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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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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 www.cf.org.sg/what-we-support/.

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Stories Of Impact

#MyGivingJourney X Ivy Tse: Going the distance for youths 

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In our #MyGivingJourney series, CFS features extraordinary women in Singapore and their efforts in philanthropy. This story features Ivy Tse, CEO at Halogen Foundation Singapore.  

At 35, Ivy Tse must be one of the youngest CEOs around. But the unassuming head of Halogen Foundation Singapore quips that she is more a “Chief Everything Officer”. In a day, her job can take her from fundraising to building partnerships to staff development – or even tackling a problem with the office printer.  

A relatively small charity, Halogen runs on a team of about 21. Its mission is to transform the lives of disadvantaged young people through leadership, mentorship and entrepreneurship programmes. Ivy joined in 2012, when the team was about half its current size. And coming from global giant Procter & Gamble, she found she had to be a Jack of all trades in her new role organizing events at Halogen.  

“You have to be very resourceful. If there is an obstacle, you find a solution,” she says. “It was humbling.” People also questioned her decision to ditch a lucrative career path at P&G. “They said, it’s so hard to get in, why would you leave?” she recalls. Plus, there was the financial aspect: moving to the nonprofit sector meant taking a pay cut of a third.  

But the go-getter, who also describes herself as an idealist, was going through what youths now call a ‘quarter-life crisis’. She decided she wanted to immerse herself in work that counted. And she figured, “If it doesn’t work out, I can crawl back to the corporate sector and run twice as fast to make up for it!”  

Ten years on, the dynamic Ivy, who runs marathons in her spare time, shows no signs of slowing down. Nor any regrets building a career empowering young people. Seeing how Halogen’s dedicated volunteers and partners help shy, apprehensive teenagers gain access to the social capital and soft skills needed to thrive in a fast-evolving world has brought her a lot of gratification. The Foundation has created more resilient youngsters, reduced school dropout rates and developed leaders who have gone on to make a positive impact in their communities. 

Giving back has been a part of Ivy’s life since her school days. She chose CCAs that revolved around volunteer work such as Habitat for Humanity and Rotaract Club, while studying for a double degree in mechanical engineering and business at the National University of Singapore. She enjoyed hands-on volunteering but she also thrived on the organizational aspect of nonprofit work. And, she liked motivating people to participate in charitable causes and seeing them grow through that experience.  

“That’s what I get to do now at Halogen,” Ivy notes. Her job also sees her working with the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) which helps donors and grant makers understand what nonprofits like Halogen do and matches them. For example, CFS linked up UBS with Halogen and the financial institution has helped fund Halogen’s Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship programme. 

Ultimately, what Ivy is most proud of is growing and building a team that is really passionate about youth development. Her advice for young people who are mulling a career in social services? “It can really challenge you. It’s almost like being an entrepreneur,” she says. “And it is rewarding in so many ways.” 

Begin your own journey of giving with CFS. Read other inspiring stories of #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

Meet Singapore’s newer philanthropic foundations: They give millions, seeking to spark social change

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Lew Chee Beng (left) founded the Lew Foundation in 2015, while Chua Thian Poh and his siblings set up the Chua Foundation in 2015.

Self-made businessman Lew Chee Beng, 73, is giving away a substantial part of his fortune through a foundation. Since he founded the Lew Foundation in 2015, it has donated more than $12 million to charitable causes. Mr Yeo Puay Hin, the foundation’s executive director and Mr Lew’s son-in-law, said of his father-in-law: “He came from humble beginnings, so it’s about gratitude – to give back to society and helping those who are disadvantaged.”

The Lew Foundation was the 16th-largest philanthropic foundation here, giving out $2.8 million in donations in 2019, according to a recent report on the largest foundations here. Mr Lew, who has four children, built his wealth from a range of businesses, such as Soon Huat Goldsmith and pawnshop chain Shing Heng Group. The foundation’s main focus is to help the vulnerable elderly and young people, and it does so through supporting healthcare and social services serving these two groups. For example, it is supporting about five nursing homes, fulfilling Mr Lew’s late mother’s wish of setting up a nursing home.

The Lew Foundation is one of the newer foundations listed in a recent report by Soristic Impact Collective, a consultancy, that shed light on the largest philanthropic foundations here in terms of expenditure. The research found that foundations set up by some of Singapore’s richest men are among the top 10 biggest givers out of the 91 foundations here. The Lee Foundation, founded by the late rubber tycoon Lee Kong Chian in 1952, topped the list, disbursing $52 million in donations in its latest financial year. 

