New $1 million grant to address service gaps for overlooked communities

Bless Our City aims to strengthen groups that help former offenders, people with mental health issues, those with special needs, migrant workers, and vulnerable families and individuals.
Bless Our City aims to strengthen groups that help former offenders, people with mental health issues, those with special needs, migrant workers, and vulnerable families and individuals. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - At least 50 social service and community organisations have been invited to apply for a new $1 million grant set up specially to help communities which are often overlooked.

Bless Our City, a joint two-year initiative by the Far East Organisation (FEO) and Central Singapore Community Development Council, aims to strengthen groups that help former offenders, people with mental health issues, those with special needs, migrant workers, and vulnerable families and individuals.

Each applicant can expect to receive up to $20,000 to fund existing and new projects.

"We who have been blessed with much want to bless others too," said Mrs Dorothy Chan, executive director of FEO, on Monday (May 13) at the launch of the grant programme, which is intended to honour the spirit of care and the contributions made by Singapore's pioneers this bicentennial.

Present at the launch at Far East Plaza was Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, who is also deputy chairman of the People's Association.

The event was also attended by 26 representatives of organisations invited to apply for the grant, such as family service centres, the Bishan Home for the Intellectually Disabled, Pertapis Halfway House and St Andrew's Autism Centre, among others.

The grant administrators said specific needs were identified and the organisations chosen from there.

Ms Denise Phua, Mayor of Central Singapore District, said: "We have tried to listen closely to what has been brought up in the public space, and have identified gaps and needs that have not been sufficiently addressed.

"We want to be able to give strength to their existing and upcoming programmes, and we also want to bring awareness and attention to their causes. We need to shape our society together."

Beneficiaries said an injection of funds would enable them to expand the reach of their programmes.


Members and caregivers from the Rare Disorders Society Singapore (RDSS) performing a song item. RDSS is one of the beneficiary partners of the Bless Our City programme. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Mr Dennis Goh, 43, from halfway house The New Charis Mission, told The Straits Times that the grant will be used towards funding its education programme for former offenders.

"It will be for the ex-offenders to not only just quit drugs, but also to be contributors to society," he said.

Mr Goh went through the programme himself when he joined the organisation five years ago, after struggling to get clean from drugs for more than 20 years.

It was a sea change for someone who had started taking drugs at the age of 16, but is now a full-time worker at the halfway house.

"With this grant, it will open up many doors for us (staff) to be further equipped for individual social work as well," he added.