Pandemic shows social sector is crucial: President

She says record nominations for volunteerism awards testify to Singaporeans' giving nature

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of the social sector and volunteerism here, said President Halimah Yacob.

It has also shown the ingrained nature of Singaporeans to give back to the community, she added.

She was speaking at the President's Volunteerism and Philanthropy Awards (PVPA) ceremony at the Istana yesterday as the guest of honour.

Twelve individuals and organisations received awards for their achievements in serving the community.

Madam Halimah said: "Covid-19 has changed the way we live. But it has also further emphasised the importance of building and sustaining a caring and cohesive society.

"Almost two years on, we are still battling Covid-19. But just as the pandemic has disrupted our economy and everyday life, it has also brought out the best in some Singaporeans, who gave their best for others."

The President said that this year's PVPA is a testament that giving is part of Singaporeans' DNA, with a record-breaking number of 315 nominations, a 33 per cent increase from last year.

The awards are organised annually by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC).

This year's winning initiatives span a variety of causes and sectors, such as racial and religious harmony, empowering at-risk youth, providing employment opportunities for communities in need, supporting mental health, and paediatric palliative care.

One winner is Ms Nazhath Faheema, 36. The founder of youth organisation hash.peace has been a vocal advocate for social harmony here since 2015, engaging strangers from all walks of life over coffee or a meal to build better understanding between communities.

While the incidents of racism earlier this year affected Ms Faheema deeply, it also strengthened her resolve to reach out to more people with her work.

For Ms Faheema, who won in the People of Good category, her award is motivation to continue her work of fostering dialogue both offline and online about race and religion. "I hope to reach out to people one at a time, building trust and understanding through interpersonal communication."

Another winner of the People of Good award is 15-year-old artist J'den Teo, who started TAD Charity in 2017 to raise funds for good causes by selling his art through exhibitions. Painting since the age of six, J'den was motivated to use his talent to raise funds for those in need following a visit to Cambodia with his family.

His parents supported the idea, and helped guide him as he partnered with charities, including the Children's Cancer Foundation and The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, to raise more than $90,000 over the years.

Among the organisations that won awards were non-profit organisation Caregivers Alliance and commercial cleaning firm Speco Singapore.

NVPC chief executive Melissa Kwee noted how the award winners reflected the determination of Singaporeans in times of crisis.

"Together, they paint a picture of Singapore as the City of Good. The record number of nominations this year fuels our hope that the City of Good grows stronger under trial and fire. We will overcome if we do not give up."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2021, with the headline 'Pandemic shows social sector is crucial: President'. Subscribe