In total, the 91 foundations spent over $264 million in their latest financial year to support a variety of causes, from education and healthcare to people with disabilities and environmental causes. And beyond the big bucks the foundations are giving away, what is noteworthy is that about 40 per cent of the 91 foundations were registered as a charity since 2011, a Straits Times check found.

Soristic’s principal consultant Pauline Tan said the growing number of the very wealthy here and a growing interest in philanthropy are driving the rise in the number of foundations set up in the past decade. There is also a growing ecosystem to support philanthropy, she said.

This includes the Asia Philanthropy Circle, a platform for Asian philanthropists to collaborate and address social problems, and The Majurity Trust, which provides philanthropic advice and grants.

Among those registered as charities in the past decade are corporate foundations, such as Keppel Group’s Keppel Care Foundation and Changi Airport Group’s Changi Foundation. The Keppel Care Foundation was ranked 13th on the Soristic report, while Changi Foundation took the 20th spot.

Then, there are individuals who made good in life who set up foundations in the past decade.

They include the Chua Foundation (29th) and the TL Whang Foundation (57th). Property magnate Chua Thian Poh, founder of Ho Bee Group, and his siblings set up the Chua Foundation in 2015. The TL Whang Foundation, registered as a charity in 2019, was started with donations by Mr Whang Tar Liang and his family. He is the younger of two brothers who built up Lam Soon Group, known for its consumer goods such as the Knife brand cooking oil.

How philanthropy is practised here has changed, with more foundations and donors looking beyond giving out cheques to seeking to create a real impact or bring about social change. Many of them are a lot more invested in the projects they fund, from being involved in the design of the programme to measuring its impact, said those interviewed.

The Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) chief executive Catherine Loh said: “Donors are becoming more focused on strategic philanthropy, as opposed to outright charity. They see their donations as social investments that will bring about social change.”

“As such, they are more willing to provide longer-term support and willing to give a longer time horizon to allow change to occur.”

CFS enables donors who pledge at least $200,000 to set up a donor-advised fund. It manages the money, advises donors on the needs in the community and disburses the funds according to their wishes.

At the Quantedge Foundation, set up in 2015, its three full-time staff engage its community partners and beneficiaries to understand their needs, identify programmes to support, and assess the outcomes achieved.

Mr Suhaimi Zainul-Abidin, the foundation’s director, said: “We believe that philanthropy is uniquely positioned to take on calculated risks with innovative, untested approaches to solving social issues, so as to encourage experimentation by the social sector, demonstrate the viability of new ideas and drive longer-lasting change.”

Senior staff of Quantedge Capital, an investment management firm, donate annually to the Quantedge Foundation – “giving more in years when business is good and bonuses are high, and less in leaner times”, he added.

The foundation’s core focus is improving social mobility.

He said: “If we do not, collectively as a society, recognise that this is an issue that we should pay particular attention to, we may well sleepwalk into a stratified, divided society in the future.”

For example, Quantedge Foundation initiated talks with the Singapore Management University and Singapore University of Technology and Design to co-design and seed-fund an initiative, where financially needy Singaporean students will get a full financial aid package that makes their entire university education tuition free.

It also worked with a charity, Playeum, to pilot a series of science, technology, engineering, arts and maths workshops as an after-school developmental programme for children from lower-income families.

Since it was registered as a charity, the Quantedge Foundation has disbursed $7.4 million in grants and committed to giving another $8 million or so more.

The Soristic report ranked the Quantedge Foundation 22nd on its list, disbursing $2.3 million in grants in 2019.

Mr Suhaimi said: “In today’s knowledge-based, technologically driven capitalist society, the winners win by such a large margin that it is not quite right to keep all the gains without sharing some with the wider community.

“One of our hopes is that wealthy individuals, families and companies will find resonance in what the Quantedge Foundation is doing, and in time, give back to the society in their own way.”

If you have an interest in strategic philanthropy or would like to start a donor-advised fund with us, visit here.

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

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Stories Of Impact

Apex Harmony Lodge – Empowering dementia patients to live well

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Is dementia an inevitable part of ageing? Can nothing can be done to change its course?

Dementia patients are oft-times negatively perceived as ‘senile’ or ‘confused’, with little measures taken to empower patients to maintain an active mind. If their symptoms are ‘generalised’, this may lead to care that negates the patient’s individualised needs.

As Singapore’s first purpose-built lodge for dementia patients, Apex Harmony Lodge (AHL) views each patient as someone who is ‘beyond their condition’, and who can be empowered to live with dignity and well-being, explains Mahathir Rahim, former Community Engagement Executive at AHL.

