SMARTER hopeful for new sponsors

National 2 minutes, 9 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE President of the Society for the Management of Autism Related Issues in Training, Education and Resources (SMARTER) Brunei Malai Hj Abdullah Malai Hj Othman said that the organisation is hoping to secure funding from corporate sponsors in the near future.

Speaking to The Brunei Times on the sidelines of SMARTER’s recently-concluded annual camping expedition, he said that most of their larger corporate sponsors in Brunei had pulled their support when the oil prices fell at the end of last year.

“We are currently surviving on funding from the local small and medium enterprises this year for which I am very grateful but obviously, I still hope that the coming year will see the oil prices and economy recover to its previous levels so that we may renew our relationships with these large corporate sponsors,” he said.

He said that SMARTER’s finances remain insecure for the forseeable future despite doubling their fees in the past year.

“The fees only cover up to one-third of the monthly operational expenses, even after we have increased our fees to $250 per month but right now, we are just floating along and living month-to-month so I cannot yet say if we would be alright (financially) for the rest of the year,” he said.

“We are planning to have another garage sale in November to raise funds and hopefully we can get the necessary financial boost to secure our immediate (financial) future then,” he said.

He said that expenses were mainly allocated to pay for staff payroll and their building centre maintenance.

“We currently have 34 staff on our payroll but we also get help from student volunteers from Universiti Brunei Darussalam who are on their Discovery Year programme which brings the total number of people working at SMARTER to about 50, which is the optimum number to run the operation,” he said.

“Currently, we have about 120 students which is below the maximum capacity as usually it is six students to one teacher in each classroom,” he said.

He said that despite the trying circumstances, he has not felt the need to take drastic actions at the country’s premier autism intervention centre. “We have not put any special or extra cost-cutting measure in place as it is not yet necessary but the only difference is that when a staff leaves our organisation, there is less urgency in finding a replacement immediately.”

SMARTER was established in 2001 and was given a 14 gold-star rating by Australia’s Findlers University for reaching the standards set by the Autism Programme Quality Indicators (APQI) last year.

The Brunei Times