Stories Of Impact
Empowering Her Dream: International Women’s Forum Singapore Aids Young Fashion Designer’s Success
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Stories Of Impact

Stories Of Impact

Empowering Her Dream: International Women’s Forum Singapore Aids Young Fashion Designer’s Success

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Denise Yeo was juggling two part-time jobs while studying full-time for a degree in Fashion Design & Textiles at LASALLE College of the Arts. So, she was overjoyed when she received an education grant from the International Women’s Forum Singapore (IWF). “The money meant I could divert more time to my studies,” says the 23-year-old student.

Funding her degree has been a struggle. Her father is disabled in both legs and cannot work. Her mother works in a restaurant and Denise’s elder sister, who looks after their father, had to take out a loan from her Central Provident Fund savings to help Denise pay for her tuition fees.

The $4,500 IWF grant has let her cut back on her working hours in her crucial final year. It also helped fund her graduation project – a collection of six looks inspired by the whimsical, playful nature of clowns – which is critical to building a career in fashion. “Fashion involves a lot of money and time,” says Denise, who graduates in April 2023. The financial security allowed her to devote more time to designing her collection and invest in better quality fabric and trimmings.

Denise is already crafting a name as a designer to watch. In 2021, the articulate and talented young lady won the Men’s Folio Designer of the Year competition. She plans to start a brand of her own and pursue a master’s degree and a PhD. Grateful for how the IWF grant positively impacted her, Denise hopes more philanthropic support can be extended to students in the creative arts.

The annual grant came from the IWF Singapore Education Grants Fund, a donor-advised fund (DAF) which IWF set up in 2014 with the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS). IWF is an invitation-only network of accomplished women dedicated to advancing women’s leadership and championing gender equality. It strongly believes in nurturing the next generation of women by providing access to education and mentorship.

The IWF Singapore Education Grant aims to support deserving young women in any field, in any educational institution in Singapore. Beneficiaries are typically students between the ages of 17 to 35 who are applying or studying for a diploma or degree at a local polytechnic or university, and who are at risk of dropping out due to financial challenges.

Aside from monetary aid, the grant seeks to equip these students with life skills and guidance on career choices. This is done with the help of the Young Women’s Leadership Connection, a mentorship programme initiated by Mrs Arfat Selvam, Managing Director of law firm Duane Morris and Selvam LLP. For IWF, partnering with CFS has been the ideal way to fulfil its specific philanthropic goals. As Singapore’s only community foundation, CFS is a leader in philanthropy advisory and grantmaking, and will celebrate its 15th year of connecting donors with opportunities to make impact in 2023. Tapping into its deep roots in the community, CFS helped IWF navigate unmet needs in the educational sector, backed by its solid knowledge of local institutes of higher learning and data such as the cost of education.

With the help of CFS, IWF looks for students with grit – those who strive to excel in their chosen field. Beyond that, it also seeks out students with a strong desire to make a difference to their community and who show empathy for the less fortunate. In Denise’s case, what helped her stand apart was her commitment to sustainability.

While working in F&B, she gained an appreciation for managing waste, recycling and thoughtful sourcing of materials. This prompted Denise to weave in elements of eco-consciousness into her designs. She opts for natural fabrics, instead of synthetic ones, and is creating outfits that can be worn in many different ways, to improve their lifespan.

In 2021 alone, the IWF fund supported grants to 31 students in tertiary institutions. Since its inception, the IWF has awarded a total of 143 grants to 127 unique young women from 13 local institutions. Through its long-running generosity and tireless mentoring, the IWF has made a lasting impact on the lives of numerous young women.

Establishing a DAF with CFS is a seamless, cost-effective and flexible way for donors to embark on their very own giving journey. As a one-stop philanthropic centre, CFS tailors each DAF to a donor’s motivations and handles the tax, legal, reporting, governance and fund management requirements. This is all carried out at minimal cost. Backed by 14 years of experience and counting, CFS is honoured to be the leading provider of DAFs in Singapore today.

For more on how CFS can help you on your philanthropic journey, please visit this page.

