ST journalist, pastor and longest serving ComChest chairman recognised for community service

(From left) The Straits Times senior social affairs correspondent Theresa Tan, Community Chest's longest-serving chairman Jennie Chua and Pastor Andrew Khoo at the MSF awards ceremony.
(From left) The Straits Times senior social affairs correspondent Theresa Tan, Community Chest's longest-serving chairman Jennie Chua and Pastor Andrew Khoo at the MSF awards ceremony.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - They have been putting the needs of others first, but 185 such individuals and organisations found themselves in the limelight on Friday (Nov 1), when their contributions to society were recognised.

Among them were The Straits Times senior social affairs correspondent Theresa Tan, Community Chest's longest-serving chairman Jennie Chua and Pastor Andrew Khoo, who operates shelters. They were honoured at the volunteer and partner awards of the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

Ms Tan, 42, was the only journalist recognised as part of the new Community Cares Award category.

Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development, said at the awards ceremony: "Building a caring and inclusive society is a continuous journey. It is a work in progress that never ends.

"It is a shared endeavour that requires strong and sustained partnerships among government agencies, corporations, community partners, volunteers and public-spirited individuals, each with a unique role to play."

Ms Tan joined The Straits Times in 2000 and wrote on issues such as the National Kidney Foundation's reserves accumulated under its former chief executive TT Durai, better governance for charities and the homeless in Singapore.

She was also chosen by MSF for the award because of the Generation Grit series, which started in 2017 and is still ongoing. The series profiles young people who overcame difficulties.

Ms Tan said: "I had suggested this series as I felt that millennials had a very bad reputation for being soft, self-centered and spoilt. In the course of my work, I have come across quite a number of young people who have overcome major adversities in their lives and have risen above their circumstances to help others."

She added that stories of hope and resilience were important to tell those "who are going through a tough patch in life that others have gone through the same circumstances or much worse, survived and emerged stronger."

 
 
 

Meanwhile, Pastor Khoo reached out to those who needed shelter. He is now the chief executive of New Hope Community Services, which has been providing shelter to vulnerable people for more than a decade.

The 61-year-old said: "I started this 16 years ago when I realised there weren't such shelters in Singapore. I took the initiative to bridge the gap and we have learnt along the way how to provide better care for the homeless."

Many who have passed through his shelter come back as volunteers.

The outstanding lifetime volunteer award went to Ms Jennie Chua, who was chairman of ComChest from 2000 to 2013. She is now the adviser to the organisation.

Ms Chua, now 75, started volunteering with the elderly and less privileged people when she was 15.

"I don't think people plan to be a volunteer, but you just get into it because you can make a difference. It has just been a part of my life," she said.

Through her years at ComChest, Ms Chua said she discovered that Singaporeans are a generous people.

"In the early years, they wanted to give and do good, but now people also want their money to do well. They want to know the outcome."