Stories Of Impact
#MyGivingJourney X Corinna Lim: From legal advocate to leading gender equality advocate 
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Stories Of Impact

Stories Of Impact

#MyGivingJourney X Corinna Lim: From legal advocate to leading gender equality advocate 

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The #MyGivingJourney is a series by CFS where stories of remarkable women in the philanthropy sector are being told. In this story, we feature Corrina Lim, Executive Director at AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research). 

Serendipity played a big part in Corinna Lim becoming Singapore’s leading advocate for gender equality. She was working as a lawyer when a colleague who was pregnant asked if she would like to take her place providing free legal advice in a community centre. It was the early 1990s and opportunities for pro bono work were very limited.  

Every month, Corinna listened to the problems of women who were dealing with family violence, unfaithful husbands, husbands who did not support the family or ex-spouses who reneged on maintenance commitments. “It gave me so much satisfaction to be able to help these women. I was dispensing fairly basic legal advice but they felt heard and were extremely grateful for my pragmatic approach,” she says.  

The work was so fulfilling that she joined AWARE, the Association of Women for Action and Research, when they opened their legal clinic in 1992. Twice a month, after a long day’s work, she would offer advice, hope and empathy to women about their legal rights and options. “But rather than feeling depleted after these sessions, I always felt energised,” she says. 

AWARE’s work struck a chord with Corinna because they tackled issues at the individual level as well as at the systemic level too, chipping away at barriers to gender equality. In 2010, almost 20 years after first signing on as a volunteer at AWARE, she left her corporate law career to become the first executive director of Singapore’s leading gender equality advocacy group. 

As she sees it, AWARE has made an immense impact by pioneering, in 2011, sexual assault support for survivors and creating awareness of the challenges faced by survivors here. AWARE has also helped change laws which have resulted in more effective protection from harassment and more equal benefits for single parents. Its advocacy work has also contributed to the repeal of marital rape immunity and decriminalisation of attempted suicide. 

AWARE also works closely with the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), which has long supported groups that help single mothers and marginalised women. Over the years, CFS has regularly facilitated grants from its donors to AWARE, including the recent grant call from Sayang Sayang Fund. Aside from this, CFS also collaborates with AWARE on research, most notably on a nationwide study on minimum household incomes.   

Although she studied for a career in law, Corinna knew from a very young age that she wanted to give back to society. Right out of university, she started a small enterprise to make products out of recycled paper. Later, even as she plugged away at a law firm, it was pro bono work that engaged her. “I did not find meaning practising as a lawyer, representing banks and corporations in their claims against smaller companies or individuals,” she says. Instead, she found her calling in NGO work. “Doing the work has made me a more empathetic and better human being,” says Corinna. 

Begin your own journey of giving with CFS. Read more stories from #MyGivingJourney series here. 

This article was written by Sunita Sue Leng, a former financial analyst and journalist, who believes that the written word can be a force for good. She hopes to someday write something worth plagiarising. 

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News

The Straits Times: The new philanthropists in town

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A man seated on a stool against a vibrant wall, exuding a lively ambiance.

by Theresa Tan, 26 June 2016

There is also a growing number of donors who have started charitable funds parked under groups like the Community Foundation of Singapore and the SymAsia Foundation. Both charities manage their donors’ funds and disburse them to each donor’s chosen causes, thus saving the donors the cost and effort of starting their own foundation. A sum of at least $200,000 is required to set up a charitable fund with the Community Foundation, and 82 funds have been formed since it was set up in 2008.

…..Also giving to a specific cause are Mr and Mrs William Bird. They pledged $1 million, through the Community Foundation of Singapore, for outings for frail seniors to attractions such as Gardens by the Bay and the zoo. Mr Bird, a Briton who is now a Singapore citizen, is 70 years old. He made his money from the logistics business. His and his wife Mary have three grown-up children.

While visiting some elderly people whom they helped, the couple realised that such seniors felt lonely and isolated, as they were unable to go out. Mr Bird says: “We were affected by the fact that the seniors had such a poor quality of life, and thought more could be done for them to enjoy the golden times of their lives.”

Each year since the Outing for the Elderly Fund was set up in 2010, about 1,600 elderly people a year have benefited. They especially love to visit supermarkets, where they are given $20 to buy whatever they want.

Mr George Phua, a 79-year-old resident of the Ling Kwang Home for Senior Citizens, was taken to a Giant supermarket last month. He was delighted to buy his favourite coffee and chocolates. He tells The Sunday Times: “It’s wonderful.”

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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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Events

CFS Celebrates 15 Years of Enabling Philanthropy

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On 14th February 2024, CFS marked its 15th Anniversary with a Chinese New Year “Lohei” (Prosperity Toss) celebration. The event was graced by Mr Alvin Tan, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, and Minister of State for Trade and Industry, and gathered nearly 160 donors, charity partners, and business associates, both longstanding and new.

