Stories Of Impact
HOME: Helping vulnerable migrant workers through crisis
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Stories Of Impact

Stories Of Impact

HOME: Helping vulnerable migrant workers through crisis

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A woman gracefully holds a box of vibrant flowers, standing before a neatly arranged bunk bed.

With almost one million low-wage migrant workers in Singapore, there is an increasing appreciation of the important role they play in our society. Yet, while migrant workers make up a significant part of our social fabric, their issues and challenges may often remain invisible from public view.

Since 2004, the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) has been aiding migrant workers in crisis situations. These workers have often suffered exploitation and abuse ranging from overwork, injury, wage theft to physical and emotional abuse. HOME supports around 2000 non-domestic workers and domestic workers each year.

“Many of the workers who come to us are already quite traumatised,” says Sheena Kanwar, Executive Director of HOME, “It is quite a journey for them: from making the decision to come here, receiving support, recovering from crisis and moving on with life.”

Support from donors to the Migrants Emergency Assistance and Support (MEANS) Fund, a community impact fund managed by the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), has helped HOME to provide immediate and short-term financial assistance to distressed workers. The financial support covers the basic necessities, medical care, transport and mobile phone top-ups. To date, the MEANS fund has disbursed around $60,000 to HOME.

Financial assistance is critical for these workers; many of them have no savings or have not been paid a salary for several months. If a worker decides to make a legal complaint against their employer, they may end up staying in Singapore for several years. “We help ensure there is a basic sum for their everyday well-being through this process, from food, transport to their medical needs,” says Sheena.

Beyond financial assistance, HOME has created “a sustainable system that allows us to respond to the different needs of a migrant worker in crisis,” explains Sheena. These services include help desks, legal, medical, and counselling teams, a shelter for vulnerable domestic workers, skill-building classes, to helping workers through re-employment. Moving forward, HOME looks to expand its reach, especially to vulnerable migrant workers from the Myanmar and Indian communities.

For these workers, HOME has opened a vital window of support – and even a new lease of life. Take Jofel, a domestic helper who has been living at HOME’s migrant worker shelter for over a year. After attending an art therapy class by the HOME Academy, Jofel stumbled upon her creative talent. She started to pursue her passion for handicraft, actively picking up skills online each day. Today, she is skilled at designing and producing a wide range of items, from bags, candles to flower bouquets. “I’m very grateful to HOME for its support. I discovered myself and my creative abilities here,” says Jopel. Upon her future return to her home country, Jopel hopes to start her own business.

Sheena is heartened by the surge of support amongst Singaporeans towards the plight of migrant workers; from enthusiastic young students who ask to join HOME’s projects, to HOME’s dedicated teams of legal, medical and counseling professionals. She says, “The support and empathy for migrant workers have gone up tremendously over the last five to seven years. It’s very heartening that people genuinely see the need for the work that we do.”

To support the MEANS Community Impact Fund, visit here

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The competition was organised by City Harvest Community Services Association and received support from FUN! Fund, a Community Impact Fund jointly established by the Community Foundation of Singapore and the Agency for Integrated Care, with the aim of addressing social isolation among the elderly.

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development Mr Tan Kiat How attended the event. He encouraged the elderly to stay physically and mentally well, as well as urging them to participate in community activities and enjoy their golden years together.

Learn more about FUN! Fund at https://www.cf.org.sg/fun-fund/.

 

The programme provides the children with a non-threatening platform to connect with peers and have positive conversations. In addition, it exposes them to different people who can assist to broaden their perspectives.

L.S., a volunteer with the Reading Odyssey programme @ Spooner Road

中心“常胜将军”胡锦盛:比赛限时反应要快

现年92岁的胡锦盛是最年长的参赛者。自2017年退休后,他几乎每天都到活跃乐龄中心报到,从此爱上了玩拉密,每次可玩上三个小时,在中心是“常胜将军”。

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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 https://www.cf.org.sg/sayangsayangfund/

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Events

CFS Philanthropy Forum 2019: Looking to the future of community philanthropy

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At the CFS Philanthropy Forum 2019 held on 18 March, over 100 guests – including donors, charities and partners – gathered to hear from leaders and experts on what lies ahead for community philanthropy.

Headlining the evening was keynote speaker Eileen Heisman, President and CEO of National Philanthropic Trust (NPT), the largest independent donor advised fund (DAF) administrator in the United States. In her dynamic speech, Eileen – a founding member of CFS’s international advisory committee – shared NPT’s amazing journey to raising more than US$13 billion in charitable contributions, and encouraged all in attendance to rise to the challenge of taking local philanthropy to new heights.

