President's Challenge expected to raise record $13 million this year

Metta Cafe apprentices Heng Shen (left), 26, and Shirley Heng, 28, presented cookies to President Halimah Yacob and Mr Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee at the President’s Challenge Appreciation Night held at the Istana on Nov 28, 2018.
Metta Cafe apprentices Heng Shen (left), 26, and Shirley Heng, 28, presented cookies to President Halimah Yacob and Mr Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee at the President’s Challenge Appreciation Night held at the Istana on Nov 28, 2018.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - The President's Challenge is expected to raise $13 million this year, a record amount for the annual community outreach and fund-raising campaign.

As part of the campaign, it has raised $2.5 million for the Empowering for Life Fund (ELF) which was launched earlier this year. This will be matched by the Government, bringing the total amount to $5 million.

This amount was announced by President Halimah Yacob during the President's Challenge Appreciation Night at the Istana on Wednesday (Nov 28).

ELF aims to empower vulnerable groups through skills upgrading to help them find employment. It supports 13 organisations this year, such as Methodist Welfare Services, Autism Resource Centre and Metta Welfare Association.

Madam Halimah said: "Employment is important, as it helps them sustain a livelihood and be independent. More importantly, it helps these individuals and their families regain dignity and self-worth.

"As we talk about SkillsFuture and life-long learning as a nation, it is perhaps even more critical that we support those who are less fortunate to upgrade their skills, so that they too have fair opportunities to secure employment."

Group director of the President's Challenge Secretariat Charmaine Leung said: "We want to empower them so they can be employed and have independence. It's about teaching them how to fish."

One of the beneficiaries of ELF is Ms Shirley Heng, 28, who works at Metta Cafe under Metta Welfare Association to provide vocational training in the food and beverage industry.

Ms Heng, who has mild intellectual disability, said: "I learnt to bake bread and pies and to guide the younger ones. I like to work there because I love baking."

Metta's deputy executive director Felicia Wee said: "ELF helps to provide us with support so we can have the resources to strengthen our training and increase our capabilities."

At the appreciation night, Madam Halimah also gave out tokens of appreciation to 70 top donors and volunteers. They include organisations such as the Republic of Singapore Air Force and the Institute of Technical Education.

There have also been more donors and volunteers supporting the President's Challenge this year. The number of donor organisations grew from 47 in 2013 to 82 this year.

More than 8,000 young people volunteered for the President's Challenge this year, almost 40 per cent more than last year, Madam Halimah said.

She added: "This is what the SG Cares spirit is about - rallying everyone to build a more caring and inclusive Singapore together."