Good Samaritans - from one person to big companies - win President's awards

President Halimah Yacob (centre) is flanked by (from left) Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu; DBS Group CEO Piyush Gupta; Hougang Secondary School vice-principal Yoong Jin Ing; Kodrah Kristang founder and director Kevin Martens Wong;
President Halimah Yacob (centre) is flanked by (from left) Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu; DBS Group CEO Piyush Gupta; Hougang Secondary School vice-principal Yoong Jin Ing; Kodrah Kristang founder and director Kevin Martens Wong; ItsRainingRaincoats founder Dipa Swaminathan; Greenpac CEO Susan Chong; Dover Park Hospice CEO Timothy Liu; Prison Fellowship Singapore chairman William Wan; National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre chairman Mildred Tan; and Singapore National Eye Centre consultant ophthalmologist Marcus Ang.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Restoring the eyesight of needy elderly and getting their lives back on track is what keeps Dr Marcus Ang going.

For the past 10 years, Dr Ang, 37, has been taking his equipment to needy elderly and giving them free eye check-ups.

The ophthalmologist came up with this idea of helping the needy when he realised in his years of practice that some patients only seek help when it is too late.

During one of his house visits, he met a patient who had cataracts in both eyes and could only see light and vague shapes.

But after treatment, the patient was able to see clearly again. Said Dr Ang: "It sounds cliched, but some of the patients will really cry."

The programme director of the Mobile Eye Clinic, organised by the Singapore Society of Ophthalmology and Standard Chartered Bank, said: "To be blind and unable to engage in daily tasks to suddenly being able to see and function again is something so powerful.".

He is one of eight recipients of the President's Volunteerism and Philanthropy Awards 2017. He won in the adult individual category.

This year marks the sixth iteration of the awards and the first time they were presented by President Halimah Yacob. The ceremony was held last night at Shangri-La Hotel.

  • AWARD WINNERS

  • INDIVIDUAL, YOUTH WINNER: Mr Kevin Martens Wong

    INDIVIDUAL, ADULT WINNER: Dr Marcus Ang

    INDIVIDUAL, SENIOR WINNER: Dr William Wan

    KAMPONG SPIRIT WINNER: ItsRainingRaincoats

    NON-PROFIT ORGANISATION WINNER: Dover Park Hospice

    EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION WINNER: Hougang Secondary School

    CORPORATE, SMALL AND MEDIUM ENTERPRISE WINNER: Greenpac

    CORPORATE, LARGE ENTERPRISE WINNER: DBS Bank

The awards recognise organisations and individuals for setting benchmarks of excellence in encouraging the spirit of giving in Singapore. This year's winners were selected out of a total of 115 nominees.

The small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) winner is Greenpac, which provides environmentally friendly packaging and logistic solutions. It also builds corporate social responsibility elements into its business structure.

Chief executive officer Susan Chong said Greenpac hires ex-convicts and individuals with physical disabilities.

For example, one of its employees is a young woman who is deaf and mute. Ms Chong said although this posed challenges to work operations initially, the decision to hire her more than paid off.

"When you hire people who are in difficult situations... it ends up being better for business because they treasure the chance and will work harder.

"SMEs think that they can't do much because they have shallow pockets, but actually with little changes to their structure, they can do a lot," said Ms Chong.

The winner in the Kampong Spirit category is an initiative called ItsRainingRaincoats.

Founded by Ms Dipa Swaminathan, it provides migrant workers with donations of raincoats, food and other basic necessities, in addition to creating awareness of the issues they face.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2017, with the headline 'Good Samaritans - from one person to big companies - win President's awards'. Print Edition | Subscribe