Stories Of Impact
How Collaborative Philanthropy is Powering Support for Mental Health
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Stories Of Impact

Stories Of Impact

How Collaborative Philanthropy is Powering Support for Mental Health

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No friends, no job, and no confidence. That’s what one person grappled with when he first attended a Growth Circle run by Growth Collective SG. By the end of the year, he had built some friendships and was weighing new career opportunities. His self-worth soared. 

Growth Circles are a powerful means to open up mental wellness support to anyone in need. With the backing of philanthropic dollars and like-minded partners from the public, private and nonprofit sectors, Growth Collective SG is sparking a movement for accessible well-being that is gaining momentum.

Growth Collective SG grew out of the Community Mental Health Champions initiative. A collaborative project by CFS and Empact that was generously funded by the Johnson & Johnson Foundation, it began in 2021 with the aim of building a pool of people equipped to help others access mental health support. Mental wellbeing is one of five focal areas that CFS has identified as a priority for grant making in the coming years.

Growth Collective SG is made up of the following organisations:

  • Growthbeans, a social enterprise that provides coaching-infused programs, products and services to equip individuals and leaders with self-awareness, compassion andkey people skills to grow resiliently, connect authentically, and give meaningfully for their well-being.
  • SG Assist , which supports caregivers and their loved ones through an app and volunteers;
  • Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), whose mission is to transform society through applied social science and to inspire lifelong education;
  • Psychosocial Initiative, a social enterprise that promotes psychological first aid skills and emotional/mental health literacy awareness;
  • Empatho, a consultancy that provides social, emotional and mental wellness training to organisations and schools and wants to shift the mental health paradigm from a remedial model to a preventive one;
  • Singapore Anglican Community Services, the community service arm of the Diocese of Singapore;
  • Community of Peer Support Specialists, (CPSS) is a ground-up collective made up of professionally trained and certified Peer support specialists interested in growing Singapore’s mental health peer support movement. They leverage on their lived experiences to provide support to persons with mental health challenges while engaging them in clinical, community and workplace settings.

The idea of Growth Circles for mental health came from Growthbeans, which has been running sharing circles and coaching circles since 2015. These are psychological safe spaces for sharing, reflecting and building meaningful relationships. Each Growth Circle is led by a trained facilitator, who empower individuals through active listening and asking effective questions. “Mental health is a state of wellbeing. To empower individuals to better support their personal wellbeing, we want to provide them with more than a safe space to belong. We want to provide a platform for people to gain self-awareness and perspectives, and have a guided way to practise and grow their person-centric skills with the support of others. And, we have seen the impact that Growth Circles have made,” says Shane Yan, a co-founder of Growthbeans and an ICF certified coach. Shane is the Chair of the steering committee of Growth Collective SG and sits on the steering committee of the SG Mental Well-Being Network.

Drawing upon the varied resources, experiences and competencies of its members who cover the spectrum of the mental health continuum, Growth Collective SG came up with a framework to support four aspects of personal growth – social, psychological, emotional, and spiritual growth. It then set about training Growth Facilitators to lead the Growth Circles. They set boundaries, offer psychological first aid and help participants develop soft skills such as questioning skills, empathy, compassion and emotional intelligence.

Growth Circles typically comprise four to five individuals and take place in person or online. The very first one, held at SUSS, garnered a good response from curious students. “Many people feel burnt out or overwhelmed. They appreciate the friendships made, opportunity to share and process their emotions, the new perspectives gained to lift their emotional and mental burden, and the awareness that they are not alone” says Shane. There is now a waitlist for many of these sessions. And, it is attracting a growing diversity of people of different ages, walks of life, and life experiences.

Even more encouragingly, the practice of and learnings from these Growth Circles are being incorporated into the curriculum at SUSS, for undergraduates studying psychology while postgraduate students will undergo the Growth Facilitators training. Longer-term, Shane says the goal is to build a sustainable, scalable offering that bolsters not just mental wellbeing, but employability, as well as community resilience.

“We are grateful to Johnson & Johnson Foundation. Without their funding, the dream would have taken much longer to materialise,” says Shane. And ultimately, its success has hinged on different stakeholders across the charitable, government and private philanthropic sectors working together to engender change.

“A collective allows a diverse group of stakeholders to work together to reinforce each other’s efforts and achieve more impact. Through Johnson & Johnson Foundation’s funding, CFS took on a backbone role in the collective to align activities, establish shared measurement practices, while mobilising and managing resources,” says CFS.

