Stories Of Impact
Leading Foundation Teacher Award – Recognising outstanding teachers in early childhood and special needs education
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Stories Of Impact

Stories Of Impact

Leading Foundation Teacher Award – Recognising outstanding teachers in early childhood and special needs education

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a group of teachers posing with their awards

Winners of the 2016 Leading Foundation Teacher Award together with representatives from the Leading Foundation, National Education of Singapore, Ministry of Education and Community Foundation of Singapore.

The Leading Foundation Teacher Award was established in 2014 by Lim Siong Guan and Joanne Lim – co-authors of ‘The Leader, The Teacher & You’ and ‘Winning with Honour’ – to honour passionate and dedicated teachers in early childhood and special needs education. 

Organised by the National Institute of Education (NIE) and managed by the Community Foundation of Singapore, the Leading Foundation Teacher Award is the first award in Singapore to recognise excellence in early childhood and special needs educators. To date, a total of 25 teachers have received the award. 

Said Joanne Lim, co-founder of the Leading Foundation: “Coming from a family of teachers, we knew firsthand how much hard work, dedication, sacrifice and passion educators put in to make a positive impact on the lives of their students so we wanted to honour those who embody these values. After we published the first book, we established the Leading Foundation with the Community Foundation of Singapore. CFS went on to identify the lack of recognition for teachers in early childhood and special needs education and so the Leading Foundation Teacher Award was established to plug this gap.”

It is often said that the best teachers teach from the heart, not from a book – and that is exactly what has motivated recipients of the Leading Foundation Teacher Award who often go beyond the call of duty to make a difference in the lives of their students. To date, 21 teachers have received the award.

For allied educator Tutek Alauyah Amir who won the award in 2015, she makes the extra effort to put in place a comprehensive support system to ease special needs students’ first step into primary school.

As for fellow award recipient preschool teacher Jenny Tan, she believes that every child is different and hence tailors her teaching instructions to cater to every child’s learning style, needs and pace.

Another allied educator – 2016 award recipient Jeyaram Kadivan – laboured tirelessly with his visually impaired student to overcome daunting learning hurdles in secondary school. His support enabled the student to score seven distinctions at O levels.

For these exceptional educators, it is hoped that the Leading Foundation Teacher Award will spur them on to greater heights in their field of work, as well as inspire others to excel like them.

Photo: National Institute of Education, Singapore

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Accessing Quality Education: A Boost for the Last Leg

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As a follow-up to our last story, we now take a look at children as the next generation, and how we can empower them through philanthropy to be further educated.

Education is the great equaliser, as the old adage goes. Coined by American public education pioneer Horace Mann in 1848, education was seen as the tool for the disadvantaged to basically find better jobs and lift themselves out of poverty. For the last almost 200 years, that has remained largely true.

However, when an individual’s educational journey begins, factors such as the quality of education received and extracurricular resources have resulted in education itself being a source of inequality in society.

Which brings us to the maxim that “one has to spend money to make money”. In Singapore, preschool education, extra tuition, coaching lessons and post-secondary education all cost money (Dollars and Sense, 2022 and MoneySmart, 2022). Not every family will be able to afford that for their children.

The Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) supports programmes which boost the pre-, primary and secondary school education of children and youth from challenging backgrounds. It is important, however, that these minds continue to be nurtured as far as possible; not just for the sake of the youth and their families, but also for the sake of society, in which these youths will hopefully become contributing members.

For the families, the primary reason is that the higher an educational qualification one has, the stronger one’s earning power (Ministry of Manpower, 2021), enabling them to break out of the poverty cycle.

At a societal level, Singapore needs to maintain its highly skilled and educated workforce, which is what helps to keep our economy so competitive on the global landscape (EDB, 2022). To do this, it is imperative, as maintained by Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, that the relevant skills are imparted, including through tertiary and continued education (The Straits Times, 2022).

It is heartening to know that many donors with CFS have chosen and continue to support the tertiary education of youths: from financial assistance for living expenses for Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students and study grants at polytechnics to awards and scholarships at universities, and more.

The late President Mr Nathan himself was a staunch supporter of helping tertiary students in need. The S R Nathan Education Upliftment Fund (SRNEUF) was set up 11 years ago and has supported over 1,600 students since, including students from ITE, various polytechnics, the National University of Singapore and Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS).

“The SRNEUF believes in supporting youth from under-privileged backgrounds, giving them the chance to continue with their higher education so as to better realise their potential,” says Mr Bobby Chin, Grant Advisory Committee Chairman of the SRNEUF. “We are happy to have supported hundreds of youths over the years to further their education.”

One such SRNEUF beneficiary is SUSS student Iqbal, who aspires to be a social worker focusing on helping youth-at-risk or supporting the medical field. He shares that the study grant benefited him tremendously, helping his family with household expenses and allowing him to be more independent.

His cohort mate Pearlyn, also a SRNEUF beneficiary, reveals her dream to extend her help to society, after being inspired by the help from others that her family received during a crisis in 2020. On top of studying, she is tutoring primary school children to relieve the burden on her parents. She too expresses huge gratitude for the financial assistance from the SRNEUF.