Informed by the latest medical research as well as Person-Centred-Care (PCC) models of dementia care, each resident at AHL receives an individualised care plan, recognising their specific stage of dementia, background and personal interests.

This approach is especially relevant for patients with mild to moderate dementia, who comprise almost 70% of AHL’s 180 residents. For around 60 patients who are still mobile, they exhibit greater psychosocial needs, including maintaining identity, autonomy and socialisation.

Forming a key part of AHL’s care plan is a curated programme of activities that not only keeps patients engaged and happy, but also helps maintain brain plasticity for patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, a key finding in recent neuroscience research.

Tapping into two donor funds via the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), AHL has been able to scale its programmes to benefit more residents and sustain engagement levels in recent years. The funding has also helped AHL diversify its programmes to cater to the niche needs of its residents.

Take for instance AHL’s ‘Ignite My Life’ programme: its variety of recreational and learning activities are tailored to the abilities and interests of residents, enabling them to live well. This includes equine-assisted therapy, where residents who display an affinity for animals get to interact with rescued horses. The initiative has benefited more than 20 residents so far, who delight in bonding with the horses. For residents who enjoy cooking, a baking programme enables them to take part in monthly sessions, whipping up a spread shared with fellow residents. This helps to boost their self esteem as they learn to create something on their own and share their successes with others.

AHL has also tapped into CFS’s Outing for Seniors Community Impact Fund to expand its number of outings to local museums, Gardens by the Bay and even on Duck Tours, greatly benefiting a pool of residents who are immobile. Such outings often require significant manpower, with each resident assisted by one volunteer or staff. Getting funding support has helped AHL to manage the significant transportation and food costs incurred, thereby bringing outings to more of its residents.

AHL’s efforts to offer personalised programmes for dementia patients has been recognised by not just the residents, but also their families. “The families are very impressed by the unique programmes we provide, especially for patients who aren’t able to move on their own,” expresses Mahathir.

Bryan Lim, AHL’s current Community Engagement Executive, adds, “At the end of the day, it’s about honouring the human being and helping retain one’s dignity. Instead of telling a patient what he can or cannot do, we give them a chance to explore their capabilities.”

Photos: Apex Harmony Lodge
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Stories Of Impact

Helping migrant workers with a home and a heart

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Happy group of individuals posing with a 'home' sign.

When Li Meimei*, a single mother of two young children from Chongqing, China came to Singapore last year, she had hoped to be able to work to pay off the loan of RMB 200,000 (SGD 40,000) which she had taken out in her home country.

However, she got far more than she had bargained for when she started working for a beauty and massage parlour in Singapore. Not only did Li have to pay kickback to her employer, she was also coerced to perform illicit acts for customers. When Li refused, she was punished with menial labour such as cleaning and clearing out rubbish.

While working, Li suffered a fall and fractured her tailbone. Her employer was unsympathetic, and after discovering that Li would take a long time to recover, cancelled her work permit and attempted to repatriate her without compensation of salary or returning her kickback.

Eventually, Li managed to seek reprieve when she approached the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME). HOME is supported by the Migrants Emergency Assistance and Support (MEANS), a Community Impact Fund (CIF) managed by the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS). HOME provided Li with shelter, food and a transport allowance, even paying for her medical bills which allowed her to continue treatment for her injury.

Singapore is host to more than a million low-skilled and semi-skilled migrant workers from countries in the region, and many of these workers experience similar situations faced by Li Meimei. Unpaid salaries, overwork, physical and psychological abuse are the problems that some of these men and women have to endure during their employment in Singapore. A significant number of migrant workers are also victims of forced labour and human trafficking.

Through CFS’s casework team, HOME was able to assist 1,400 marginalised migrant workers in 2019. Out of that number, 409 workers were provided with financial assistance to pay for temporary accommodation, seek medical care and buy food. CFS disbursed a grant of over $47,500 in June 2019 using donations via Giving.sg. Such financial assistance is also extended to support male migrant workers who are evicted from their dormitories, or for migrant workers to purchase flight tickets and bus rides to reach their home countries safely.

HOME received IPC charity status in 2004, and continues to be one of the few organisations in Singapore that provides support to migrant workers and is dedicated to upholding their rights. Their efforts are primarily directed towards the welfare and empowerment of migrant workers, which are focused on but not limited to shelter, transport, crisis support, skills development, counselling and medical needs.

*not her real name

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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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