Weaving past opponents on his wheelchair, 54-year-old Tan Whee Boon was all smiles during a game of wheelchair rugby at the Inclusive Sports Festival at Our Tampines Hub yesterday.
He may have more reasons to smile after Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu announced a $12 million SportCares Communities of Care Fund (CoCF) aimed at benefiting vulnerable individuals including youth, seniors and persons with disabilities.
"It's good that Sport Singapore has come up with this fund to increase awareness and accessibility for people with disabilities (PwDs) to engage in para sports," said Tan, whose hands and feet were amputated in 2015 after a food poisoning bout caused by eating raw fish.
"I hope to see more people participate in para sports and even join me in wheelchair rugby."
The fund provides four types of grants and support: the Development Grant, Starter Grant, Research Grant and SportCares Bursaries.
Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Minister Fu added: "Sport has the power to improve the physical, socio-emotional wellbeing of people and transform lives.
"We want everyone in our society to have access to sport, whether you have special needs, or come from an underprivileged background. The Communities of Care Fund expands access to opportunities to participate fully in sport by supporting ground-up initiatives from the public to reach the under-served segments."
Social enterprise Glyph, which offers sports activities, workshops and programmes for those aged between five and 17 from underprivileged backgrounds, is one organisation that could also benefit from the fund.
While it has 300 active participants monthly out of 1,000 registered members, Glyph director Shaun Wang believes that it can do more to reach out to more youths in need.
He said: "We hope to leverage on the funding to bring in more technical expertise to develop a more robust curriculum and expand our presence to more areas in the outskirts, where we can reach out to communities."
Under the CoCF, voluntary welfare organisations and social enterprises such as Glyph will be able to apply for the Development Grant, which provides funding of up to $200,000 per intermediary per year. The grant is awarded to strong community partners that SportCares will work directly with to reach out to new constituent groups and kick start a vibrant ecosystem of sport for social good.
The Starter Grant offers up to $50,000 to individuals or organisations with innovative sport-based ideas that help communities grow and improve, while the Research Grant pays up to 100 per cent of associated costs to support research that strengthens the evidence for sport-based social development and community empowerment initiatives.
The SportCares Bursaries offer financial help to children from low-income families, youth, seniors and PwDs to participate in sports programmes.
Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC) president Kevin Wong said the $12 million fund will "come in very handy" to support the organisation's aim to increase the level of sports participation among PwDs.
"The SDSC has been promoting active living among persons with disabilities as a way to overcome lifestyle diseases that come with being sedentary," he said.
"We encourage them to try out different sports to discover their abilities. For example, (para athlete) Jason Chee also experimented with many activities before settling on table tennis."
Sport Singapore chief Lim Teck Yin, who was also present at the Inclusive Sports Festival where 5,000 participants including 600 volunteers and caregivers tried out disability sports and learnt how sports can build an inclusive society, said the CoCF will provide "another avenue to reach out to disadvantaged individuals in the community".
Interested parties can apply for the Starter Grant and Research Grant from now till Oct 31 via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org