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LIFT (Learning Initiatives for Employment) Community Impact Fund – Training and increasing employability for marginalised groups

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The Learning Initiatives for Employment (LIFT) Community Impact Fund (CIF) from the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) provides social enterprise funding to enable disadvantaged groups to obtain training in order to be more employable. 

The funding provided has allowed two social enterprises, the Bettr Barista Coffee Academy and Dignity Kitchen develop a more standardised training programme for their students, as well as expand the number of training places available to aid more disadvantaged groups to enter the workforce.

Both social enterprises were covered in the story, along with the experiences of a beneficiary that had benefited from the programme. It was reported that the two enterprises had provided training for 115 people from April 2020 to March 2021, and managed to get 73 people employed, out of the 91 that had completed the training. Amongst the 73 employed, 55 of them remained employed for more than three months, showing the success of the programme.

The first story covers the journey of Jiefan, an 18 years old who had dropped out of school a few years prior and was on probation due to violating the law. He went through 20 interviews in two months, yet was not hired due to his probation and surveillance sentence. After a recommendation from his social worker, Jiefan received training at the social enterprise Bettr Barista, where he not only learned how to brew coffee, but also to control his emotions and improve his communication skills.

The second story talks about the experience of Jerry Tan, 23 years old, who had suffered from a stroke four years ago back in his second year in Singapore Polytechnic. While he survived, the left side of his body was left stiff and weak, and his left arm still remains unresponsive up till today. In addition, with the vision in both of his eyes also affected, Jerry was disadvantaged physically. He underwent a one-month training course in Dignity Kitchen to complete a series of Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ), following which he worked in a Japanese restaurant for about a year, before returning to Dignity Kitchen to serve as a cashier due to Covid-19. Jerry is now currently helping to train other colleagues with physical disabilities while he considers his future education and career.

The article also featured a quote from Joyce Teo, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of CFS, explaining how the disadvantaged people also needed some training to adapt to the workplace environment, as most of them had never gotten a chance to enter a formal workplace in society. She also spoke about how she hoped that the public could actively support and donate to the LIFT fund to help subsidise the training fees for the socially disadvantaged population, which could cost $5,000 per individual on average.

If you would like to support someone in their journey towards sustained employment opportunities, please visit our donation drive on here.

This translated article was originally published by Lianhe Zaobao 

Credit: Lianhe Zaobao © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.  

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Stories Of Impact

2020 Annabel Pennefather Award winners Eunice and Wai Yhann: How perseverance and determination helped two young women become champion athletes

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Every year on the 8th of March, the world celebrates the efforts and achievements of all women both past and present with International Women’s Day. This year, we honour a sports icon, lawyer and woman of the year in 2004 – the late Annabel Pennefather, who was a trailblazer in every sense of the word.

Annabel was a former national hockey player, former Vice-President of Singapore National Olympic Council, former President of the Singapore Hockey Federation, a pioneer of women sports administrators in Singapore and a champion of women in sports globally.

“As her long-time friend, I remember Annabel to be an elegant and warm lady. She combined her passion in sports with her skills as a lawyer to develop Sports Law, its rules and practices both in Singapore and internationally,’’ reminisces Arfat Selvam, Managing Director of Duane Morris & Selvam LLP.

‘’Annabel helped to raise the standards of governance in sports. It is befitting that IWF should honour the memory of a well-loved member by having this award in her name to promote the excellence in sports among our young women.”

Annabel’s legacy continues in the form of the Annabel Pennefather Excellence Award, which is presented annually to two female graduating student-athletes between 16 and 25 years of age, who have outstanding sports achievements. The award honours Annabel and her achievements in encouraging and empowering women in the field of sports.

Funded by International Women’s Forum (IWF) Singapore Education Grant, which is managed by the Community Foundation of Singapore, the Grant aims to recognise deserving young women with character and the commitment to achieve in their respective fields. 

“With quiet confidence, fierce intellect and ever disarming charm, Annabel helped women in Singapore transcend their boundaries through her own experiences as a sportswoman.  She always gave her best always to her family, work and country,’’ recalls Melissa Kwee, President of the IWF and friend to the late Annabel.

‘’IWF Singapore is grateful that her example and inspiration lives on in the lives of the recipients, whom I am sure she would encourage to simply be their best self.”

