Growing up in a big family with limited means further sharpened his creative instinct. Instead of lamenting the lack of new toys, he treasured the pre-loved ones that his mother occasionally brought home for him and his three brothers, even if they were not in working order.
“I’d usually spend some time after school trying to make them functional again, using whatever materials that were available like UHU Glue or cardboard. Most of the time, I made things worse,” he conceded, but whenever he succeeded, he would experience “immense joy”.
From “reviving” old toys, the resourceful boy graduated to creating more complex items, such as an aquarium made from materials discarded at the junk corner at the bottom of his HDB block. All this practice stood him in good stead and paved the way for the birth of WateROAM.
After enrolling in NUS, Chong Tee found himself having to juggle studies and work. Not wanting to put more financial strain on his father, he taught multiple tuition classes every week to earn his own allowance.
He was very active in school too, taking on various leadership roles such as class representative, faculty dance I/C and co-curricular activity I/C. He also put his heart into mentoring international students and gave free tuition to underprivileged children.
The NUS Donated Bursary helped to bring some balance to his university life.
“I was extremely thankful and consoled to receive the award. With the bursary, I was able to give fewer tuition classes every week, put my energy into developing both academic, technical and entrepreneurial skills, and have more time with my family on weekends.
“The bursary really meant a lot to me,” said Chong Tee.
The financial aid also addressed a concern that his parents had: that with so much on his plate, he might not have enough time to study. “The bursary really lightened my burdens,” he said. “My parents were also very grateful for that.”
Much of the precious time that the bursary afforded him was spent at Yusof Ishak House with the co-founders of WateROAM, David and Vincent, whom he met in his second year through programmes organised by the university.