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CFS’s Lala Café Series: Befriending Stress
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CFS’s Lala Café Series: Befriending Stress

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CFS’s Lala Café is an employee engagement series for everyone at CFS to learn, socialise and rejuvenate.

For the October edition of LaLa Café, we had the pleasure of having Chai Lee Fong, a consultant at Lifeskills Institute, Joyce Tan, a clinical dietitian, and Liew Wei Yong, a fitness coach to share with us practical tips and advice on how to “Befriend Stress & Build Cognitive Fitness Through Diet and Strength”.

Lee Fong first led us through an engaging discussion on what is stress, and how to deal effectively with it. She shared that potential daily stressors could trigger 2 types of stress: acute stress vs chronic stress. Acute stress, being the stress we experience due to a sudden calamity befallen upon us or a temporary event, triggers in us a “fight, flight, freeze” response to stress. On the other hand, chronic stress is worse in that one could experience buildup of such stress, or to put it in Lee Fong’s words, the “drip drip drip effect” and hence cause burnout.

Lee Fong shared several stress management methods such as adopting a positive mindset. This could result in 3 key advantages, namely: growth, resilience and strength in us on the whole. She advocated that for every event, with a positive outlook, we could then cope better. For example, she suggested to view the pandemic from another lens, as something that previous generations have not had the chance to experience, and with this whole new light, it did seem like it was something special rather than catastrophic, proving that her method of taking on a positive view worked! She accentuated to all of us that stress can cause damage to the brain, such as the hippocampus. 

After Lee Fong’s wonderful sharing, we learnt more from Joyce who shared about nutrition and mental health.

Joyce shared in-depth knowledge on the different types of fat and sugars to avoid to prevent ourselves from going on a blood sugar rollercoaster, some hidden within our food and even our sauces! Many of us jumped at the chance and bombarded her with questions on what oils to use, whether plant-based milk was a better choice etc. She patiently answered all our questions and enlightened us on the truths behind certain myths such as brown rice and whole meal grains. 

She also shared more about one thing many working adults are obsessed with – coffee! Mainly she shared alternatives to sugars we could use in our coffee, such as Stevia, and advised against aspartame, as it is an artificial sweetener that could trick our tongue but not our brain. 

The session ended off with a live fitness demo by Wei Yong, who showed us numerous core exercises we could easily do at home using a chair or against a wall, as strengthening our core would benefit our strength and resilience as a whole and improve our brain health. She also demonstrated a few stretching exercises that would benefit us after sitting in front of the computer for long periods of time, which many of us were thankful and applauded her for. 

CFS takes pride in supporting our employees’ mental health and overall wellness, and supports mental health funds such as Mind The Gap 200. 

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News

‘I thought I couldn’t go through any more of it’: Cancer patient gets help after insurer says ‘no’ to $33k bill

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Good Samaritans have stepped forward to help a cancer patient, who hopes to spend more quality time with her 15-year-old daughter while keeping the disease at bay.

The drug that Ms Koh Ee Miang, 45, needs to control the spread of her cancer is expensive, and her insurance company has refused to pay for it – leaving her with an outstanding bill of more than $33,000 for treatment carried out between November and January.

Hard-pressed to pay for the drug, she stopped the treatment in January and reverted to basic chemotherapy. Her cancer markers jumped 50 per cent and her tumour grew.

Her oncologist, Dr Choo Su Pin of Curie Oncology, put her back on the targeted therapy treatment and offered to let her pay in instalments. Said Dr Choo: “The treatment works. Do I stop her medicine?”

The drug not only slows the spread of the cancer, it also reduces pain and has fewer side effects than chemotherapy.

Both patient and doctor were in a quandary over the high cost of the treatment after insurers rejected the claim.

Ms Koh is a housewife who says she hopes to take her 15-year-old daughter on a holiday to leave her with “happy memories” since the prognosis for her cancer, which is fourth stage, is not good – with only 2 per cent surviving five years.

The story of her plight in The Straits Times has resulted in several offers of help.

The Community Foundation of Singapore, set up in 2008 to encourage and enable philanthropy, reached out to the Emma Yong Fund – named after one of the stars of the musical cabaret group Dim Sum Dollies, who died of stomach cancer at the age of 36 – for help.

The Fund agreed to pay the $33,000 bill that was outstanding.

Fund administrator Selena Tan said though the fund was set up to help theatre practitioners, she was happy to extend the help to Ms Koh.