Besides sporting excellence, recipients of the award should demonstrate strong leadership, passion, integrity, moral character and conduct, and community spirit. The winners of the 2020 Annabel Pennefather Excellence Award are Au Yeong Wai Yhann and Eunice Lim Zoe, two young women who have demonstrated such excellence in their sporting fields.

It was Eunice Lim’s family that provided a nurturing catalyst for the young sportswoman to grow into her table tennis shoes at a young age.

‘’I picked up table tennis because I saw my brother playing against the wall when he got back from his school CCA training. I got curious and asked him to let me try it out and since then, I fell in love with this sport and have never stopped playing since,’’ Eunice remembers fondly.

Being a student-athlete, it was also a challenge for Eunice to maintain that delicate balance between doing well in school and training for competitions.

‘’I recall having to juggle both my studies and sports during major competitions seasons. It was not easy, as I did not take any breaks from school on both occasions. I knew I had to give 200% during my limited training sessions, knowing that my opponents are definitely clocking more training sessions than I can,’’ Eunice mulls in retrospect.

Eunice’s persistent efforts did eventually reap impressive rewards, bagging the 2018 bronze medal in the 11th South East Asian (SEA) Championship and a bronze medal in the 2019 Commonwealth Table Tennis Championship.

Winning the Annabel Pennefather award was an important milestone for Eunice, who had grappled with thoughts of quitting table tennis whilst transitioning to university.

‘’I had thoughts of giving up the sport at some point because I felt that I was not achieving much. However, winning the Annabel Pennefather award really acted as a source of encouragement and gave me one of the many reasons to strive on. It reminds me that one’s effort will be recognised, as long as we put our heart and soul into the things that we love.’’

The Annabel Pennefather Award serves as a reminder that encouragement and acknowledgement is a powerful and indelible source for young athletes in their path towards excellence.

For 21 year old squash athlete Au Yeong Wai Yhann, it was her family’s loving support and an early exposure to different sports that gave her the confidence and techniques to create a solid foundation.

Despite strong support from her parents and a good head start in physical sports, it was still a challenge as a student athlete to study for her International Baccalaureate (IB) examinations and compete for the SEA Games and Marigold Squash Championships, where she won medals in both competitions.

‘’My goal to perform well in both the tournaments as well as my IB examinations motivated me to keep pushing and working even harder. And so, I was extremely pleased to have won 3 medals – two silver and one bronze – in the 2019 SEA games as well as be crowned the Womens’ National Squash Champion in 2020 because I knew it was a result of many years and hours of hard work and sacrifices.’’

Having won the Annabel Pennefather Award has reminded the young athlete as to how fortunate she has been able to pursue the sport that she loves, and also a motivation for her to continue striving for greater heights and inspiring her juniors to chase their dreams.

“Always believe in yourself. You are stronger than you think, and can achieve anything you set out to do, as long as you are willing to work hard for it. But in the midst of it, remember to take little breaks and reward yourself – self-care is extremely important to keep you going.”

“My hope is to see the sport scene grow and see more youths pick up and compete in sport. Sport is not just about winning or losing. The journey of training and competing itself allows one to develop strong values such as perseverance and discipline, as well as forge many friendships with others. It provides opportunities for all and so I hope that more kids will engage in it.’’

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Stories Of Impact

Over $9 million raised for CFS’s Sayang Sayang Fund benefitting over 130,000 beneficiaries

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The Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) launched the Sayang Sayang Fund (SSF) in Feb 2020 as an emergency response fund, aimed to benefit Singapore’s underserved communities impacted by COVID-19.

As a result of the keen generosity from Singapore’s general public, over $9 million had been raised, enabling the SSF to expand its scope to support nine initiatives to ensure that the most vulnerable in Singapore’s communities did not fall through the cracks. This was made possible through CFS’s highly proficient understanding of grantmaking and close collaboration with our valued community partners. This was swiftly translated into impact supporting 298 grantee organisations and 136,000 beneficiaries.

“It is with great pleasure that we thank all our partners and donors for their unwavering generosity in such times of adversity. CFS is honored to have brought together so many people from all walks to life to help those most vulnerable in need. 

