Hainanese self-help group Thien Chee Society marked its 60th anniversary celebrations last night with a pledge to inject new blood into its leadership and set up a youth group later this year.
The society's president, Mr Loi Ngee Chuan, 76, said the average age of its 200 or so members is 68, and promised to lower that by bringing in more younger members at its management committee elections next month.
Thien Chee was founded in 1955, initially to help Hainanese migrants living in the east-coast area. Many were fishermen then. At its height in the 1970s, the society had over 1,000 members.
Meanwhile, its head of programme planning, Ms Li Lin, is recruiting young people aged between 18 and 45 to form the society's first youth group. At 36, she is the youngest management committee member.
These efforts to attract younger members were supported by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who was the guest of honour at the society's anniversary dinner held at Qian Xi Restaurant in Paya Lebar last night. It was attended by 500 people - members and their friends.
In his speech, ESM Goh said: "To be in tune with the times, Thien Chee must bring in younger Singaporeans to participate in its activities. Only then can the cultural values and traditions of the society and its founders be passed on."
Mr Goh, who is also a Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC where Thien Chee's Joo Chiat Road headquarters is located, praised the society for supporting welfare programmes in both Joo Chiat and Marine Parade in the past.
Thien Chee's Ms Li, a former Hainanese opera artiste who moved here from China 15 years ago, said she would be planning more activities involving both parents and their children, such as visits to organic vegetable farms here.
"I will also be starting classes for the young in the performing arts, language, culture and even the Hainanese dialect," added the mother of two girls aged 14 and 11.
On the youth group, she said the initial target would be to have at least 15 members.
"I will try to recruit members' children and students who have received the society's annual bursaries first," she added.
The society has a strong senior citizens' group which was formed in 1988. Its president, Mr Loi, said: "But now we need young Hainanese to join us in helping the less privileged in society. For without them, we can't do this ourselves for any longer."
This article was first published on June 1, 2015.
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