As a community foundation, we aspire to champion effective philanthropy with purposeful and informed givers, to uplift lives and catalyse positive change. We want to build communities that care and thrive together.

Unveiling the Sayang Sayang Fund Report was a great way to mark our 15th year, as it displayed the power of collective impact and love for our community. Established as an emergency response fund at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to support vulnerable groups, the Sayang Sayang Fund (SSF) impacted the lives of over 401,000 beneficiaries in Singapore. In a span of three years, an impressive $9.7 million was raised, showcasing the remarkable generosity and willingness of the community to offer their support.

As a philanthropic advisor and grantmaker, CFS links donors with well-governed charities that champion the causes closest to their hearts, to offer funding for beneficiaries to thrive. Two SSF grantees, ITE and Care Corner Singapore, shared about their programmes for lower-income students and children with learning difficulties and special needs respectively. Guests were then charmed by a captivating performance by two talented scholars from The TENG Company, which is also a CFS grantee for their Music for Wellness and Comfort initiative. 12-year-old Li Zhixin took command of the stage with a melodic piece on the Ruan, while Ee Anzhi, aged 11, held the audience in awe by masterfully sustaining a long tone on the Dizi using the highly challenging technique of circular breathing.

Q&A segment with Sayang Sayang Fund Grantees from Care Corner, Mr Christian Chao (left) and ITE, Mr Aw York Bin (right)
Li Zhixin, scholar from The TENG Company performing on the Ruan
Ee Anzhi, scholar from The TENG Company, performing on the Dizi

As the luncheon drew to a close, Ms Radha Basu, Senior Director of the Centre of Applied Philanthropy (CAP) at CFS invited donors and partners to participate in The Collective for a Stronger Society. Convened by CFS in partnership with MFS and Community Chest, the Collective will bring together donors, non-profits, public and private organisations to offer a coordinated series of cross-sector programmes and initiatives to uplift, enable and empower lower-income families. Find out more here.

We extend our gratitude to everyone who contributed to making this event a successful and memorable one. Here’s to many more years of impactful giving!

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Stories Of Impact

Shining a light on early childhood literacy

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Our donors have long been a pillar of support for the charity SHINE Children and Youth Services, especially their Reading Odyssey. This programme builds reading skills and confidence in disadvantaged children. CFS is commemorating 15 years of giving and this story is one of a three-part series that highlights the strong relationships CFS has fostered with charities over the years.

While most children in Singapore are able to read when they start primary school, some have very limited literacy skills. This could be due to challenging personal circumstances or undiagnosed learning difficulties in their earlier years. The problem is that this limitation immediately sets them back from their peers academically.  

Reading Odyssey to the rescue

SHINE Children and Youth Services bridges this gap through a volunteer-supported reading programme called Reading Odyssey. The programme struck a chord with us at the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) and with several of our donors keen to support educational causes. It goes beyond nurturing skills like word recognition. It also builds confidence and hope for these children, who tend to suffer from low self-esteem. 

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

“Through CFS’s strategic efforts in garnering support from funders, the programme was able to partner with more community groups and agencies to expand its reach from four to seven communities in 2018,” notes Geraldine Low, Director of SHINE’s Educational Psychology Service. 

By 2022, this empowering initiative had grown to cover 13 communities, benefitting over 800 primary school students. It amassed a formidable pool of over 800 volunteers, who patiently guide the children with their reading, widen their exposure to genres and topics, and spur them to become lifelong learners. Reading Odyssey also draws on learning support experts to provide specialised guidance to children who may have conditions like dyslexia.

A partnership that works

It can be a challenge to seek support for children in the community with learning or reading difficulties that are ‘hidden’ and whose needs are easily misunderstood. We appreciate CFS who has been open and committed to journey alongside the team to seek clarity on needs and programme intervention, provide feedback, and actively position the programme to relevant funders.

CFS’s partnership with SHINE dates back to 2010, during our formative years as the nation’s first community foundation. The charity, founded in 1976, provides an array of services including educational psychology, school-based social work, therapy and mental health. To date, a total of 105 contributions amounting to over $5.5 million have been made by generous CFS donors. 

“The donations from CFS have provided a stable and reliable source of funding. This has allowed SHINE to continue operating and delivering vital services to children and youth without interruption,” says Geraldine, adding that the money has also helped SHINE develop new initiatives and explore innovative approaches to their programmes.

A common vision

The powerful work done by SHINE falls under one of our five focal areas for grant making: Accessing Quality Education. We believe holistic, quality education can help break the poverty cycle for low-income families and improve social mobility. We partner with a wide range of charities and educational institutions to help every child receive a good, well-rounded education. 

For donors who want to make a difference in early childhood education, we introduce them to programmes like Reading Odyssey, which advances child literacy as well as social inclusivity in Singapore.

