams x RM2.5
Staff Appreciation
1 kitchen staff x 10 months x RM10
1 guards x 10 months x RM10
4 labourers  x 10 months x RM10
9 wardens x 2 semesters x RM10
PMR Rewards
5 English A students x RM200
2 PMR 7A students x RM500
SPM Rewards
1 BI A student x RM500
1 SPM 7A student x RM500
12 months x RM100


That's almost equivalent to 2 months of my salary.
I love doing what I do. Even though I do not make much compared to many of my high flying friends, working here to give purpose to young people & train them towards a better life is something that feeds my spirit. I feel there is a greater purpose in what I'm doing.
Men were never meant to work for money. We were meant to work for ideals.
This is my ideal: to see change in the impoverished Iban people of the Katibas region.

This is why I am very willing to spend my own money on my students & my activities.
As the years go by, my spending has increased with my responsibilities (from an English language teacher to Data Teacher to English Panel Head to Chief Warden).
Just by looking at the amount I'd spend this year, even a donkey would know that it is not sustainable.

Currently, I am unmarried & I have no girlfriend.
I have no financial commitments except towards my parents & life insurance. I don't have to pay for a car or a house.
I have plenty of disposable income & I invest it back into my work at school.
However, I do not plan to stay like this until retirement.

In the next few years, I plan to find a special woman, get married & start building a family together.
By then, whatever disposable income I have would have to be kept for a rainy day. I would not be able to do what I am doing today.
I would have to put an end to most of the 'carrots' I use to motivate/appreciate the people who work with me & the incentive-distracted students whom I put through the pressure cooker every day.
I feel that my work has become even more effective with these self-sponsored initiatives. It also gives me credibility when I advice students/staff because I put my money where my mouth is & give something to them at my own expense.

I need to find a way to make it sustainable.
No, I am not willing to cheat, steal or beg.
No, I am not willing to make money off my poor students or my co-workers who labour tirelessly with me.
No, it must not distract me from my work at school. It is why I'm doing this in the first place.
I have a few ideas & time will tell if they materialise. You'll be sure to read about it on my blog.

Anyway, do you spend your own money on school too?
What do you do to make it sustainable?
Do share!


  1. That's the amount to buy a good mattress! Your well fed spirit will certainly give you peaceful sleep compared to the rich who worries.


    bought snacks/stationery, they were so pleased to receive. but have yet to sponsor top scorers on vacations like you.


    1. People can never run away from worry, eh. I've got my own worries.

      You should try the vacations. Give yourself an incentive too. Make it a trip to a place you've never been before or like me, to a place I would go to anyway to recharge.

    2. *considered 10mins* Yes, mentor. Vacation with students (who achieved their targets), will be listed in my year 2 plan :)

    3. Alright! Looking forward to reading about that! =)

  2. People don't know how much sacrifice many teachers put into their vocation...and it's tragic when even the students themselves do not have any sense or gratitude and fail to appreciate it.

    1. Not too long ago after the incident I blogged about in 'Courage', I thought about this long & hard.

      I realise that I am not doing this because I want to be appreciated & worshipped. No. I do this because it is my duty. Whether or not a student is able to appreciate what I do, I have to keep doing it because it is good for them.

      If I wanted gratitude, I would have been a politician & sang songs elicits gratitude. Honestly, now I don't really care what ppl think about me or what I do. I just do it because I know that it's the right thing to do.

  3. you are really a great guy..
    dedicate your energy & money to build up young people..
    I invest in some good blue chip shares and gold investment...

    1. It's always wise to put some money away for your future.
      If you really want to, I'm sure there is something that you care about too. Perhaps you could put in some money there?

  4. "...putting time/effort/money into something you love is never a waste. You will always gain something from it that feeds your spirit."

    "Men were never meant to work for money. We were meant to work for ideals."

    well said! keep holding on to what you believe in. and i hope you find some way to make what you do sustainable... and, find a woman who shares your ideals while you are at it. :)

    1. I will hold on to my ideals. Better still, I'll let it evolve & grow as time goes by. That's the easy part. Finding a woman who shares my ideals? That's the hard part.

    2. well could be easy if you're gonna have a woman that is doing the same profession and advocacy maybe?

    3. Woman with a similar heart. I don't mind the profession/background.

    4. Anonymous13/9/12 13:57

      Do you know who suetli is by any chance???

  5. very remarkable... If i could give you an award I will give you the "most noble man of the year" award... dont take this as an insult but a compliment.. as a teacher I know how hard it is to get by with a small amount of money you get by. I couldnt blame other teachers who are doing some sort of unwanted business inside the classroom. Kudos on your sacrifices Jik Kam :)

    1. hahaha~~ I'm just doing what I can. No need for any award. If that award comes with a hot Trophy wife, I ACCEPT!

      You're right. We shouldn't blame teachers for doing funny business in school but I do frown on it esp if they keep the profits to themselves.

