President lauds self-help groups for joining hands to help all races

President Halimah Yacob yesterday applauded the four self-help groups for working on joint assistance programmes that are open to all races.

Speaking to the media before a dinner hosted for her by the four groups, she cited examples such as tuition classes and after-school care centres.

"It shows that our self-help groups not only reach out to their own communities, but they provide common spaces through providing services that benefit all the communities, and in that manner, they also help to promote the different races coming together in order to support one another," she said.

The four self-help groups are: the Chinese Development Assistance Council, Mendaki, the Singapore Indian Development Association and the Eurasian Association.

In her welcome address, Mendaki chief executive officer Rahayu Buang said the ethnic-centric approach that self-help groups started out with allowed them to be more culturally nuanced in the activities they organised for each race. But as Singapore matured and the issues it faced became more complex and cross-cultural, the four groups have also rallied together to help those beyond their own communities, she noted.

This is apt, as many challenges are common to all races: including the struggles of lower-income families, concerns about educational outcomes, and the uncertainties of the future economy, she said.

"It is on this basis that the self-help groups have worked collaboratively to leverage on each other's strengths and expertise," she added, listing some of these joint efforts. One is the Collaborative Tuition Programme, launched by the groups in 2002 to allow students to enrol at the tuition centre closest to them, regardless of which group runs it. The programme now boasts 83 centres - up from 11 centres in 2002 - and has benefited more than 97,000 students.

BENEFITING ALL COMMUNITIES

It shows that our self-help groups not only reach out to their own communities, but they provide common spaces through providing services that benefit all the communities, and in that manner, they also help to promote the different races coming together in order to support one another.

PRESIDENT HALIMAH YACOB, on programmes open to all races.

Another joint programme is the Big Heart Student Care Centres, which provide after-school care in primary schools to needy pupils. There are now more than 1,200 pupils enrolled in 15 such centres.

The latest joint effort is the Self-Help Group Centre - slated to open in Yishun in January - where students and adults of all races can attend workshops and enrichment programmes.

Madam Rahayu noted that the President had said in her inauguration speech last month that multiracialism, meritocracy and stewardship are values that will help unify Singapore.

"The self-help groups are fully supportive of these core values as reflected through the work that we do and the collaboration that we seek to forge," she said, adding that the groups hope the President would continue to support them in this journey.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2017, with the headline 'President lauds self-help groups for joining hands to help all races'. Print Edition | Subscribe