Growth Collective SG has a promising pipeline of projects. This includes running Growth Circles for residents of Nee Soon South Community Centre and Yuhua Community Club, a partnership with the National Gallery to combine Growth Circles with their How to Art with Friends program for its upcoming Wellness Festival, and an MOU with the Institute for Human Resource Professionals to hone skills for workplace wellbeing.

Enabling community well-being takes an entire ecosystem working together in partnership. Growth Collective SG has officially launched its Together, We Grow movement on 1 April 2023. Join the movement, collaborate with us, and bring Growth Circles to every part of Singapore. Find out more here.

To find out more about how CFS empowers collaborative philanthropy, click here .

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Business Times: The beauty of giving to those you do not know

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A snapshot of a newspaper Business Times: The beauty of giving to those you don't know

Govind Bommi, 71, is well known to regulars at the Metta Day Rehabilitation Centre for the Elderly.

The businessman and philanthropist spends his Thursday mornings volunteering at the Tampines centre, befriending seniors who are there to receive physiotherapy or other forms of rehabilitative care after conditions such as a stroke, Parkinson’s or arthritis.

He does not speak Mandarin or any of the Chinese dialects that most of the regulars are most comfortable with. But that’s been no barrier to friendship.

“You hold their hand, and usually offer the hand that they can use, as some are stroke patients. It’s all about connecting,” says Mr Bommi, a Singapore permanent resident and naturalised US citizen.

One might think this began with his decision to set up a charity fund in Singapore, after spending 20 years here. But Mr Bommi would tell you that seeds were sown far earlier in his childhood, by his mother’s selfless giving to people she did not know.

A mother’s influence
“We didn’t have much when we were growing up… it was hand-to-mouth,” says Mr Bommi, originally from Bangalore, India. All five children shared a small bedroom, and the family lived off their father’s hard-earned income. “Yet, whatever we had, we shared.”

He wasn’t speaking merely of siblings sharing. Beggars would knock at their doors each evening, and his mother, Andal, always found something to give. “It was not leftovers. Even though we didn’t have much, she would cook and keep some aside because she knew that they would come ask for food,” he recalls.

His mother’s largeness of heart only grew with time.

Once, as a grown man in his 40s, Mr Bommi made his annual trip back to India to visit his then 75-year-old mother. One of the first things she said? She had told a young man with a terrible skin problem, boils all over his face, to come see her son, and Mr Bommi was to take him to his doctor friends.

“I asked her, ‘Who is he? How do you know him?” And she just looked at me and said, “I don’t know. Do you have to know who he is, to help him?” That really struck a chord,” says Mr Bommi.

“When you want to help, helping someone you know is easier to do. My son, my child, my niece, my friend, my neighbour – when you have a “my” attached to anything, it is easier. It’s an extension of you, it’s easier to give. Now, to give to somebody that you do not know – that’s what my mother talked about.”

Mr Bommi himself has been on the receiving end of strangers’ kindness and giving too.

Arriving in the US as a 21-year-old, on money borrowed from a friend, Mr Bommi knew no one. Through those early months of adjusting to life in a foreign land and navigating the stress of changing schools and moving, he found some solace each night in lighting up a little prayer lamp his mother had given him.

A rough settling-in was made smoother by strangers who helped, says Mr Bommi. There was the Jesuit priest who helped him find accommodation, and then the Canadian-French family whose home he eventually lived in, among others.

These experiences led him to believe that most people are compassionate. “You see someone not well, hurt, the human instinct would be to go help. Thought manifests itself into words. Further on, the words manifest into actions… Most people will have the thought, but for whatever reason, it’s not shown.”

Taking action
Mr Bommi is not one to just let a thought be.

2015 marked his twentieth year in Singapore. He had arrived in Singapore as an expat, posted by his American company to be a regional director here. But when his term was up, he decided to stay on, started his own water filtration and purification business, and married a Singaporean.

Singapore is now home to him, he says. “I thought: now that I’ve settled down in Singapore, I wanted to do some charity work here.”

He had already set up a charitable foundation in India, Andal Cares, named for his mother. “All the blessings that we have – good health, good family, good wealth – all of that, we have to share…. We are only temporary keepers of this wealth – we have to share it. It’s been given to us for a purpose, to share.”

And so, he told his lawyer, he wanted to do the same here. But, he soon realised that it would take considerable time and resources to set a foundation up, find the right people to run it, meet governance requirements, and handle the administrative work involved. His lawyer pointed him to the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), as an option that could provide charitable fund management and philanthropy advice.

Given his desire to support eldercare services, CFS staff took him to visit nursing homes and rehabilitation centres to give him a better appreciation of Singapore’s eldercare landscape. Which is how he first discovered the work of Metta Day Rehabilitation Centre.