“Knowing Emma’s legacy and desire to help patients with cancer, it felt right to help cover 100 per cent of Ms Koh’s medical bills so that she can focus on her treatment and recovery, and not feel distressed by her bills,” she said.

Several readers also offered smaller sums to help defray the cost.

And AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company that produces the Enhertu drug she now needs, has offered to provide her with it. It costs about $10,000 per treatment. However, this is subject to certain compliance issues, which Dr Choo is hoping to resolve.

A grateful Ms Koh said: “Their kindness helps me feel less alone. And just when I thought I couldn’t go through anymore of it (it has been two years of chemotherapy treatment and its side effects), they help me push on in spite of weariness.”

She would like to thank all the “generous people whom I’ve never met” for their kind offers. She will not be accepting their offers, since help from the Emma Yong Fund and AstraZeneca is enough for her to continue with the treatment.

Ms Koh suffers from a rare cancer – human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 positive (HER2+) bile duct cancer – which afflicts about one in 3,500 cancer patients.

After it was diagnosed in June 2020, Dr Choo first put Ms Koh on standard chemotherapy treatment. When she stopped responding to the treatment, a second choice was used, but this too was not able to stop the spread of the cancer.

Oncologists say there are no standard treatments beyond this.

Dr Choo decided to put her on a drug that targets the HER2 protein, which causes cancers to spread much faster, to try to contain the disease. It worked.

But Great Eastern, the insurer with whom Ms Koh has a private hospital as-charged Integrated Shield Plan (IP), as well as a rider that pays the full cost of her portion of the bill, refused to pay for the new treatment.

GE said the IP contract has a clause saying it covers only drugs that have been approved for specific illnesses. The drug she was put on has only been approved by the Health Sciences Authority for HER+ breast cancer, and not for bile duct cancer.

More than a dozen oncologists The Straits Times spoke to said it is difficult to conduct large scale clinical trials for rare cancers – since patient numbers are low. And all said they do use drugs “off-label” – meaning the drug has been approved here, but not for that specific cancer, especially for the less common cancers.

Drug companies often feel the returns are not worth the cost and work required to seek approvals from regulators for such low numbers.

Dr Choo, who was chief of Gastrointestinal Oncology at National Cancer Centre Singapore before leaving for private practice in 2018, said there are some small-scale studies showing that the drug does work on the type of cancer Ms Koh has.

Insurers offering IP plans, which are integrated with MediShield Life, are divided on coverage of drugs which doctors think might help, but which are not specifically approved by the HSA.

At least three – AIA, Income and AXA – say they would cover such drugs. The Ministry of Health (MOH) said the basic MediShield Life national health insurance would also pay, subject to a monthly cap of $3,000.

This article was originally published in The Straits Times here. Source: The Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

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News

Beyond cultural philanthropy: The art of making a difference

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Last month’s Patron of the Arts event was a spot of sunlight at a time of gloomy Covid-19 headlines. The fact that Singaporeans – individuals as well as corporations – are still strongly supporting our arts groups in cash donations as well as with in-kind gifts was a heartening takeaway for everyone who cares for the arts and cultural scene in our country.

The annual awards – alongside a similar counterpart in the heritage sector – are a meaningful way to thank those who have been generous to the cultural landscape. And I am sure patrons also enjoy being in the limelight for an evening and being recognised for the vital support that they give to Singapore’s culture.

Cultural philanthropy is important for sustainability in the sector as it complements the grants given by the Government and the income that groups earn from ticket sales, classes and other programming.

However, while awards may recognise more significant donors, in reality, everyone can play a part, and arts companies appreciate all contributions, big or small. The income tax deduction also serves as an added incentive.

But beyond philanthropic giving, there are numerous other ways Singaporeans support the cultural scene. For starters, there are the skilled but unpaid volunteers who help out in many arts companies, serving on the board or on one of the committees. Today, with many arts companies being charities and some even Institutions of Public Character, which can collect tax-exempt donations, the boards have the important role of ensuring compliance with the latest codes of governance.

Fortunately, many of our leading arts companies have volunteers from the corporate world, including bankers, lawyers and accountants, who can contribute their expertise and ensure companies are well run, with funds from donors and grant-givers accounted for.

Sometimes, where necessary, they even mediate the relationship between the artistic team and company’s administrators who manage the purse strings.

Supporting artists’ works

It is also important to remember philanthropic giving typically benefits these arts charities. So any largesse may not benefit the freelance musicians, creative writers and visual artists, unless they receive commissions from the companies.

