Self-help groups key in bridging communities, says President

President Tan shaking hands with Madam Tuminah Sapawi, chief executive officer of Mendaki, yesterday at the Istana yesterday.
President Tan shaking hands with Madam Tuminah Sapawi, chief executive officer of Mendaki, yesterday at the Istana yesterday.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Self-help groups play a key role in building bridges between communities, a role which has been amplified, given recent world events, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said yesterday.

He highlighted the Collaborative Tuition Programme - where affordable tuition is available to primary school pupils of all races and religion - as an example of how bonds between the various groups can be strengthened.

He said: "It's a bit of a stressful period now for all societies, with extremist ideologies and misunderstandings happening, so it's good that the communities work together and build up our social resilience... The self-help groups play a very important role in this area."

Dr Tan was speaking on the sidelines of a tea reception at the Istana, where he hosted about 30 staff, board members and volunteers from four self-help groups - the Chinese Development Assistance Council, Mendaki, Sinda and the Eurasian Association.

Minister of Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu also attended the reception.

The reception, Dr Tan said, was a small gesture to thank the self-help groups for their work, which includes providing financial assistance and helping beneficiaries solve problems at home.

"I'm happy to hear that the programmes are keeping up with the times because as society changes, needs change as well," he said.

He paid tribute to the groups' volunteers. "They not only help to do the work, but also spread the work among them and create a sense of ownership and commonality."

Rachel Au-Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2016, with the headline 'Self-help groups key in bridging communities, says President'. Print Edition | Subscribe