Following her speech, Eileen was joined by Dr June Lee, Honorary Research Fellow, Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship & Philanthropy (ACSEP) at the National University of Singapore, and moderator Laurence Lien, Chairman of CFS, in an engaging panel discussion on how DAFs enable smarter, better giving by helping donors give more thought to the purpose of their charitable dollars.

Referring to how DAFs are gaining rising interest in Asia, Eileen commented, “A lot of people have chosen donor advised funds because they want something that’s easy, turnkey, relatively inexpensive and can be adapted to changing interests. Donors have many different types of philanthropic goals, so with a DAF, they can shape the fund according to their preferences and they can change their giving focuses over time.”

June noted DAFs offered specific advantages for families looking to give. “In a recent research paper published by ACSEP, we found that one of the biggest question families ask is ‘how do we engage family members in our giving?’” Setting up a DAF allows a founder to set aside funds for philanthropy without burdening his or her children financially, she adds, while also allowing flexibility down the line when a founder’s children wish to pursue to a different charitable cause from their parents.

Remarking on the opportunities ahead for community philanthropy, Eileen cited the growth of two major trends: micro donor advised funds targeting millennials, and new services enabling direct payroll deductions into donor advised funds. “These trends will change the face of donor advised funds as we go forward,” she said.

She challenged CFS to tap on these wider trends to expand its offerings, “As someone who’s very much invested in CFS’s success, I would like to see CFS be creative and thoughtful about expanding the horizon for donors and the community of Singapore to express their philanthropy in different and new ways.”

In his closing remarks, Laurence commented, “It’s clear DAFs are a trend that can’t be turned back. DAFs are there for us to use, to promote, and the only direction is up.”

The evening ended on a poignant note as CFS announced the handover of its chairmanship from Laurence to Christine Ong who takes over as Chairman on 1 April.

Indeed, CFS has come full circle and we are so grateful for the guidance, trust and support we have received over the last decade.

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The competition was organised by City Harvest Community Services Association and received support from FUN! Fund, a Community Impact Fund jointly established by the Community Foundation of Singapore and the Agency for Integrated Care, with the aim of addressing social isolation among the elderly.

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development Mr Tan Kiat How attended the event. He encouraged the elderly to stay physically and mentally well, as well as urging them to participate in community activities and enjoy their golden years together.

Learn more about FUN! Fund at https://www.cf.org.sg/fun-fund/.

 

The programme provides the children with a non-threatening platform to connect with peers and have positive conversations. In addition, it exposes them to different people who can assist to broaden their perspectives.

L.S., a volunteer with the Reading Odyssey programme @ Spooner Road

中心“常胜将军”胡锦盛:比赛限时反应要快

现年92岁的胡锦盛是最年长的参赛者。自2017年退休后,他几乎每天都到活跃乐龄中心报到,从此爱上了玩拉密,每次可玩上三个小时,在中心是“常胜将军”。

Picture of admin bluecube
admin bluecube

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book.

Stories Of Impact

2021 Annabel Pennefather Award winners Cheung Kemei and Jaslyn Hooi: Two talented athletes steadfast in their resolve to win honour and glory for Singapore

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John Doe
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As Singapore continues to field excellent sportsmen into the international arena such as Badminton World Federation world champion shuttler Loh Kean Yew and paralympic gold medallist Yip Pin Siu, the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) recognises the need to continue supporting the growth of more sporting talent through philanthropy, so that Singapore may continue to produce many more distinguished sportsmen and women for the years to come.

The Annabel Pennefather Excellence Award is one such enabler that helps young sports women reach greater heights and bring glory to our country.

It is presented annually to two female graduating student-athletes between 16 and 25 years of age, who have displayed remarkable dedication to their sporting craft and achieved outstanding results in sports. 

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

The Award honours the late Annabel Pennefather – a former national hockey player, a pioneer of women sports administrators in Singapore and a champion of women in sports globally – and celebrates her achievements through encouraging and empowering women in the field of sports.

This year, the Award winners of the 2021 Annabel Pennefather Excellence Award are Cheung Kemei and Jaslyn Hooi, two young women who have demonstrated exceptional skill and excellence in their respective sporting fields.

At the tender age of only 16, foilist Cheung Kemei has already acquired a number of accolades under her fencing belt, having had an outstanding year at local national and age-group competitions last year in spite of the swelling pandemic.

