S'poreans should support causes not in the spotlight during Covid-19 pandemic: President Halimah

President Halimah Yacob speaking at the launch of the President's Challenge Enabling Employment Pledge on March 11, 2020. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - President Halimah Yacob has expressed her hope that Singaporeans would extend their generosity towards underserved communities that have not been in the spotlight during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In a Facebook post on Friday (May 8), she said that causes not related to Covid-19, including creating employment opportunities for those with disabilities, are important in Singapore's continuing efforts to build an inclusive society.

"(These) should continue to have our attention, particularly since this pandemic will not be eradicated so soon," she said, highlighting the importance of supporting vulnerable families and children, seniors and mental health causes.

Her call echoes those already made by other charities, which have said that sectors less directly impacted by Covid-19, such as the social services sector, which relies heavily on volunteers, should not be overlooked amid the fund raising.

This year's President's Challenge, which Madam Halimah launched on March 11, is focused on empowering those with disabilities, recognising their contributions to society and doing more to make businesses more inclusive.

This involves working with hotels who have pledged to train and employ them. Madam Halimah said in her post that 106 hotels continue to work with charities in this economically difficult climate to honour their promise despite headwinds facing the service industry in this period.

This continued attention is important, she added, given that those with disabilities and special needs require targeted programmes and mentors to guide them along.

"For example, to prepare a dish, a normal worker can easily read the written instructions on what to do. However, some workers with special needs do not respond to words but pictures. Others may have other ways of learning specially developed to help them pick up work skills.

"What is normal for us presents enormous hurdles for our people with disabilities to navigate," she said.

Many Singaporeans have donated to causes related to Covid-19 this year, with charities reporting record donations and often enthusiastic responses to their pleas for volunteers.

Fund-raising website Giving.sg said in April that donations reached a record $13.6 million between April 1 and April 19 alone, as thousands of people responded to an online campaign encouraging Singaporeans to donate a part or all of their Solidarity payment to charity.

But like Madam Halimah, Giving.sg has also urged people to support charities whose work is unrelated to the current public health crisis.

Mr Tony Soh, deputy chief executive officer of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), which runs Giving.sg, said: "(Charities) that may not have Covid-19-related campaigns but are meeting critical daily needs of vulnerable communities require as much or more attention than ever before.

"While this surge of donations will go a long way in helping address immediate needs related to Covid-19, we urge everyone to pace themselves for a marathon, not a sprint."

NVPC has also encouraged donors to cultivate relationships with specific charities that reflect their own values and aspirations to find greater satisfaction in their giving, hoping that these will become longer-term and more consistent.

Last year, the President's Challenge raised more than $13 million, benefiting more than 67 organisations. Madam Halimah said the Challenge will continue to support vulnerable families and children, seniors, and mental health causes.

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