“By pooling knowledge and experiences, initiatives that are evidence-based, culturally sensitive and tailored to the unique needs of the beneficiaries can be designed and implemented,” says Geraldine.

That is why SHINE hopes to continue working closely with CFS and to explore long-term funding strategies with CFS, so it can make even more of a lasting impact.

We are proud of our long-term relationship with SHINE and are committed to working with like-minded charities to create a greater impact on the lives of children in underserved communities under the CFS cause Accessing Quality Education. 

CFS is celebrating our anniversary throughout 2023—15 years of empowering donors to make a meaningful impact. Since our inception in 2008, we have received over S$292 million in donations in Singapore and disbursed over S$157 million in grants to over 400 charity partners.  

To discover how you can make a difference, please visit www.cf.org.sg/contact-us/get-in-touch/ 

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Events

Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) Family Office Circle Webinar: Philanthropy in Singapore and the Region

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The Community Foundation of Singapore’s (CFS) CEO, Ms. Catherine Loh, was invited to speak at a virtual closed-door Family Office Circle event titled Philanthropy in Singapore and the Region on the 22nd of July, organised by the MAS-EDB Family Office Development Team[1] in partnership with the Asia Philanthropy Circle (APC) and CFS.    

The event was attended by 55 international and local participants, involving single family offices and family foundations who had either set up or are setting up a presence in Singapore.

Ms. Kelly Teo, Deputy Director and Head of MAS’ Banking Development Division, observed in her opening remarks that there was an increasing interest among single family offices, especially those involving the next-generation, to give back to society such as through  philanthropy. This sentiment is corroborated by the UBS Family Office report 2020 which found that philanthropy is becoming the most important activity by the time of the third generation. However, many were unsure about how to start and who to give to. The Family Office Circle event was hence organised to share with single family offices about the philanthropy landscape and giving opportunities in Singapore and the region.

The crucial role of Philanthropy in Singapore

CFS’s CEO Ms Catherine Loh participated in a fireside chat, hosted by Ms. Stacey Choe, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of APC on Singapore’s philanthropy landscape, its gaps and opportunities.

Catherine spoke about the need for philanthropy in Singapore, despite being widely regarded as a wealthy country. She explained that due to the widening income gap, social inequality is deepened in our society, and philanthropic donations are needed to provide relief to those in need and to find long term solutions to reduce social inequality. 

While Singapore does not have absolute poverty, relative poverty is a concern here. Research has shown that a family of 4 needs between S$2,500 to $2,950 a month in gross household income to live decently. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the lower income more seriously than those with higher incomes.  The lower income and less educated are likely to find it challenging to pivot and adapt to a workplace that is changing due to technological advancements.   

Singapore also requires solutions to a rapidly ageing society.  Other critical areas of need would be looking at issues related to mental health and environment.  All these issues are critical to the future stability of Singapore.

When asked about how we could support those who are most in need, Catherine answered that she would prefer donors to ask what kind of social change they would like to see instead. She said that asking that question would lead to effecting long term change, for instance, helping the poor to get out of the poverty cycle.

Catherine also extolled the benefits of participating in philanthropy, citing that families who engage in it together are happier and pass down shared values to the next generation. Philanthropy also reduces the income gap and promotes cohesion in countries, and benefits the rest of the region as well through exchange of expertise and the replication of successful philanthropic pilot programs.

A Donor’s Giving Journey

Catherine was delighted to have Mr. Govind Bommi, the Founder and Chairman of Filtrex Holding Pte. Ltd, to share his inspiring giving journey as a donor of CFS and what motivated him to give.

CFS donor Mr. Govind Bommi came from very humble beginnings. He was born in Bangalore, India, to a family of six children who lived off a single income.

Despite his family’s modest background, it was his mother’s generosity towards the beggars who came to his house in the evenings that made the deepest impression on him. It was her philosophy towards helping others that struck a chord with him and formed the basis of his own giving nature, leading to the founding of the Andal Cares Fund, named in honor of his mother.

Mr. Bommi now considers Singapore his home, after moving here 20 years ago. He set up a water filtration and purification company, and says it’s best to participate in the community that one lives in and find out how best you can help others. Currently, Mr Bommi’s Andal Cares Fund is administered and managed by CFS, and supports rehabilitation programmes by the Metta Association. 

The Philanthropy Landscape in the region and its opportunities

The CEO of APC, Ms. Mafruza Khan gave an introduction to APC and the work that they do while COO Ms. Stacey Choe spoke about the philanthropy landscape in the region, its key trends and opportunities to build a better Asia through philanthropy together. She also shared about the unique challenges that philanthropists faced in Asia and suggested how philanthropists can convene together and collaborate to catalyze the necessary changes.

If you would like to learn more about philanthropy giving in Singapore, read here.

[1] A strategic partnership between the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Singapore Economic Development Board.

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