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

#MyGivingJourney x Stefanie Yuen Thio: Maximising impact with her purpose-driven philanthropy 

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#MyGivingJourney is a series where CFS features extraordinary women in Singapore and their efforts in philanthropy. This story features Stefanie Yuen Thio, Joint Managing Partner, TSMP Law Corporation and Board of Director at CFS. 

When COVID-19 first hit in early 2020, Stefanie Yuen Thio was appalled that healthcare workers had trouble getting a taxi or a Grab. It didn’t seem fair: front liners in our fight against the pandemic were shunned because people were afraid, they would transmit the virus. So Stefanie decided to do something about it.  

Through her family’s #GivingBack Foundation, she donated $20,000 to start the Sayang Sayang Fund (SSF). One of the fund’s first initiatives was to give out taxi vouchers to nurses and hospital staff. SSF has since ballooned to over $9.6 million thanks to the generosity of Singaporeans and financially helped close to 360,000 people hard hit by the pandemic. But the outreach that remains closest to Stefanie’s heart is helping weary essential workers get a ride home.   

SSF is one of several community impact funds under the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), designed to tackle unmet needs on the ground. Stefanie’s #GivingBack Foundation, meanwhile, is one of a growing number of personal foundations that CFS has facilitated. “CFS provides a guiding hand to people starting on their journey of giving, or those who want to be more purposeful and effective in their donations,” notes Stefanie, who is joint managing partner at TSMP Law Corporation.  

Stefanie chose CFS as it is a cause-neutral, one-stop philanthropy advisory platform. It can set up funds quickly and cost-effectively. It works with over 400 registered charities in Singapore and can enlighten and match donors with the causes they are most passionate about — as well as highlight charities that have the greatest needs. Moreover, it conducts due diligence, which builds trust in giving. As Stefanie sees it, “CFS helps donors to structure their giving for maximum impact and sustainability.”  

The #GivingBack Foundation has centred on children, the elderly and foreign workers. Among the charities, it has funded is Smile Asia, which provides free cleft operations to disadvantaged children in the region. And while Stefanie donates a tenth of her income to charity and the church, she believes writing a cheque is not the only way to contribute. 

She makes an effort to volunteer in person and has involved her son Jonathan from an early age. When he was in primary school, she brought him along on all of her law firm’s charity events. This included learning to cook with intellectually disabled kids and a day out at the Outward Bound School with boys from Boys’ Town. When he was 15, Jonathan accompanied her on a trip to Uzbekistan to serve on a Smile Asia trip. “Now that he’s older, we involve him in discussions on how to allocate funds from the foundation,” she adds. 

Exposing the next generation to philanthropy early will help institutionalise giving, making it less ad hoc and more strategic, she believes. “I would like giving to be a default. So that the question of “can I afford to give?” or “why should I donate when I already pay taxes?” is no longer a legitimate response,” she says.  

She is already seeing this in Singapore. “It’s in the young people. They may not yet have built up a hefty bank balance but they give their time and with their hearts. I see it in older folks who want to leave some of their assets to charity when they pass because they are thinking about their legacy. And for the others, they want to invest in a better world for their children.”   

Begin your own journey of giving with CFS. Read more about the #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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Opinion

Four critical gaps in improving employability for all

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Four people in green shirts working on soil in a gardening project.

A person in a wheelchair with much to give. A stay-at-home mum who misses working. An ex-offender who yearns for a second chance. A senior forced to retire early. These are some examples of people who want to work. They believe they can contribute to society. They also deserve the basic right to work and should not be denied from doing so.

Yet, many of them face difficulties in securing decent jobs. In recent years, the gig economy opened up opportunities for individuals facing barriers to traditional employment or those who need flexibility. However, gig work comes with its own set of challenges, such as unstable income and a lack of employment benefits.

Through our years on the ground partnering with local charities, social service agencies and research organisations, we at CFS have identified four groups – ex-inmates, persons with disabilities (PWDs), seniors, and women – that face challenges in securing gainful employment due to bias, unfair practices, or lack of accessibility. This, in turn, can lock them and their families in a vicious cycle of hardship. 

Employment needs to become more inclusive and provide fair opportunities to everyone. In Singapore, workplace anti-discrimination guidelines are being enshrined into law, but there is still more work to be done. This is where philanthropy can make a significant difference. At CFS, we connect donors with charities and programmes that uplift the employability of marginalised people.

