A conversation on prioritising
people at work and in life

The Mohamed Abdul Jaleel Scholarship supports undergraduates from the S`R Nathan School of Human Development who are passionate about the promotion of human flourishing. Mr Mohamed Abdul Jaleel is the founder and CEO of MES Group and one of Forbes’ 40 Heroes of Philanthropy in Asia in 2014.


S M Jaleel Foundation
Mr Mohamed Abdul Jaleel,
Businessman and Philanthropist

Q: You have been a business and community leader in various capacities for many years. What is a leadership lesson that you hold dear to your heart?

Mr Jaleel: Not everything can be measured in dollars and cents; we lose the forest for the trees if we focus on just that.

Instead, relationships are more valuable and enduring. For example, when there are agreements or disagreements between parties, it is ultimately their relationship that holds the key to a way forward. Having a good relationship also allows for compromises to be made today – the goodwill generated opens doors in the future.

Q: Why have you chosen to support students particularly in the S R Nathan School of Human Development?

Mr Jaleel: Education can be an equaliser of society. It is important for us to come together and support those who need help towards their potential.

I was fortunate to meet kind and giving people when I was young. Coupled with the eagerness to work hard, I benefitted from them and Singapore’s growth. Now, I would like to see others in the community succeed too.

Human development studies examine the questions of human flourishing and address what I believe in: the need to focus on people and relationships for our wellbeing.

Q: What do you hope for the SUSS students who are being supported by your scholarship?

Mr Jaleel: Always find a way to give back. Students like Odelia have their best years ahead of them and can aspire to be leaders. Good leaders seek to make things better regardless of the limitations they face. It is good to stay guided by a moral compass too. My faith has been the cornerstone of my life and sees me through the ups and downs.

Mohamed Abdul Jaleel Scholarship Recipient

Odelia Tan,
Student, Bachelor of Social Work, Year 2

Q: You are keen to interact with people from all walks of life. How is the social work programme helping you to deepen your interest in people?

Odelia: I gain knowledge – on human behaviour and society – in a systematic way. This helps me to assess and intervene appropriately in social issues.

I also get to learn essential skills, such as communication and presence. I can better interact with people, understand their needs and help them in a more informed and collaborative manner.

I find social work a very meaningful profession! I witness lives being changed and can be part of that change.

Q: What kind of real-world impact would you like to make after your studies?

Odelia: I would like to empower people to grow and flourish. I’ve learnt that everyone has the innate ability to excel, but challenges in life may hinder this. I believe in caring for those facing challenges – just like those in my life who did the same for me when I was struggling.

Q: How have you been empowered through your social work studies?

Odelia: A lecturer once said that even as social work professionals, we are ultimately human and bound to make mistakes. What matters then, aside from doing our best professionally, is not to strive for perfection but to be genuine towards those whom we are helping. They can feel the sincerity, and this is essential in building a strong relationship, whether in work or life.

Practising self-compassion, I continue to be a conscientious yet assured person.

Early Hardships

Mr Jaleel didn’t have an easy life growing up – but his past keeps him grounded.

When he was a young boy, Mr Jaleel and his family struggled to get by. To ease his family’s financial burdens, he dropped out of secondary school and took up odd jobs like cleaning cars, washing toilets and helping his father in a small shop before he found work at a construction firm.

Eventually, with the practical skills he acquired and contacts he forged, Mr Jaleel opened his own company. MES Group pioneered workforce accommodation in Singapore and set benchmarks for foreign worker housing to be clean, comfortable and safe. Today, it continues to a leading firm in the sector.

Mr Jaleel says: “I was ready to do the work. It was all an honest living. I learnt more and more and built my own business. At the same time, my hardships taught me to always be humble and compassionate. I know how a person without a meal is feeling, as I struggled similarly too.”

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