  6. JK, you are one of a kind. Many teachers lack the knowledge and effort of sowing relationship seeds with our colleagues as well as students. Students know when a teacher's putting in sacrificial love into his/her teachings. I believe you've earned your authority as an educator in the heart of the school. Students listen to you not because you are in power and out of fear, but rather, they want to. Your loving sacrifice will establish your authority and the right to be obeyed. :)

    1. hmmm~~ No wonder the students will do anything I say. I thought it was my hypnotic good looks or my persuasive cane. hahaha~~

      Jokes aside I guess, when students realise that you're there for them, they do rally behind you esp when you need help. To get them to realise THAT takes a lot of craftiness. hahaha~~~

  7. That is a huge amount of money..i can buy a new macbook with it..seriously..What a noble teacher!

    Keep up the good spirit and enthusiasm JKY!

    1. It's not much when you give it because you give it in bits but when added up... WHOA!
      All worth it though. =)

  8. I know this post is about how much you spend on doing what you love which is, admirable as always.. but.. highlight of the post for me?

    "In the next few years, I plan to find a special woman, get married & start building a family together."

    =P =) *like*

  9. "I say 'invest' because putting time/effort/money into something you love is never a waste. You will always gain something from it that feeds your spirit."

    Very true. It NEVER is a waste. I can testify to that when I invested in my kids while I was still teaching. And I've seen the fruits of my parents investments too when they were/are teaching. Best part? The satisfaction of seeing your students achieving their fullest potential and knowing you contributed to that. :)

    As for making it sustainable, I am not sure how that works out but I guess maybe making a book out of your collection of blog posts? So that it can be printed to be "guidelines" for new teachers embarking on their journey in the interior schools (and even the urban schools). From there, your royalty will allow you to upkeep the expenditure in your investments? Just a thought. :)

    1. Great idea. I'm considering writing in the future. Near future. Fiction on teaching featuring larger than life characters & real life circumstances.

      Meanwhile, I'm thinking of generating something from the local area for the local children/people. I'll do the groundwork this year & start it next year. Hopefully, I'll work! =)

    2. :)

      That would be an interesting journey ahead of you.. Looking forward to what you'll be writing about. Can't wait :)

      As for the local project for the kids in Song, I hope it works out too! So exciting to hear that! Are you getting the community to invest in their kids' future somehow? And maybe take ownership of it?

    3. Yes, it is indeed exciting! I shall share about it soon once it's ready.

  10. Hello,

    The 'Anoymous' up there who mentioned Suet Lee is so reading my mind. When I first reading her blog (, it reminds me exactly of you. But perhaps you have known her since she's in Felicia Peh's blogroll.

    Anyway, I agree with Saz_lasing; make a book out of your blog, or try to woo any magazines/websites to give a column for you to write once in a while (but that would be a lot of hard work).
    In a long-term maybe investment? something like ASB?

    I read on your Facebook page that you're applying for a transfer to another school, is that so?

    1. I have no idea who Suet Lee is until you shared her link. She is truly something & her desire to do more for her students is something that should be possessed by every teacher. Great to see Teach for Malaysia making a real difference. Sad that our ministry with all its resources did not come up with this first. Kudos to her.

      Magazines? Websites? At the mean time, I'll write for them if THEY woo me. It's not the direction I want to go. I've got other more important things to focus on.
      My long-term investments are for my retirement or a rainy day. I'd rather create something that creates even more without needing my constant input. We'll see how it goes.

      Yes, I am applying for transfer & am hoping to end my fairytale in the interiors for many reasons I will not share openly as of yet. I might once I get my transfer.

  11. I am inspired by Ron Clark who did fund raising activities with his students. Not just raising money, but teaching the students how to generate money, be creative, teamwork and commitment as well.

    Looking at your fiscal management, I can see you can be a manager of a school/ education centre. You know you can get many support from peers. What's your future plan for your career development?

    1. I have no plans to enter administration just yet. I dabbled in it as a Chief Warden &, though I feel that I can be effective, I prefer to improve myself to my personal maximum as a common teacher first. Only when I have become great can I nurture others & have the credibility to tell others what to do.

      I face several challenges raising funds in my situation. The PIBG of the school has a low networth & the school is only accessible via boat in a secluded location. I will have to find ways to raise funds from OUTSIDE the community. Strangely, these challenges only serve to excite me.

  12. it's great that you are working on generating something from the local area for the local children/people... it's always better to get some form of support from the community itself :) wishing everything will go smoothly for you!

    1. Thanks. The community will support any of my efforts mainly because there is NOBODY else doing anything for them on the regular. I have a monopoly on their affections. Time to make the best of it. hehehe~~

  13. WOW o.O sir your blog, especially this post was an eye-opening to me. There are not many people as passionate as you about teaching especially when you have to teach in the rural area,but when i saw your post it makes me wonder what have i done for my community.. Lastly, sir you have done the most amazing job ever as an educator.. im truly inspired with your post =D..
    P.S : im one of the student from smk tiong hin that visits smk katibas in 2009, if u still remember us.. =P

    1. Yes, I do remember your group. You were the only group of students who were gracious enough to come down to the jungle & reach out to these poor children.
      Well, I'm glad I've inspired you. We are all placed in this world to do our part to make it better for others. I'm sure you can do something for your community too. Start small. Something simple & manageable.


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