That is why there is another kind of patron who should be recognised. These patrons visit the artists’ studios, check what they are working on, and acquire or commission new works as a show of support. This is not philanthropy that attracts tax deductions, but such patrons have been instrumental in sustaining the careers of the visual artists, especially in the early days of their practice.

One sterling example of how one individual can make a difference is architect, art collector and former chairman of the National Gallery Singapore Koh Seow Chuan. His support of, and genuine interest in, Singaporean artists from pioneer painters like Cheong Soo Pieng to young contemporary artists, is well known and documented in Singapore’s art history. Singapore needs more committed patrons like Mr Koh.

Corporations, too, can give work to home-grown artists through active commissioning. For example, Raffles Hotel, as part of its reopening earlier this year, commissioned a playwright and theatre practitioners to create a virtual whodunnit set on the hotel’s beautiful grounds.

Co-owning the arts

But why is giving to the arts important in the first place? Why can’t the Government just fund and take care of everything? Well, that is because the arts should be co-owned by the people, even if there is strong government support. This model also ensures a diversity of artistic expressions and encourages more ground-up creations.

For individuals who step up and offer their time, energy and financial wherewithal, I suggest that they are driven by a deeper desire beyond a personal love for an art form. They clearly understand that art created from the community has something unique to say about the world we live in, conveyed through an artist’s sense of aesthetics or personal philosophy.

Such individuals also appreciate how the arts can inspire, restore weary spirits, and bring joy to people. Thus, by enabling artists or arts groups, these engaged individuals enrich the larger community and by extension, the nation.

For those with both ambition and resources, individuals have even galvanised like-minded people with diverse skills to start an arts company. Two relatively new organisations that have made significant strides in recent years are the Jazz Association, which develops and promotes home-grown jazz talents, and Re:Sound Collective, which programmes excellent chamber music for classical music lovers.

This is the spirit we need to harness in the Singapore of tomorrow. Certainly, the Government has signalled that it welcomes more partnerships with the private and people sectors, and no doubt, it has the resources to enable growth. This, of course, means a joint ownership of the arts and the attendant challenges in artistic excellence and audience development.

For those with the interest, skills or financial means but have no idea how to navigate and support the cultural scene, here are some practical suggestions.

The National Volunteer And Philanthropy Centre provides a service that matches skilled volunteers with leadership roles in non-profit organisations, including arts companies. First-timers can always start with event-based volunteerism, or by serving on a sub-committee, before offering to contribute on a board.

For those with more substantial financial means, they can approach the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), which can advise them on how to start a fund to support the cultural scene.

The CFS has helped donors set up charitable trusts with an interest in giving to the arts, among other priorities, on a sustained basis. In particular, newly settled entrepreneurs or business owners from overseas could consider this both to support and better understand the Singaporean cultural fabric.

One area Singapore can do better is in how the Government and an active citizenry can jointly identify the gaps in specific sectors, and establish ways to work together on solutions and co-deliver the outcomes. The Government should not be expected to have its finger on the pulse of every part of society, and indeed may not also be in the best place to respond to every challenge.

Timely questions

For the arts, this is a timely question as the National Arts Council takes stock of its first five-year arts master plan and looks ahead to its next.

Should grooming pop music talent for export or developing community arts for positive social outcomes be a priority? What about adapting our home-grown literature across multimedia or facilitating more translations? And importantly, how can the people sector jointly own these priority areas?

The approach here applies to other parts of society as well – from the social sector to sports and the environment. A trusting partnership between the Government and committed citizens will lead to Singaporeans proactively owning challenges and gaps in specific sectors, encourage experimentation on new approaches while providing greater clarity to private funders and skilled volunteers on where to focus their energies.

Successful partnerships will also reduce duplication and inefficiencies, such as having too many parties with similar missions or chasing after the same demographic to provide services.

As existing non-profit companies make an objective assessment of their future and relevance to their stakeholders, government agencies will also need to reflect on how much more space they can cede to support the growth of the people sector to achieve such strong partnerships.

This will be critical for a resilient citizenry, as society matures and the people continue to grapple with the pernicious impact of a protracted pandemic.

  • Paul Tan is the former deputy chief executive of the National Arts Council and serves on a few boards of non-profit arts companies in Singapore.

If you would like to start your journey of effective giving, 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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Opinion

Governance is a continuous journey for charities

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A man and woman proudly display an award at a charity transparency and governance event, symbolizing their recognition for outstanding achievements.

