P1 priority 'for the most deserving'

P1 priority 'for the most deserving'
Members of the public lighting candles at an art installation to celebrate Guinness donating $100,000 to social enterprise ChaCha Cottage, which supports single mothers by teaching them skills so they can earn a living from home.

SINGAPORE - The People's Association's recent changes to how its volunteers can qualify for priority Primary 1 registration will ensure that those most deserving are recognised for their contributions, Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah said yesterday.

Lengthening the duration of service before a PA volunteer qualifies for Phase 2B of the registration exercise is being made in that spirit, she added. "It's not meant to be an incentive - it's meant to be a means of recognition for those who have contributed," she said.

"We want to ensure that if somebody gets a recognition or a priority for something, that it is a recognition for something that is commensurate with the effort put in."

Speaking at a candle light-up event where $100,000 was donated by Guinness to local social enterprise ChaCha Cottage, Ms Indranee cited its founder, Ms Angella Cheng, as a prime example of volunteering out of passion. "It's something she wanted to do because she has a passion for this cause," she said. "It goes back to doing the right thing for the right reason."

The social enterprise supports single mothers by teaching them skills like candle, soap and jewellery-making so that they can earn a living from home while taking care of their children.

Each woman can make up to 60 candles a day, and earn between $1 and $4 per candle depending on its size, said Ms Cheng.

One beneficiary is single mother Pauline Poon, 47, who for years had to borrow money from her parents and siblings to look after her two boys - resulting in family friction. "It's not that I am lazy and I don't want to work, but my 10-year-old has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and fits," she said. She now takes home about $500 a month from working with ChaCha Cottage and another $400 from working as a cashier.

Family service centres and Members of Parliament play an important role in helping the most vulnerable group of single mothers - those from low-income backgrounds and who lack family support - said Ms Indranee, as both act as a bridge between the parent and different agencies that can help.

"We do have fairly good support schemes," she said, citing existing childcare subsidy and work skills improvement schemes. "The pieces are there, it's just making sure they all come together."


This article was first published on June 22, 2014.
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