$500,000 prize for breakthrough project to eradicate poverty in Singapore

Ms Ang Bee Lian, the Ministry of Social and Family Development's director-general of social welfare, speaking at the launch of the project. PHOTO: INTEGRATIVE CSR

SINGAPORE - A local charity is offering a grand prize of $500,000 to a team that can create a breakthrough project to eradicate poverty in Singapore, in a new challenge launched on Thursday (May 19).

The initiative by =Dreams Asia, called the =Dreams Asia Breakthrough Prize, comes after two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, and aims to help a group that has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic - low-income families with young children who live in public rental housing.

The winning proposal should increase the net economic value to the family, with a viable and sustainable intervention model.

It should be able to be implemented by family service centres, social enterprises and other community-based organisations in Singapore.

Participation is free and open to anyone who has at least three months of formal or informal experience working with low-income families here.

From about 150 applicants expected to sign up for the competition, 25 teams will be selected to give a presentation. From there, 10 teams will be given a design grant of $25,000 each to further develop their solution over four months, before a winner is selected.

Ms Chavonne Tan, 33, a counsellor at a family service centre who is planning to join the competition, said she hopes to raise awareness of poverty in Singapore.

"Poverty and inequality are invisible here, not many people have the opportunity to know about the poor in Singapore unless they work with them, like we do," she said.

"I hope to be a voice to surface issues they're facing to bridge the gap between the public and social work professionals."

Singapore University of Social Sciences student Jason Tan, 24, said his own less privileged background pushed him to sign up for the competition.

"The cause resonates with me. I grew up in a family that is not well to do, I am not far off from those people in need. I can understand what it's like when income and money are an issue most of the time."

The second-year marketing student added that he was also motivated by the experiences of his friends who had to give up tertiary education due to monetary woes or had to work while studying.

"This is distracting for them, it hinders their learning opportunities and employment opportunities. I want to help improve people's access to opportunities."

=Dreams Asia, which registered as a charity in April last year, is partnering social enterprises Integrative CSR and Make The Change to organise the competition.

Speaking at Thursday's launch event at voco Orchard Singapore hotel, the founder of Make The Change Michelle Lim reminded participants to start by doing research on solutions and grants provided by the Government, and probing why they are not sufficient to eradicate poverty here.

Ms Ang Bee Lian, the Ministry of Social and Family Development's director-general of social welfare, said the Government supports social mobility through an interventionist approach to education, housing, healthcare and jobs.

Associate Professor Irene Ng from the National University of Singapore's social work department said organisations should go beyond providing direct aid to meet the immediate needs of the poor - they should work to help them advance to self-sufficiency, through providing mentoring and good job opportunities.

More information on the competition can be found on the =Dreams Asia website.

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