MORE than 1,000 Malay families living in Jurong and Ang Mo Kio have benefited from help centres set up to improve access to social services, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said yesterday.
He was speaking at the official launch of four "Nadi Khidmat" centres, which are based in mosques to tap their positions as hubs of activity in the community. The centres offer social and financial help, as well as provide referrals to other avenues of aid.
They are run jointly by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) and Malay self-help group Mendaki. There are currently four centres located at the Al-Muttaqin mosque in Ang Mo Kio, the Assyakirin mosque in Taman Jurong, the Al-Ansar mosque in the Bedok-Chai Chee area, and the Jamiyah Ar-Rabitah mosque in Bukit Merah.
"It's a good sign that we're reaching out to over 1,000 families," said Dr Yaacob, who is Minister for Communications and Information and chairman of Mendaki. "They are from a group in the Malay-Muslim community who may not have known about Mendaki's programmes before this."
Asked if there were plans for more such centres, he said that the Government would review the costs and benefits towards the end of the year.
In March, Dr Yaacob announced the Nadi Khidmat programme as part of efforts to improve outreach and ensure that the needy do not fall through the cracks.
Also present yesterday were Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Parliament Speaker Halimah Yacob and Parliamentary Secretary (Health and Transport) Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim. They joined Dr Yaacob, Malay MPs and some 450 volunteers who gave out food hampers to 250 needy families.
One beneficiary is Madam Siti Aja Ibrahim, 48. She has sought help from the Nadi Khidmat centre near her Taman Jurong residence to enrol her children for tuition schemes and counselling.
"The social aid that it referred us to has helped a lot," she said. "We get food vouchers and transport discounts to offset our bills."