By Trillion So

EARLIER this month I attended the Charity Transparency and Governance Award dinner organised by the Charity Council. It was a proud moment for the charities that received the Charities Transparency Awards (CTA) 2019, which ranged from small, medium to large, all 67 of them.

I sit on the board of Community Foundation Singapore (CFS) and chair its Audit and Risk Committee (ARC). CFS received the CTA for the Large Category and Special Commendation Award (SCA) 2019 for Governance and Management.

As the ARC chair of CFS, I felt a sense of achievement; at the same time recognising that this could only be done with the focus and team work between management, staff, board and board committee members. As a winner in the Large Category, CFS was up against many worthy, well-established organisations with a bigger staff strength. This shows that good governance, transparency and management, can be achieved by everyone, as long as the right ingredients are present.

There is no one magic ingredient.  Some key considerations are:

Consider the size, age, purpose, funding model and future growth plans of the organisation first;

Which aspects of good governance are critical now, and which will become important in three years’ time?

Identify skills, resources and people needed to effectively implement new or changed governance and management processes/systems; and

Plan and coordinate any changes within appropriate timeframes – a practical timetable for phasing in new practices is better than hasty reaction

Corporate governance is a journey towards building trust and confidence with key stakeholders, alongside having a mindset of acting with integrity. The beauty of a journey is that you never stand still. You will strive for continuous improvement and enhancement. Improved governance will result in improved public image and transparency, which then motivates the community to give more time and money, and ultimately increase the benefits of the beneficiaries.

Reflecting on CFS’s journey, the board members are of diverse backgrounds and set the right tone from the top. Management takes all recommendations from internal auditors and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) very seriously.

I recall one of the reviews by MCCY a while back revealed that CFS did not have an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) framework. Management immediately embarked on a project assisted by an external consultant to adopt ERM.

With the ERM, it is very clear which are the top risks, what can be done to mitigate the risks and whether any new risks have emerged so that actions can be taken to reduce the risks. It was not a one-off effort, but a continuous and purposeful deployment of ERM, up to today, which yielded results. The Audit Committee then transformed into the ARC from that point onwards, to ensure there is focus on both audit and risks. This is just one example of the continuous enhancement culture that is important for good corporate governance.

What’s next for the charities after receiving the CTA 2019? How do they continue on this corporate governance journey? What should they do differently?

One area that will disrupt business as usual for charities is: new technologies and the digital economy. Charities are starting to use Blockchain technology to ensure donors’ monies are spent on the right programmes and right recipients, including visibility and impact monitoring. Board members of charities need to think about their digital strategy and the risks involved in going digital.

CYBER RISK

Cyber risk is very real and can destroy the reputation of a charity and negate the good work it is doing, bringing it to a standstill if not properly managed. As an audit partner, I have noticed that cyber risk is fast becoming the top risk in most organisations. The Code of Governance issued by the Charity Council requires charities to build up their image to be consistent with its objectives and so charities will have to think of performing vulnerability assessments and penetration tests where applicable.

If charities tap on this area, they will increase productivity and enhance governance. Charities can harness the power of data analytics to perform continuous monitoring, gain insights and highlight areas to investigate. For example, in the area of procurement and payments, insights such as duplicate payments, split payments, early or late payments, and similar bank accounts between vendor and staff, will be red flags worth following up. The beauty of data analytics is that it combs through 100 per cent of the data and can be done continuously. Once set up, it can improve efficiency and effectiveness of internal controls, and is a great tool of oversight.

However, most charities would not have the expertise to start a data analytics programme and it may be costly too. I echo what Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, said in her speech at the Charity Transparency and Governance Awards. She mentioned that charities and the community should collaborate to serve Singaporeans better, and to engage new partners and harness community resources.

There is a call, therefore, for people with technology, digital, data analytics and cybersecurity skillsets to step up and volunteer in the charities sector to help make a difference. Perhaps the CSR programmes of corporates should include placing their people with such expertise to sit in charity boards or committees, as well as collaborate in the partnership with charities and government.

I also hope that the recipients of the CTA Awards pay it forward by mentoring other charities in the corporate governance space, and for larger charities to play a bigger role in the charities sector, especially in the technology and digital space to enhance the corporate governance more efficiently and effectively.

The writer is partner at PwC Singapore and board member of Community Foundation of Singapore, where she also chairs its Audit and Risk Committee 

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited

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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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Opinion

Pragmatic reasons to engage In philanthropy

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John Doe
Elderly man lying on grass with sign.

