12,000 volunteers join President's Challenge this year

At the President's Challenge Appreciation Night held at the Istana yesterday were housewife Shirley Tan, 56; SJI International School student Melissa Yuen, 18; and Madam Goh Li Siang, 90, a resident at All Saints Home, one of the nursing homes where
At the President's Challenge Appreciation Night held at the Istana yesterday were housewife Shirley Tan, 56; SJI International School student Melissa Yuen, 18; and Madam Goh Li Siang, 90, a resident at All Saints Home, one of the nursing homes where Madam Tan volunteers.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Record number will help annual event meet fund-raising target of $11m for 52 charities

For the past decade, housewife Shirley Tan has been giving residents of nursing homes free haircuts. She said to the elderly that it is not about vanity.

"Many people may think haircuts are insignificant, but a good haircut can actually make the seniors very happy. They are thankful that people bother, and it makes them feel respected and dignified," Madam Tan, 56, told The Straits Times.

For her efforts, Madam Tan was praised by President Halimah Yacob yesterday during the President's Challenge Appreciation Night held at the Istana. During the event, 59 top volunteers and donors received tokens of appreciation.

The President's Challenge is an annual community outreach and fund-raising campaign.

Madam Tan said she picked up hairstyling as a skill in 2003, spending $7,500 on an 18-month course. The fees were later offset by a grant for skills upgrading. She has been volunteering actively at various homes, including the All Saints Home, since then.

St Joseph's Institution (SJI) International School, which raised $48,888 for the President's Challenge, was recognised as a donor at the event. Teacher Frances Powell received a token of appreciation from Madam Halimah.

One project involved 11 students working with 11 beneficiaries aged between nine and 12 from Touch Young Arrows - a children's outreach programme by Touch Community Services - to design shoes based on what was special to them. The 11 pairs of shoes were later auctioned off for $16,000 at SJI International's 10th anniversary dinner.

 

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) also received a token of appreciation for raising $213,888 through donations from the public and SPH staff.

Overall, a record number of more than 12,000 volunteers participated in this year's President's Challenge. A spokesman said the number of volunteers who contributed their skills has grown from 211 individuals in 2015 to 403 this year.

In her speech, Madam Halimah said she was honoured to be able to carry on the good work initiated by former presidents Tony Tan Keng Yam and the late S R Nathan.

She said the President's Challenge is on track to raise more than $11 million this year, which will go to 52 beneficiary organisations across various sectors.

Madam Halimah noted that the focus of the President's Challenge has evolved to meet ever-changing needs.

In the first decade, it was on consolidating fund-raising efforts to provide direct support to what beneficiaries needed. Over the last five years or so, it has evolved to creating a culture of giving, not just in a monetary sense but also in time and skills, said Madam Halimah.

Moving forward, she hopes the President's Challenge will "look into more customised and upstream support, so that we can help the most vulnerable change their circumstances".

"As the old saying goes, it is better to teach one to fish than to merely give him a fish. Whether it is through skills upgrading, capacity building or empowerment, I am confident that together we can bring about more sustained changes to the lives of those we impact," she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2017, with the headline '12,000 volunteers join President's Challenge this year'. Print Edition | Subscribe