Saturday 27 October 2012

Businessman's $1m for NKF

Friend's battle with kidney failure spurs $1m donation
It is the biggest gift to NKF by a living individual donor since 1999
By Leslie Kay Lim, The Straits Times, 25 Oct 2012

ALL it took was a brief phone call.

That led to a $1 million donation to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) - the largest sum it has received from a living individual donor since 1999.

The generous gift from Indonesian-Chinese businessman Kasmadi Melati, 68, was announced at a press conference yesterday.

A close friend's battle with kidney failure got him thinking about donating to the cause. His friend went for dialysis this year at a private clinic in Singapore.

"I watched my friend endure that pain - he even lacked the energy to speak," Mr Kasmadi said in Mandarin. "And dialysis is a very expensive treatment."

It costs around $1,800 a month, which covers 13 sessions, but the NKF - which currently treats around 3,000 patients and beneficiaries - subsidises most of the cases, so they pay around $50 a month only.

The donation was also a way to give back to society, said Mr Kasmadi, and to mark his birthday, which he celebrated on Oct 10.

Mr Kasmadi, whose father came from China, hails from the city of Dumai in Riau province, Indonesia. He has been visiting Singapore for more than 20 years and now lives in River Valley. He is a director at a trading firm and holds an employment pass.

Although he had only a primary school education, the self-made man has had businesses in the fishing, coal, ferry, hotel and plastics industries, mostly in Indonesia. His company, Pacific Ferry, currently operates ferries between Singapore and Batam.

He has made charitable contributions in Indonesia, but this is his first large donation in Singapore, where many of his nine children and 21 grandchildren have been educated.

The last large donation to the NKF from a living individual came from SUTL Group chairman Tay Choon Hye, who gave $5 million to set up a dialysis centre 13 years ago.

The foundation has also received legacy gifts from people who bequeathed their money - the largest one, amounting to $4.7 million, came last year from the late Madam Edna Wong Sui Ha.

Mr Kasmadi's donation - broached with the NKF via telephone last Friday - is a boost for the organisation.

The NKF, which needs $60 million annually, ended its recent financial year with a deficit of $5 million. The foundation caters to roughly 70 per cent of the 4,500 kidney failure patients in Singapore. Incoming chairman Koh Poh Tiong said it expected another 500 patients by 2016. To cater for the increase, the foundation intends to build four more dialysis centres, taking the total to 29.

Last month, the NKF held a carnival at the Marina Barrage, signalling its return to active fund-raising after being rocked by a high-profile scandal in 2005.

"It's a new NKF," said Mr Koh, of its emphasis now on frugality and transparency. "I'll make sure the $1 million goes to the patients."

Said Mr Kasmadi: "I don't have any concerns - I have full faith in the NKF. I trust that what it's doing is benefiting the patients."

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