“I feel very happy and honoured to receive this award. I’m very grateful and would like to thank the school, coaches and everyone who supported me throughout this journey. This award definitely encourages and motivates me to work harder and achieve better results for Singapore,” says the talented young fencer.

The foilist punched above her weight to win a gold at the Singapore Senior Championships last year in February, and won another gold medal for the U17 Women’s Foil Individual at the Singapore Cadet Nationals.

Though there is a long list of contenders for coveted spots, Kemei has her eyes set on making it to the final list of competitors for the upcoming SEA Games this year.

The other Award winner, 21-year-old shuttler Jaslyn Hooi, first represented Singapore at the Youth Olympic Games in 2018 in Buenos Aires where she finished 4th in the Women’s Singles. Since then, Jaslyn has participated and won a bronze at the 2019 SEA Games, and is set to take on the region’s best at the SEA Games this year.

“2021 proved to be a successful year, especially towards the end of the year, where I competed for six weeks in Europe. I managed to get gold in one of them and improved my world ranking to be top ninety in the world,” reflects Jaslyn with pride.

In September 2021, she claimed the Women’s Singles title at the Polish International, making it the best win in her career thus far. Among one of the top local shuttlers, Jaslyn won the Women’s Singles title at the Singapore National Open Championships consecutively in 2020 and 2021.

“I’m extremely honoured to be receiving this award. It’s nice to know that Sports School is still supporting us on our sporting journey and recognising our hardwork and success. My goal is to be top fifty at the end of 2022, and this award will continue to push me towards that goal,” says the ambitious young shuttler.

She aspires to play well in bigger tournaments this year and to make it to the Top 80. Her ultimate goal is to make it to the 2024 Olympic Games, and is determined to give her best effort to make her dream come true.

If you would like to support more budding sporting talent in Singapore through philanthropy, please read more here.

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News

Dipa Swaminathan on what we can each do for Singapore’s migrant workers

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A woman with short hair and a white top smiling warmly, radiating positivity and joy.

Dipa Swaminathan is a force of nature. At 49, the Harvard-educated lawyer is an assistant general counsel for SingTel and the founder of ItsRainingRaincoats, an organisation created in 2015 to support migrant workers in Singapore and champion their cause. As the recipient of the President’s Award for philanthropy and volunteerism in 2017, Swaminathan knows a thing or two about advocating for a marginalised group—in particular, one that has built our nation from the ground up while bearing the harshest brunt of the fallout from COVID-19.

“Migrant workers are not franchised and lack voices in the broader community,” shares Swaminathan. “The avenues available to us are not to them. They are often scared of speaking up for fear of getting their permits cancelled—which can happen within 24 hours.” The vulnerability of their situations are why migrant workers in Singapore are often forced to tolerate poor living conditions—leading to consequences like the one we have seen this year.

“Migrant workers lack many of the comforts that we are so accustomed to. They are expected to live in close proximity to each other and have limited spaces that they can move around in. In these conditions, the impacts of COVID-19 were felt harder by these workers. ItsRainingRaincoats had to ramp up its efforts overnight as the
pandemic started to spread in the migrant worker community and we did so with tremendous speed thanks to our volunteer ranks doubling and the outpouring of
support from the community,” she adds.

Alongside her tireless efforts for this oft-overlooked group, Swaminathan is now embarking on a new project with The Community Foundation of Singapore. Known as “A Greater Gift’’, the campaign focuses on the true value and lasting impact of a legacy gift. A legacy gift is a method of planned donation—essentially, leading to long-term, sustainable support for a cause you believe in.

As an ambassador for this initiative, Swaminathan opens up to Vogue Singapore about the importance of this movement, her advocacy work for migrant workers in
Singapore and her poignant hopes for their future.

What led you to start working with migrant workers in Singapore? Is this something you have always been passionate about?

Working with migrant workers started almost by chance. I was driving home in a thunderstorm one day and saw two migrant workers crouching under a cardboard sheet to remain dry. I took them home and gave them food and drinks and dry clothes to change into. Several weeks later, I received a call from the police saying one of
the men had been charged with a suicide attempt and the only number he had was mine. He had tried to take his life because he hadn’t been paid for three months and had loansharks hounding his family back in India. I knew it was an act of desperation, and emailed the Police Commissioner incessantly until charges were dropped.
The experience made me realise that you can’t change the world but you can change the world for one person.

We must shift our perception that migrant workers are dirty or societal outcasts. We need to correct perceptions in our own circles and speak up on the issue when the opportunity arises at the dinner table or different social settings.