Another CFS donor, who prefers anonymity, has been supporting ITE students with financial assistance for tuition fees, essential living expenses and even provided laptops. They also continued their support for ITE students who have gotten into polytechnics.

Jonathan Siong, one of their beneficiaries, shared: “When the pandemic hit, times were hard for many foreign students like myself, and my family was struggling. However, the donors helped me when I needed it the most. Without them, my education path would have stopped right at ITE.” He says that words cannot describe how thankful he is for their support and he hopes to become successful and in turn give back to the community.

Expressing her personal thanks to her benefactors, ITE alumna Chow Ying Shu, appreciates their contribution to her education as it helps to reduce her financial burdens, which in turn allows her to focus on her studies. She is currently pursuing her diploma in Hotel Management with their support. “This makes my goals that much more reachable,” she says, adding that their generosity will motivate her and serve as a reminder to always give back to society whenever she can in the future.

CFS appreciates all donors who are supporting youth from disadvantaged backgrounds in achieving their dreams and maximising their potential. Thanks to them, the future of the students as well as the Singaporean community looks a lot brighter.

To find out how you can support tertiary students from challenging backgrounds rise above adversity, please visit

This article was written CFS Principal Consultant Reutens-Tan. He is an experienced sustainability advocate and practitioner, working closely with charities to build thriving communities, which he believes is key to a sustainable Singapore.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CFS or its members.


Dollars and Sense. (12 January 2022). How Much Do You Need To Afford A Full-Time Polytechnic Course In Singapore?  

Ministry of Manpower. (June 2021). Median Gross Monthly Income from Work (Including Employer CPF) of Full-Time Employed Residents Aged Fifteen Years and Over by Highest Qualification Attained, Age and Sex. 

MoneySmart. (15 June 2022). NUS, NTU, SMU & Other Singapore University Degrees – How Much Do They Cost in 2022? 

Singapore Economic Development Board. (1 July 2022). World-class talent. 

The Straits Times. (27 April 2022). Skills training must improve on 4 fronts for S’pore workforce to stay competitive: Chan Chun Sing.

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CFS Donor Learning Trip Series: The transformative power of early intervention by the Dyslexia Association of Singapore

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This initiative is part of CFS’s Donor Learning Trips, a series of engagement opportunities that enable donors to personally connect with charities and gain insights into how they support communities in need.

Imagine not being able to read because the letters and words are mixed up. Imagine struggling to spell or write, being labelled slow and falling behind at school. These are the realities students with dyslexia face, realities that empathetic donors from CFS got to better understand during a visit to the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS). 

“It was an eye-opening experience that left a lasting impact on us,” said Mr Sim Willing, President of the IFPAS Love Fund. The IFPAS Love Fund is one of four donor-advised funds (DAFs) that joined our Donor Learning Trip in July 2023 to the DAS Learning Centre at Serangoon Central. The social service organisation provides dyslexia screenings, psychological assessments and remediation. 

Accessing Quality Education is one of CFS’s five focal areas for grantmaking, where we curate programmes that ensure everyone has access to quality, holistic education and opportunities for them to function and thrive academically.

During the visit, donors had the valuable opportunity to hear from and talk with DAS Vice-Chairman Mr Kevin Kwek, DAS CEO Mr Lee Siang, Senior Specialist Psychologist Ms Scarlett Leong and other staff members.

One key takeaway for our donors was that dyslexia is more common than they thought. Dyslexia is a neurological condition where the brain is wired to handle information differently. It is lifelong and tends to be hereditary. Studies indicate that it affects around 10% of the population, 4% severely. 

In Singapore, there are an estimated 20,000 students with dyslexia severe enough to need intervention, says Mr Lee. Children with dyslexia, moreover, may also have co-occurring difficulties. These include problems with memory, attention, time management and sequencing.  DAS currently serves around 3,500 preschool, primary and secondary school students across 12 centres. 

Poverty significantly compounds the challenge for students with learning difficulties. Undiagnosed children who slip through the cracks find it hard to break out of poverty. As Mr Lee points out, “International research suggests that 30-60% of prison populations may have dyslexia. Specialist intervention can help break a vicious cycle for those with special needs.” At DAS, 52% of its students come from lower-income families. This is where intervention—supported by donor generosity— can be transformative. 

Intervention requires significant resources. DAS gets some funding for screenings but none for psychological assessments. Such assessments are crucial to ascertain if a child has a learning difficulty, its severity and to identify areas of learning needs. Each assessment must be carried out by a highly trained psychologist and takes considerable time, making it costly. This can put it out of reach of the less well-off.

To bridge this gap, DAS collaborates with like-minded partners like CFS. For the charity, CFS has been critical in bringing in donors such as the IPFAS Love Fund. Their grants directly help children from lower-income families access this much-needed service.

