SINGAPORE - Several individuals with disabilities were recognised at two events on Saturday (Jan 20) - one that celebrated inclusive employment and another that honoured organisations that back socially responsible initiatives.
Bursaries totalling $117,550 were handed out at the NatSteel-SPD education programme awards to 95 students with disabilities and students whose parents have disabilities.
President Halimah Yacob told the gathering at the SPD ability centre that she was "heartened" by efforts of voluntary welfare organisation SPD to promote inclusion.
"Education is a social leveller. SPD will be giving out more than 100 bursaries to students from primary schools to universities," she added.
"Bursaries like this will help lessen the financial hardship of families, make education more accessible to all children, and encourage them to strive for their dreams."
Grants of $5,000 were also awarded to Mr Joshua Tseng Shi Hao, Mr Justin Kueh Jin Yan and Mr Shahrul Izwan Shaiful Bahri through the SPD Youth Aspiration Award to pursue their interests.
This initiative, which helps more than 5,500 individuals with disabilities, is supported by NatSteel.
Mr Kueh, 19, was born with severe hearing loss but does not miss a beat when he plays the double bass while Mr Tseng, also 19, does not let his vision loss crimp his passion for public speaking and storytelling.
Mr Shahrul, 23, was diagnosed with lower limbs spastic paraparesis when he was 16, and found drive through a new sport - wheelchair racing.
"Despite their personal challenges, each of them is dedicated to giving back to the community and has strong passions in sports and arts," said Madam Halimah.
"Even at their young ages, they are an inspiration and a role model. I am happy that the bursary and SPD Youth Aspiration Awards have been expanded since 2016 to benefit more youths. The awards are now open to not only students with physical disabilities but also those with sensory disabilities."
Madam Halimah also pointed out that children with moderate to severe special needs will be included under the compulsory education framework with effect from the 2019 Primary 1 cohort.
"All children with special needs will have to attend a Government-funded school that best meets their learning needs, and complete their primary education," she said.
"Along with this development, the role of voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs), particularly organisations like SPD that provide early intervention support for young children, becomes even more critical.
" These VWOs are the very foundation that will help and support the children's transition to mainstream or special schools."
Meanwhile, Charity in the Park 2018, one of the Community Chest's events, raised about $2.3 million for about 80 social service organisations on Saturday night.
It attracted more than 4,000 donors, volunteers, social service users and their caregivers.
Community Chest Chairman Phillip Tan noted: "Besides a five-year pledge of $5 million cash donation and in-kind support to Community Chest, Resorts World Sentosa's staff have volunteered in many corporate social responsibility activities, and it went further to initiate job re-design for their employees with disabilities."
RWS has four employees with physical disabilities including Ms Jean Ling, an administrative executive who is a wheelchair user, and Mr Kenneth Chin, a deaf aquarist at the S.E.A. Aquarium.
RWS chief executive Tan Hee Teck said: "We strongly believe in empowering our employees and giving them opportunities to shine... All it takes is support from management that diversity makes a stronger team, and commitment by the individual to overcome all odds and succeed."