Tamil group lauded for efforts in aid of community members in need as it marks 70th anniversary

DPM Lawrence Wong mingling with performers and guests at the Tamils Representative Council’s National Day dinner yesterday. TM PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - She has been volunteering in the community for more than 30 years, including mentoring wayward teenagers and guiding single mothers.

Madam Sarojini Padmanathan, 60, also frequently speaks to parents of special needs children and youth seeking career advice on how to better manage their lives.

She was on Saturday (Aug 27) conferred the Tamils Representative Council Distinguished Community Award to recognise her commitment to serving those in need.

Madam Sarojini, a director at the Health Sciences Authority, is the first woman to receive this award.

"I didn't expect anything, but it is nice to be recognised and I am very happy to receive it," she said in a phone interview with The Straits Times.

Her two daughters, Ms Uma Padmanathan, 32, and Ms Hema Padmanathan, 34, received the award on her behalf at TRC's National Day dinner as Madam Sarojini is overseas.

The council, which celebrates its 70th anniversary on Saturday, is a non-profit organisation that works towards uplifting the educational and economic status of Tamils in Singapore.

Speaking at the dinner, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong commended the council, and its youth wing for working tirelessly to support vulnerable Tamil families.

"Despite not being able to hold any fund-raising dinners, you doubled the number of bursary awards and collaborated with family service centres to distribute much-needed care packs," he said.

DPM Wong added that it is because of community efforts like this that Singapore is able to weather the pandemic and emerge more united.

He touched on the recently launched Forward Singapore consultation exercise, saying that "we aim to build a Singapore where there are ample opportunities for everyone, regardless of their background, language, or religion".

This is also a Singapore where everyone knows they will not be left to fend for themselves, "where every citizen can share in the nation's progress", he said.

Community organisations like the Tamils Representative Council and their partners will have a key role to play in this effort, DPM Wong added.

He noted that the council has played an important role in Singapore's nation building. "You helped preserve and promote the Tamil language and culture in Singapore, through language and debate competitions."

DPM Lawrence Wong presenting the Tamils Representative Council Distinguished Community Award to Ms Hema Padmanathan, who is receiving the award on behalf of her mother, Madam Sarojini TM PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

He added: "(The council) also worked to uplift the educational, economic and social statuses of the Tamil community, through education awards and bursaries."

This year, the council raised $100,000 for its education fund that will go towards helping around 250 students from vulnerable families - this is around twice as much money raised and two times as many beneficiaries as last year.

On top of getting a bursary, these students will also be attached to mentors who will teach them skills such as time management and goal setting.

Mr Senthil Andiappan, vice-president of the the council's youth wing, said the funds will help students with their schooling needs.

"We hope it will motivate the students to do well in their studies and develop their leadership qualities," he said.

"Tonight's dinner is a way for us to show appreciation towards the donors and also a show of unity as this is the first time we are able to gather like this since the pandemic," Mr Senthil added.

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