Another experience that changed the game for me was when I saw a group of migrant workers working in the rain, wearing garbage bags to try and remain dry. I called their employer and insisted that it was their duty to provide for their workers, susceptible to the constant rainy conditions in Singapore. I threatened to flag it with newspapers, share it on social media and report it to the Ministry of Manpower. While the employer hung up on me, the next day, I saw that all the workers had been
provided with raincoats.

Which parts of your work with migrant workers do you find most important?

It is incredibly rewarding to be able to bridge conversations between migrant workers, volunteers and other Singaporean residents, as well as galvanising support from the corporate sector and schools. Connecting different parts of the community helps us to build a bigger support platform for migrant workers, helping them integrate
into the broader community.

For example, during the height of the pandemic, ItsRainingRaincoats mobilised hundreds of volunteers to distribute 600,000 hot meals, 120,000 care packages, and helped 12,000 workers with mobile data top-ups so they could remain connected with their family. We also co-authored a mental health booklet in partnership with the
Singapore Medical Society of Ireland and coordinated fundraising efforts for families of deceased or terminally ill migrant workers.

Tell us a little bit about the “A Greater Gift” initiative

“A Greater Gift” is a three-year initiative led by the Community Foundation of Singapore to highlight that legacy giving is critical to providing long-term support and
sustainability to the causes we care about the most. The campaign is to encourage everyone living in Singapore to leave a legacy. Whether its time, money or
resources,
those who are able to do so will have an enduring and positive impact on those in need within the community. I’m proud to have been selected as a brand ambassador for the campaign, to highlight that anyone can give back.

Aside from the impact of COVID-19, what is one other problem facing migrant workers in Singapore right now?

One main problem for migrant workers is that they are often not paid on time. At the end of the day, they are here to earn a salary without exploitation. If we can
achieve this, it’s the first step towards fair treatment.

How do you think we can rectify the stigma and seclusion that migrant workers face?

There is a plethora of issues that put migrant workers on the back foot when they come to Singapore—there is a large number of them, they have issues with language, they are usually here alone without their families and are far from home.

Change needs to happen within each of us—within our hearts and instincts. We must shift our perception that migrant workers are dirty or societal outcasts. We need
to correct perceptions in our own circles and speak up on the issue when the opportunity arises at the dinner table or different social settings.

The most soul-crushing thing for me is when I hear of a migrant worker death.

Seeing the harsh conditions and difficult circumstances that migrant workers are in must take an emotional toll. Do you ever experience compassion fatigue? How do you take care of yourself and what keeps you going?

I do experience compassion fatigue and I need to give myself time to wind down. There were many days this year at the height of the pandemic where I didn’t have
time to attend to my personal day-to-day needs like even taking a shower. My phone never stopped ringing as I attended to countless migrant workers seeking help.

There is a saying that if you don’t fill your well, you can’t draw from the well. And for me, I keep my well filled by exercising, going on staycations and spending lots of
quality time with my husband and two teenage sons with tons of tennis action. We are also avid Formula 1 fans.

Going into 2021, what is your biggest hope for how the lives of migrant workers in Singapore will change?

I hope fewer of them succumb to workplace fatalities—the most soul-crushing thing for me is when I hear of a migrant worker death. I hope workplace conditions and mental health improves for them. I hope that we don’t hear our phones ringing as much—because then we know that we’ve made improvements for them and for us as a society.

Find out more about “A Greater Gift” at legacygiving.sg. Support ItsRainingRaincoats with a donation or a Christmas gift for migrant workers.

Source: Vogue

The competition was organised by City Harvest Community Services Association and received support from FUN! Fund, a Community Impact Fund jointly established by the Community Foundation of Singapore and the Agency for Integrated Care, with the aim of addressing social isolation among the elderly.

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development Mr Tan Kiat How attended the event. He encouraged the elderly to stay physically and mentally well, as well as urging them to participate in community activities and enjoy their golden years together.

Learn more about FUN! Fund at https://www.cf.org.sg/fun-fund/.

 

The programme provides the children with a non-threatening platform to connect with peers and have positive conversations. In addition, it exposes them to different people who can assist to broaden their perspectives.

L.S., a volunteer with the Reading Odyssey programme @ Spooner Road

中心“常胜将军”胡锦盛:比赛限时反应要快

现年92岁的胡锦盛是最年长的参赛者。自2017年退休后,他几乎每天都到活跃乐龄中心报到,从此爱上了玩拉密,每次可玩上三个小时,在中心是“常胜将军”。

Picture of admin bluecube
admin bluecube

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book.

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