SINGAPORE - The President’s Challenge 2022 is on track to raise more than $15 million to support low-income families through 82 social service agencies.
Seventy-one organisations, including Far East Organization and Sheng Siong Group, were recognised for their volunteering and fund-raising efforts at a dinner reception held on Thursday evening at the Istana.
In her speech at the event, President Halimah Yacob said low-income families have been more affected by the pandemic in the last two years.
For instance, the resident unemployment rate of workers who are not in the professional, managerial, executive and technical (PMET) categories stood at 5.1 per cent, higher than that of PMET workers at 3.4 per cent, in June 2021.
“While government support schemes have helped them cope with the financial impact of the pandemic, it is critical that they are empowered to achieve self-reliance and improved quality of life in the long run,” she said.
The President’s Challenge 2022 seeks to encourage community efforts to empower lower-income families with skills and opportunities, to mitigate the long-term impact of the pandemic.
Madam Halimah gave the example of how RiverLife Community Services helped Mrs Peh Jin Di, who relocated to Singapore after marriage but struggled to integrate into the local culture. Mrs Peh faced a language barrier and limited social support.
The social service agency’s Bless Family programme, which is supported by the President’s Challenge, equips families with life skills and financial assistance.
It helped Mrs Peh’s family cope with their monthly expenses and connected them with volunteers and other families.
The programme also gave her children academic and character development support. With the increased social support, Mrs Peh’s husband found a full-time job and the family is working towards achieving financial stability, said Madam Halimah.
Another beneficiary is eight-year-old Sofea Aleesya, who could not read, spell or write due to learning difficulties when she started Primary 1 in 2021.
Her mother, Ms Nurazlin Zakaria, 29, said her husband lost his job as a security guard during the pandemic, and they were unable to afford tuition for Sofea with Ms Nurazlin’s salary as a part-time clinic assistant.
To help Sofea in her studies and provide emotional support, the Singapore Children’s Society referred her to CampusImpact, a social service agency that supports children from lower-income families.
Through guidance in her learning and art therapy sessions, Sofea discovered her interest in art and learnt to read, write and express her emotions through drawing, said Ms Nurazlin.
Sofea’s parents have also managed to secure full-time jobs – Ms Nurazlin is now a pre-school teacher and her husband is a security supervisor.
In her speech, Madam Halimah also noted the need to boost support for caregivers.
She said: “The rising incidence of mental health challenges and Singapore’s rapidly ageing population will mean a greater need for caregiving.
“While there are professional care service providers, emotional caregiving cannot be outsourced, and this role will often fall onto family members. Caring for your loved ones can be a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week responsibility.”
She added that many caregivers may face challenges balancing work and personal commitments, with some having no choice but to leave their jobs.
The President’s Challenge 2023 will focus on caring for caregivers and fund programmes by social service agencies that help caregivers.
“With more than one in two caregivers feeling the strain of caregiving, supporting our caregivers will also provide upstream intervention to help our beneficiaries,” Madam Halimah said.