Without everyone’s support, neither the Sayang Sayang Fund nor its initiatives would have been birthed. We are humbled and proud of the part that CFS has played to be able to be in such a privileged position to do what we did,’’ says Joyce Teo, Deputy CEO of CFS.

Some of the initiatives that were supported by the SSF included SeniorsOK@Home, which provided relief to seniors unable to leave their homes because of social distancing measures, Recess@Home, which provided meal subsidies for needy students during their Home Based Learning (HBL) period and MigrantsOK@Home, which extended care towards our migrant workers in the form of free top-ups in their prepaid cards to call their loved ones at home.

The emergency response funds were able to reach recipients promptly due to the Fund’s nimbleness, alongside the combined efforts of informal grassroots networks and community groups outside of the regular charitable bureaucratic systems.

A summary on the SSF funds disbursed so far

CFS aims to disburse all of the donations raised to our allocated partners and beneficiaries. To date, over $7 million has been disbursed. The charity partners were required to provide a comprehensive report on how these funds were used and whether they were fully utilised.

Giving relief to migrant workers

CFS worked with Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME), Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) and Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) to provide funding for our migrant workers, whose assistance has been invaluable and support to this community would not have been possible without their help.

In total, $200,000 had been disbursed by the MigrantsOK@Home initiative through our partners, benefitting 90,000 migrant workers with care packages and free prepaid top ups.

“We are very happy to have CFS partner with us to support our migrant workers in the factory-converted dormitories,” says MWC Chairman Yeo Guat Kwang. “We are really very thankful to everyone for giving a helping hand to our migrant workers in this challenging time.”

Aiding the elderly with AIC

More than $1.5 million was also disbursed to seniors for assistance through the SSF through the SeniorsOK@Home initiative, who received immediate aid, food supplies, necessities and medical supplies.

CFS collaborated closely with the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) and other agencies to distribute relief to this particularly vulnerable community. Much needed funding was delivered to nursing homes and other community care providers to enhance precautionary measures during the pandemic, and also to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the staff and residents of more than 90 community healthcare organisations.

300 infrared thermometers were also developed and distributed by CFS through the initiative, and helped to reduce the manpower required for temperature taking at nursing homes, hospices and eldercare centers, where manpower was sorely lacking during the COVID19 period.

‘’During this period, it is important that we combine efforts with our partners to support seniors in a timely manner. The Sayang Sayang Fund, within a short time frame, has helped to channel significant and meaningful support for our Community Care partners and seniors,’’ says Tan Kwang Cheak, CEO, AIC.

Distributing meals to needy students with the Ministry of Education (MOE)

Much credit goes to CFS’s partnership with the Ministry of Education with the Recess@Home initiative. The persistent efforts of the dedicated civil servants in MOE shone through, as they worked tirelessly with CFS in disbursing funds to needy students in the fastest way possible.

More than $1.3 million has been disbursed through MOE to the Recess@Home initiative and helping more than 28,000 needy students to receive their meals. The subsidies were disbursed via top-ups to the students’ School Smartcard which students could use to purchase food and essential groceries at some hawker centres, food courts, minimarts, convenience stores and supermarkets.

“Thank you for helping us with our daily expenses during the circuit break period. It really helped our family financially as our parents do not have enough money to give us pocket money every day. Having this really helped us because sometimes we try to save the money our parents give us. We are really grateful because not many people have this opportunity.’’ said Primary 6 sisters, Liyana and Hanayani.  

Putting a roof over the heads of rough sleepers with SafeSleep@Home

For the initiative SafeSleep@Home, almost $200,000 was disbursed to help more than 300 rough sleepers to find shelter during the circuit breaker period and obtain more permanent housing in the long term. The funds also went towards providing them with daily necessities and food supplies.

CFS has collaborated with four charity partners to provide temporary housing, overhead support, and home transition funds for over 300 individuals, including families. About 10 percent had successfully transitioned into long-term permanent housing, while the rest are in the process of doing so.

