SINGAPORE - Almost $8 million was raised this year as part of the NTUC-U Care Fund, benefiting 35,000 lower-income union members and their families, which include 15,000 children.
This is up from the $7.7 million raised last year, said the labour movement in response to queries.
The U Care Fund was established in 2009 to help union members affected by the economic downturn from the global financial crisis. Since then, $113 million has been disbursed to lower-income families, with the help of various unions, associations and social enterprises.
Speaking at the donor appreciation session on Wednesday (Dec 1), Mr Zainal Sapari, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant director-general and director of its care and share department, said: "2021 remains a challenging year for our workers, especially those who are earning less or whose incomes were affected by Covid-19."
He added that NTUC has been tapping new opportunities and fund-raising methods to ensure that those in need receive sufficient assistance during this time.
One of the new fund-raisers that was organised this year was Singapore's first non-fungible token charity auction, called the Blockchain for Good initiative, which raised more than $400,000, and exceeded the initial target of $250,000.
In another collaboration, more than $200,000 was raised for the fund through live gifts and donations at an e-getai charity concert.
A total of $5.5 million was set aside separately under the NTUC Care Fund (e-Vouchers) programme to provide 14,000 union members up to $100 in grocery e-vouchers each.
Families with school-going children were given an additional $100 e-voucher each per child.
Madam Muthulakshimi's children were among those who benefited from the programme this year.
Madam Muthu, 38, became the sole breadwinner of her family and a single mother to her three children, aged two, 12 and 17, after her husband died from a medical condition in 2019.
The cashier has received assistance from the U Care Fund since 2015, when she first joined as a union member.
Speaking to The Straits Times about the death of her husband, she said: "The loss was difficult to accept and there were many sleepless nights. I coped with some support from relatives but at the end of the day, a relative cannot replace the role of a father."
But she added that the e-vouchers she received took the burden off her shoulders.
"While schools provide textbooks for my children, it was with the help of these vouchers that I could buy stationery and assessment books. My Primary 5 boy would easily use 15 exercise books, and that already costs $15," said Madam Muthu.
She said she was grateful for the help provided to her family, adding: "Besides school needs, the e-vouchers give my children the simple pleasure to be able to buy snacks when we go to the supermarket."