“Through the visits, I got a clearer idea of the different types and needs of eldercare support here. CFS helped to build on my interests, and hone in on the causes and impact I want to make, so that I could find a focus for my giving,” he said.

In March 2016, Mr Bommi started the Andal Cares Fund with S$250,000, under CFS, to support the Metta centre. He has since pledged to raise that sum to a seven-figure amount over several years.

Getting to know those you help
“CFS did an excellent job of setting up and managing my charitable fund, taking care of all the ground work for me – from evaluating programmes, conducting due diligence and disbursing grants, to reporting on impact. That’s a big relief for me as it frees up my time to concentrate on my volunteer work with the community,” says Mr Bommi.

His people-centred approach of giving also led Mr Bommi to support, through CFS, a pilot programme by Metta Welfare Association called “We are Bonded”. The programme introduces young befrienders to elderly persons, with the aim of building emotional bonds and enhancing well-being, while studying the benefits of inter-generational bonding.

“From my volunteer work with Metta, I observed that even though seniors are being physically rehabilitated, many of them experience loneliness or isolation and are emotionally withdrawn. Through this programme, we hope that we will be able to better understand and tackle the emotional issues of an ageing population.”

Because as much as he believes in the value of giving to those whom you don’t know, he also believes in getting to know the ones receiving his gifts.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

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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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Money Mind – Leaving A Legacy

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Two female individuals can be seen in the picture, both dressed in red shirts and holding a volleyball ball.

How can you leave your mark on the world and make an impact on the lives of others?

LISTEN: Catherine Loh, CEO, Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS); lawyer and CFS ambassador, Nadia Ahmad Samdin

Money Mind, weekdays 10am to 2pm on #CNA938.

Speaking after the association’s annual general meeting at Kallang Netball Centre on Friday, Liang-Lin, a fund manager for a US$7 billion (S$9.5 billion) firm focused on green real estate investments in Asia, hopes to bring her expertise to the table and increase the amount of financial support for Singapore netball during her four-year term.

The 53-year-old took over from Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jessica Tan, who has been the association’s president since 2012. Tan had reached the end of her tenure, which saw the national team make several breakthroughs, including a gold medal at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore.

Liang-Lin holds various appointments such as being Singapore’s representative to the G20 for Women appointed by the Ministry of Finance. She is also a board member of the Community Foundation of Singapore, which promotes philanthropy through facilitating the establishment of charitable funds.

She said: “One of the things that is overlooked when we look at philanthropy and fundraising is that sport is not really part of the things that people will automatically think about.

“Less than one per cent of the funds that we raise in the Community Foundation goes to sport. The values that sport brings need to be amplified more, so that corporates… see the need to support sport. I think that link needs to be stronger so that we get not just more corporate sponsors, but also they can come in for longer periods of time.”

While national agency Sport Singapore provides funding to netball, corporates can also do their part, she added.

She said: “If we play our cards correctly, we can get corporates to come in and hopefully support them, to see the wider purpose of sport and bring the nation together.”

She also hopes the association can be proactive in looking for financial support, adding: “We must work more strategically with governing bodies on educating corporates on the importance of really supporting sport.”

The former netball player also made references to the recent Women’s World Cup for football, noting the “ability for a game that focuses on women in the sport to bring global attention”.

She said: “I want that kind of trajectory of the limelight going to women’s sport. I think that is a trend that will continue, and I hope that netball will be part of that trend.”

Meanwhile, Tan was satisfied that she has achieved the three objectives she had set out to do when she came on board – to improve quality of play, build a fan base and create an ecosystem which involves coaches and players.

The 57-year-old added: “As much as I do feel sad about having to step down, but at the same time, leadership renewal is very important.

“I think Trina will help to galvanise the team together, and bring a lot of new perspectives and quality to the association.”

Join us in making an impact on Singapore sports scene! Reach out to us for more information.

Source: The Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction

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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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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

S R Nathan Education Upliftment Fund – Providing students with the needed leg-up

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picture of sr nathan with 4 students

Growing up in a poor family, the late former President of Singapore Mr S R Nathan knew what it was like to struggle with school and making ends meet.

In his teens, he dropped out of school, ran away from home and tried to eke out a living amidst troubled times. While working, he continued his education and was eventually awarded a bursary that enabled him to graduate with a Diploma in Social Studies from then University of Malaya.

“Those of you who have read my memoir will recall – my youth was a very troubled one. Left to despair over my fate, I realised that life was not always fair. Coming face to face with all sorts of hardships, it was the unexpected help from some unknown person that my life turned for the better,” said Mr Nathan.