Educator George Jacobs became involved in philanthropy because he wanted to put his money where his mouth is. As someone who feels strongly about contributing to greater food security in Singapore, the passionate advocate for a vegan lifestyle established the Relaxed Fund to promote horticulture in the little red dot.

“My wife and I wanted to encourage people to eat more plant-based foods, as these foods boost human health and address global warming issues. One way to convince people to change their diets is to immerse them in growing greens themselves, so they feel a sense of ownership. Thus, they want the greens to find a good home — in their stomachs,” he says.

In partnership with the Community Foundation of Singapore, which enables philanthropy by matching donors’ interests with causes, the Relaxed Fund has thus far spearheaded the launch of three edible community gardens. Jacobs regards these gardens as a tangible step towards increasing the country’s self-reliance on food, saying, “The government has a 30 by 30 goal, for Singapore to produce 30 per cent of our food needs by 2030. Everyone needs to help if we are to reach this goal and home and community gardening is one method of achieving the target.”

Practically speaking, there is a need for the wealthy, particularly in Asia, to step forward the way Jacobs has. “Asia has amassed one-third of the world’s wealth, but still has two-thirds of the world’s poor,” says Dr Ruth Shapiro, chief executive officer of the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society (CAPS).

Practically speaking, there is a need for the wealthy, particularly in Asia, to step forward the way Jacobs has. “Asia has amassed one-third of the world’s wealth, but still has two-thirds of the world’s poor,” says Dr Ruth Shapiro, chief executive officer of the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society (CAPS).

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, international support is on a gradual decline, which means an “Asia for Asia” centric philanthropy has to fill the gap, the Doing Good Index, the latest study by CAPS indicates. “There is now a unique opportunity to use this newly created wealth to alleviate poverty, protect the environment and promote societal resilience,” Dr Shapiro adds.

The advantage of philanthropy in its various forms is that it enables donors to steer the impact they hope to achieve in their field of interest. “Many donors who come to us already have a passion for a particular cause,” explains Catherine Loh, chief executive officer of the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS). To date, its donors have given about $70 million to over 400 non-profit organisations in the areas of education, health, social and welfare, arts, culture, environment and more. “While charity is a natural, emotional impulse to an immediate situation and giving usually occurs in the short-term, philanthropy addresses the root cause of social issues and requires a more strategic, long-term approach.”

She cites former president SR Nathan, who established an education endowment fund with CFS after he stepped down as president, spurred by his personal experiences of overcoming hardships. The endowment fund has since helped many beneficiaries graduate with diplomas and degrees, hence securing a better future for these individuals and their families, an outcome that was close to his heart.

There are also business imperatives that spur some to engage in philanthropy. For starters, Singapore has the highest tax subsidy for charitable giving in the world at a rate of 250 percent for individuals and companies, which offers a strong incentive to give.

It also bodes well that many companies do care about the communities in which they operate, observes Dr Ruth Shapiro of CAPS — and philanthropy gives them an avenue to engage with these local communities in various ways. Funding social delivery organisations is one straightforward way of doing so. According to the Doing Good Index, the average social organisation in Singapore only receives 16 percent of their budget from companies, indicating there is potential for further monetary contributions.

“Businesses can encourage their employees to volunteer and sit on boards of non-profit organisations and social enterprises,” Dr Shapiro adds. She notes that in Singapore, only 55 percent of non-profit board members have corporate experience, hence encouraging volunteering in this form would allow important skills and business rigor to transfer to the social sector. Taking on such roles may also provide individuals with an additional opportunity to develop leadership skills that can benefit the business in turn.

Philanthropy via the establishment of a foundation dedicated to a specific cause can also be instrumental in uniting successors of a business or a family with shared purposes. “This is one way to pass on one’s interests and values and an opportunity to make an impact now in their lifetime and beyond,” says Loh.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, the oft uttered trope that by doing good, one feels good too might be the most powerful motivating factor. This concept, which is advocated by French neuroscientist turned Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, has been proven in many studies that show people who give are significantly happier than those who spend only on themselves.

Jacobs of the Relaxed Fund could not agree more. He says, “My wife and I have already lived for over sixty comfortable years. Taking a little time from our schedules instead of watching Netflix and spending a little of the funds we have accumulated, instead of using them for some products we do not need, is a sweet feeling.”

Source: a.com

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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
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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.

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