President's Challenge gets community involved

SINGAPORE - The President's Challenge has an ambitious programme this year with initiatives aimed at addressing service gaps and experimenting with new approaches, said President Tony Tan Keng Yam on Tuesday.

Dr Tan singled out the Community in Action programme, which will be trialled in Ang Mo Kio by the National Council of Social Service and its partners.

The initiative will involve senior citizens at a leadership level and include reading, interaction and drama programmes for needy children and kids with disabilities.

These activities are aimed at stimulating and identifying developmental delays in children from lower-income families.

Dr Tan noted that such undertakings reflect how voluntary welfare organisations "develop new ways to address the needs of the community as they evolve".

They will also improve the social integration and independence of disabled children, he added.

Dr Tan was speaking on Tuesday at the launch of the Challenge at the Carnival@Changi, a gathering that involved about 3,000 participants from voluntary welfare organisations, members of the public and corporate sponsors such as IBM, the main organiser of the event at Changi City Point.

More details will be available when the Community in Action programme starts later this year, a Ministry of Social and Family Development spokesman said.

Members of voluntary welfare organisations told The Straits Times that they welcomed the initiative.

"It's useful to get people living in the community to help, as the programme will be sustainable in the long run.

"Over time, as they participate, they will also take ownership," said Dr Vincent Ng, executive director of The Ang Mo Kio Family Services Centres.

Mr Nicholas Aw, president of the Disabled People's Association, agreed, but said that senior citizens who get involved must know how to deal with the children.

"It's good to get the seniors involved, but they must know how to work with them, as these children have different conditions and may require more patience," he noted.

Dr Tan urged companies to "institute some form of community service into (their) corporate DNA", adding: "Giving goes beyond monetary, although that is still much needed."

He also encouraged companies and community organisations to support social enterprises, another aim of this year's Challenge.

Last year's Challenge raised about $11.5 million for the Community Chest and 54 voluntary welfare organisations. The aim this year is to help 63 such bodies.

Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing and South East District mayor Mohamad Maliki Osman later held a closed-door discussion with such organisations and other experts on how businesses can bolster the social services sector.

More details on the President's Challenge can be found at

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