In 2011 when Mr Nathan published his memoir ‘An Unexpected Journey: Path to the Presidency,’ he established the S R Nathan Education Upliftment Fund (SRNEUF) to help students by providing them with the financial assistance to keep them in school and enable them to pursue their tertiary education. Mr Nathan firmly believed that education was an important social leveler which provides students from disadvantaged backgrounds an opportunity to seek a better life for themselves and their families.

Managed by the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), the fund supports programmes like the Institute of Technical Education (ITE)’s Monthly Financial Assistance Scheme (MFAS) which provides needy students with allowances for transport and meals to lessen their financial burden and allow them to focus on their studies.

Mike Goh, a former beneficiary of the MFAS at ITE and currently a student at Republic Polytechnic, began working in his early teens to support himself after both his parents fell severely ill. Recounting the challenges of juggling his academic studies with work, Mike expressed, “If I did not have time to work, the allowance from the fund had helped me manage day by day, and I’m really thankful for that.

Raised in a single-parent home, Yasmin Raihanah Bte Shahrin, a student at ITE College Central, expressed gratitude for the timely support from the fund, “Initially when I started my studies at ITE, I was worried. My mother’s income was not high, and I had to rely on my work income to support my daily expenses. With the award, I felt relieved because I could pay for my school necessities and food.”

The fund also awards bursaries and scholarships to students from local polytechnics and universities. Ding Jian Han, an awardee of the 2018/19 S R Nathan Music Scholarship, was an aspiring composer at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore. Jian Han, who plays the violin, piano and clarinet, credits the support from the fund for enabling him to pursue his passion in music.  “My father passed away when I was young, but I was fortunate to be awarded scholarships so that I was able to help my mum and pay for my school fees,” said Jian Han.

Since 2012, the fund has disbursed over $3 million to support more than 1,500 ITE, polytechnic and university students by providing bursaries, scholarships as well as monthly financial assistance. In 2019, the fund will be establishing the S R Nathan Student Grant at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, as well as the S R Nathan Book Prize and the S R Nathan Special Assistance Scheme at ITE.

Mr Bobby Chin, Chairman of the SRNEUF Grant Advisory Committee said, “Thanks to the vision and generosity of our late former president S R Nathan and the on-going support of donors, we have extended our reach significantly over the last seven years. With CFS’s continued trusted facilitation, the SRNEUF will continue to play a crucial role in helping our youths overcome difficult circumstances in their schooling years, go on to pursue their dreams and forge a brighter future for themselves and their families.”

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Stories Of Impact

Make An Impact Beyond Your Lifetime

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Francis Goh in a suit and tie

This article first appeared on CFS’s Legacy Giving Website. To find out more about Legacy Giving, please click here.

As a legal advisor on wills and trusts, I enjoy helping my clients make an impact beyond their lifetime. With legacy giving, one plans to make a gift to benefit future generations. It’s never too early to start planning, and it’s never too early to start giving.

Francis Goh encourages his clients to think of their Last Will and Testament as their love letter to the ones that they are leaving behind. “When a person realises that he or she is a beneficiary of your giving, it is that moment when that person whom you have chosen to bless feels the depth of your love and care,” says Francis, “If you choose to leave a gift to a charitable cause, it is also an expression of your concern for society.”

With nearly 30 years in active legal practice, Francis is currently a partner at Harry Elias Partnership. He heads both the firm’s Private Client Advisory and International Arbitration practices. In his work involving wills and trusts, he reveals, “I love helping people put their lives in order and to know that they have done their best to plan for those whom they leave behind.”

Apart from his legal work, Francis is also passionate about sharing his legal expertise with the wider public. A frequent speaker on subjects related to wills, probate, foundations and trusts, he also volunteers regularly with Law Society Pro Bono Services. 

Having advised individuals and business organisations on estate as well as business succession planning, Francis is an advocate for early and proper planning for those intending to make a legacy gift in their will. “Giving has to be part of an overall plan, taking into account the relative needs and your responsibilities,” remarks Francis, “Then the giving is meaningful. It becomes a joyous occasion and something to be remembered.”

These conversations will grow in importance, as more Singaporeans become mindful of their social responsibilities. “We’re seeing a generation in Singapore that has grown up in the good years. Many here have enjoyed a good life and they are now looking for purpose and meaning through sharing their wealth,” says Francis. 

Francis believes that “legal professionals have a big role to play in educating their clients about how they can leave a legacy and the impact that their gift can make beyond their lifetime.”

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