Other Community Grants disbursed by CFS

Through our community partner Filos Community Services, CARE packs were distributed to 250 vulnerable and isolated elderly and 50 low income families. These CARE packs contained tip sheets on hygiene, hand washing, use of masks, home exercises and helplines. Essentials such as antiseptic soaps, dettol, vitamin c, tissue packs, stretch bands or water bottles to be used for home exercises, thermometers, biscuits and milo, hand sanitizer and masks were also included.

CFS also supported community partner Petapis, and provided funds to purchase essentials to 4 of their residential welfare homes to mitigate the risks of the infection such as personal protective equipment (PPEs) and thermometers. 300 beneficiaries benefitted from the essentials that the funds provided.

“The Sayang Sayang Fund’s measure of success is not by how much it has raised, but by the number of smiles on the faces of all the people it has helped. I feel tremendous gratitude for our partners both government and community, who have come together so compassionately to give aid to those in Singapore who are most in need. Thank you for your steadfast efforts and generosity,’’ says Catherine Loh, CEO of CFS.

To find out more about Sayang Sayang Fund, please visit

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Four teachers recognised for excellence in early childhood, special needs education

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Ms Sulochanah Kanapathy’s pupil was already four years old but he could not say a word.

But Ms Sulochanah, 47, was determined to help, and taught the child with special needs to speak his first words.

The teacher from Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten went the extra mile by conducting home visits, giving the child additional teaching materials, and training his parents to better manage his learning.

That incident from seven years ago drove her to take a course in special needs education to understand children with such challenges better.

On Wednesday (Nov 24), she received the Leading Foundation Teacher Award, in the Early Childhood Educator category, at the National Institute of Education (NIE) in Nanyang Technological University.

Besides Ms Sulochanah, Ms A. Neshanthini Neelamohan, 33, from Sparkletots Preschool @ Braddell Heights Block 246, also received the Leading Foundation Award in the same category.

Ms Wong Jia Min, 34, from Fei Yue Community Services and Mrs Lee E-Lyn, 47, from Methodist Girls’ School (Primary) received the Leading Foundation Award in the Special Needs Educator Category.

The Leading Foundation Teacher Award, established in 2013, recognises excellence in early childhood, special needs and allied educators who have made significant contributions to the well-being and teaching of their students. It is administered by NIE and the Community Foundation of Singapore.

The four were selected through appraisals and interviews by the judging panel, which comprised members from NIE, the Ministry of Education and the National Institute of Early Childhood Development.

This year, there were a total of 57 nominations.

Among the winners was Ms Neshanthini,who is a firm believer in ensuring that her lessons appeal to all types of learners.

There is always something for her pupils, be it visual, auditory or tactile. For instance, she often uses food essence to stimulate her pupils’ senses as part of sensory play, she said.

As for Ms Wong Jia Min, she believes parental support is key to a child’s development.

For example, Ms Wong brought in a professional sign language interpreter so that a student with behavioural issues could communicate more effectively with her deaf parents.

Many house visits later, Ms Wong and a social worker noticed a major positive change in the student’s behaviour.

Mrs Lee, on the other hand, uses humour in her classes to allow her students to express themselves and to feel relaxed in a safe environment.

For instance, she records the children’s voices and plays the recordings back during oral practice. She focuses heavily on celebrating small successes and encouraging them.

“I’m not just their teacher, but their cheerleader too,” she said.

The awards are sponsored by The Leading Foundation, which was co-founded by Mr Lim Siong Guan, a professor in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, and a former head of the Singapore Civil Service, with Ms Joanne H. Lim, founder of a communications consultancy.

Mrs Jennifer Lim, Prof Lim’s wife and the guest of honour, presented the awards to the winners, who also received a cash award of $2,500 and a certificate each.

Winners list
Early Childhood Educator category
Ms A. Neshanthini Neelamohan, 33, PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Braddell Heights Blk 246
Ms Sulochanah Kanapathy, 47, Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten

Special Needs Educator category
Mrs Lee E-Lyn, 47, Methodist Girls’ School (Primary)
Ms Wong Jia Min, 34, Fei Yue Community Services

If you would like to begin your giving journey with us at CFS, please read more here

This article was originally published in The Straits Times here. Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

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