Chinese Development Assistance Council charity dinner raises $17.8 million for Endowment Fund

SINGAPORE - The Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC), which has been running an operating deficit in recent years, raised $17.8 million for its Endowment Fund at a charity dinner on Friday night.

This is on top of a one-time $10 million grant from the Government over the next five years for CDAC programmes and initiatives.

The fund-raising dinner on Friday - only the second such event the CDAC has held since its inception in 1992 - comes against the backdrop of rising costs associated with running its programmes, outpacing the contributions it receives.

The deficit rose from $5.7 million in 2012 to $6.4 million last year, and is projected be $7.5 million this year . This has been funded by government grants and CDAC reserves, including its Endowment Fund.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the council's Patron, said on Friday that self-help groups like the CDAC play a key role at a time of changing needs. He said that the population is aging and required stronger social support, and noted that low-income families face challenges from the impact of globalisation and technological advances.

Speaking in Mandarin at the dinner at the Shangri-La Hotel, he said: "Self-help groups keep the pioneering spirit of 'mutual help' alive, enable every beneficiary to strive for a better future, and foster a society where everyone, including those who have benefited, contributes."

He added: "From CDAC and the lives they have touched, we can see that the spirit of mutual help, self-help and giving back is alive and well. This is what we stand for in Singapore."

Mr Lee thanked those who made monthly contributions to the CDAC and said this was an important gesture "which shows that we all bear a shared responsibility to each other". And regardless of the amount, each contribution was important and valued.

The CDAC supported 17,000 low-income households last year. Through its "holistic family-centric approach", the council helped to nurture student potential, while also helping their parents become more employable through skills upgrading, Mr Lee said later.

Mr Chua Thian Poh, the chairman of the CDAC's Board of Trustees, said the fresh injection of funds will allow the council to expand its outreach and initiate more programmes.

With these new initiatives, the number of households that can benefit from CDAC programmes is expected to increase by 25 per cent to about 21,000 households.

It is also intending to set up more in-school student care centres. The council's first such centre was set up at Bendemeer Primary this year.

The CDAC is also expanding its programmes to reach out to the elderly, especially those from lower-income families. One such initiative is the organising of information-sharing sessions in Mandarin and dialects to keep the elderly informed of matters relevant to them.

The $17.8 million sum at Friday's dinner was raised through 183 donors, including individuals, organisations and corporations, foundations and clan associations.

waltsim@sph.com.sg