$2m fund to help South East District residents, raise mental health awareness

Institute of Technical Education second-year student Joel Ho spent four hours every day from March to September delivering food by bike to ease his family's financial stress after his father, a newspaper vendor, suffered a pay cut when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Earning around $30 to $40 a day, it was barely enough to help make ends meet for his family. But the 19-year-old's burden will be eased now as he will be given financial support under a $2 million fund launched yesterday.

The fund seeks to provide financial help to residents in the South East District who have been hit hard by the pandemic, and to raise awareness of mental health in the community.

It was set up by the South East Community Development Council (CDC) and Apricot Capital, the private investment firm of Super Group's Teo family.

A total of $1.2 million in grants will be disbursed to around 2,400 residents from low-to middle-income households through their grassroots leaders.

The South East CDC oversees half a million residents in Marine Parade GRC, East Coast GRC, Mountbatten SMC and MacPherson SMC.

A separate $320,000 will be given to students like Mr Ho as part of their pocket money for meals, stationery and books. These include students with special needs, as well as those in secondary schools and institutes of higher learning.

Another $100,000 will be used to produce a play about mental wellness which the CDC hopes will boost mental resilience in youth and promote support networks. The play will be screened for free at schools and institutes of higher learning within the South East District.

A further $80,000 will be set aside for mental wellness training and workshops to raise awareness of how people can support patients and their caregivers.

Lastly, $300,000 will be used to create community attachment opportunities for people aged 18 to 35 who may have trouble finding employment amid the recession.

With a monthly stipend of $1,000, they will be guided by grassroots leaders to identify problems in the community and roll out projects to solve them.

Mayor of South East District Fahmi Aliman said the Apricot support for the fund is timely and will benefit many groups within the community. "South East CDC will work with our ground partners to connect them to the assistance they require," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2020, with the headline '$2m fund to help South East District residents, raise mental health awareness'. Print Edition | Subscribe