IFPAS set up the IFPAS Love Fund in 2017, choosing CFS for its strong track record in managing charitable funds. “A dedicated advisor at CFS takes the time to understand our giving goals and guides us to make well-informed decisions on where to direct resources for maximum effect. Administration is also easy as CFS handles legal and financial compliance, fund management, and grant distribution,” adds Mr Sim

As our relationship with CFS has grown, so has the depth and breadth of our giving. Over time, we have gained a better understanding of social issues and community needs, and CFS has played a pivotal role in keeping us updated on emerging trends and impactful projects. This ongoing learning process has led to the evolution of our giving strategies, allowing us to be more strategic, responsive, and effective in addressing the changing needs of the community.

Dyslexia is a hidden disability but with timely intervention, many can go on to contribute significantly to society. Through targeted and thoughtful philanthropy, we can extend professional support to more children with dyslexia, allowing them to reach their full potential and lead more fulfilling lives.  

CFS assists charities and their underprivileged communities by connecting them with donors seeking to support causes and crucial needs that resonate with them deeply.

To find out more about the causes we support, please visit

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Stories Of Impact

Thank you for the Sayang Sayang!

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John Doe
Healthcare professionals in scrubs engaged in a variety of tasks.

Photo credit: Ng Teng Fong General Hospital

To mark the successful conclusion of the Sayang Sayang Fund campaign, we would like to extend a heartfelt thank you for your generosity in contributing towards caring for and uplifting the most vulnerable of us during such times.

When CFS launched the Sayang Sayang Fund (SSF) on 10th February 2020, it had a purpose to support vulnerable communities impacted by COVID-19. Initially aimed to show appreciation for frontline healthcare workers battling the pandemic, the Fund was able to increase its scope of support thanks to the keen generosity of the public.

Sayang Sayang Fund

The Sayang Sayang Fund, a Community Impact Fund started by the Community Foundation of Singapore, provides support for healthcare workers and vulnerable communities such as isolated seniors and low-income families who are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Sayang Sayang Fund:
1. supports community-based emergency response funds for marginalised communities adversely affected by the COVID-19 situation;
2. provides innovation solutions and research to better combat COVID-19; and
3. builds capabilities that support charities’ operational and/or business continuity processes.

Why Sayang Sayang?

The name Sayang Sayang is chosen because it is a local colloquial term that most people are familiar with. It is in line with the idea of showing love and appreciation to healthcare professionals who work hard to care for us, to safeguard our health and to heal the fallen. It also conveys gratitude to those who are stepping up to ensure key services continue in the community.

Thank you for the Sayang Sayang!

Your contributions have made a significant difference to the pandemic-affected communities in Singapore. Since its inception, the Sayang Sayang Fund has raised over $9.6 million and supported nine initiatives, which have helped over 136,000 care recipients.

Migrant workers who were isolated in their dormitories last year found respite in the free $10 dollar top-up SIM cards that they used to call their families at home, provided by MigrantsOK@Home, which you contributed to through the Sayang Sayang Fund.

Through the SSF initiative, SeniorsOK@Home, seniors stranded in their homes due to social distancing measures were able to receive aid such as basic necessities and medical supplies.

‘Through your generous giving to the Sayang Sayang Fund, you have made it possible for a kinder and more compassionate Singapore to emerge from this pandemic together’ – Catherine Loh, CEO of CFS.

On behalf of the CFS team and all the lives that you’ve made a difference to, please accept our sincerest gratitude and thank you once again for showing so much sayang!

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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


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



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Stories Of Impact

The Tabung Project – Saving together for a better future

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John Doe
a group of kids playing

Launched in 2013, the Tabung Project is a simple yet inventive micro-savings programme by the Healthy Start Child Development Centre (HSCDC), a childcare centre by Beyond Social Services serving children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

With generous support from a donor through the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), families who take part in the Tabung Project are encouraged to save in an innovative way. The idea is simple: every child brings home a tabung (“savings bank” in Malay) where family members and even the child are encouraged to contribute. Each month, Tabung Counting Days are conducted, and each child’s savings is then poured into a community savings pool.

Through a multiplier strategy, the collective savings are matched by the donor and government, yielding a greater savings deposit. The impact of the programme is that every dollar saved multiplies into much more as a result of this generous funding support. As an initiative which involves the whole family, the Tabung Project also inculcates an appreciation of the importance and benefits of saving together.

Today, over 84% of students at HSCDC are involved in the project. Based on review sessions, 70% of the participating parents have developed a positive mindset and culture of saving. Many of them have also expressed their gratitude for the project, which both motivates and helps them kickstart savings for their children, and enables them to tap the CDA funds for their children’s childcare and healthcare expenses.

“The Tabung Project is a small gesture toward a more inclusive society,” explains Gerard Ee, Executive Director of Beyond Social Services, “For low-income families who find it difficult to meet household expenses let alone save, their children will not have much in their Child Development Account (CDA) to meet their educational and healthcare expenses. This project is trying to help them meet practical expenses for their children’s well-being.”

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