We work with charities that build awareness of individual and structural barriers in the workplace and advocate for change. They are also empowering disenfranchised job seekers by providing skills training, job matching, mentoring and more. Read on to learn about the realities faced by disadvantaged people and how you can help.

Building Disability-Inclusive Workplaces 

About 15 per cent of the global population, or over one billion individuals, have a disability. This makes persons with disabilities (PWDs) one of the world’s biggest minority groups (World Bank, 2023). In Singapore, only 30 per cent of PWDs of working age are employed. The government hopes to raise this figure to 40 per cent by 2030 (The Straits Times, 17 August 2022). Barriers include the prevailing bias that disabled people are less productive and troublesome to accommodate in the workplace.  

Organisations like the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) and SG Enable, an agency for disability, are striving to change attitudes and help employers create disability-friendly workplaces. Companies are also encouraged to open up work-from-home opportunities to those who are less mobile. Hiring more PWDs and giving them meaningful careers will translate to overall gains in labour force productivity for Singapore going forward.  

Attracting Female Talent to Close the Gender Gap 

Better education and changes in attitudes towards gender-based roles have paved the way for more women to have careers. Between 2012 and 2021, Singapore’s female labour force participation grew from 57.7 per cent to 64.2 per cent. However, it still remains lower than men’s at 77.2 per cent (Statista). 

The gender gap emerges when women enter their 30s. This is typically the age when they assume more care responsibilities (Ministry of Manpower, 2022). Women continue to bear the brunt of caregiving and domestic responsibilities while juggling work. The gap, unfortunately, widens over time. Taking time off work can complicate re-entry into the workplace, creating knock-on effects throughout a women’s career. 

Yet, there is a clear business imperative to leveraging female talent. Gender diversity benefits companies as women often contribute different skills and perspectives, boosting growth, innovation, and productivity (International Monetary Fund, 2018).

While a growing number of organisations are waking up to this, there is much more room for female-friendly recruitment and retention practices. This includes flexible working arrangements, opportunities for progression and leadership, and help for mothers returning to work.

Reintegrating Ex-offenders into the Economy  

Ex-offenders are among the most marginalised and stigmatised people in our community. They face unique challenges in finding and sustaining gainful employment. Just 53 per cent of ex-offenders found jobs three months after their release – a figure that has stayed stagnant between 2017 and 2019 (Ministry of Home Affairs, 2020).

One reason is that ex-offenders who spend long periods in jail may not have the skills that are in demand, such as digital expertise. Moreover, with their limited social networks, they tend to be disconnected from market trends, knowledge of training opportunities and subsidies. That instantly puts them on a weaker footing.

Progress has been made through the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Employment Preparation Scheme, which allows ex-offenders to attend training and educational activities outside of prison during their sentences. But more can be done to help ex-offenders avoid a vicious circle. Without good jobs and long-term employment prospects, it will be harder for ex-offenders to rebuild their lives, placing them at a high risk of reoffending. 

Addressing Age-Based Employment Discrimination  

Three in four workers in Singapore do not intend to retire before 65 (The Straits Times, 3 July 2022). For many older people, working provides income and purpose and bolsters their physical and mental well-being.

Despite this, age was cited as the top reason for prejudice towards older jobseekers in a Ministry of Manpower survey (Today, 23 March 2022). Older people are stereotyped as “slow” and “less trainable”. Some may be less educated, putting them at risk of being displaced by technology. Employers may prefer to train younger employees, who are seen as having more room to grow.

The issue is especially pressing as Singapore is fast becoming a super-aged society. While upcoming anti-discrimination laws will help, companies should also take the lead and build a multigenerational workforce. Older workers bring experience and a diversity of views to the table, which will be a source of strength.  

How You Can Help

With your generosity, you could help fund programmes that improve the employability of disadvantaged Singaporeans struggling to find work. As a cause-neutral philanthropic advisor, CFS is well-placed to help you navigate the various programmes available and tailor a giving plan based on your goals and interests. 

Efforts to address barriers to employment fall into three broad areas:

  • Development of skillsets (educational, technical/vocational training, and soft skills development) 
  • Exposure to career pathways (employer engagement and career support) 
  • Encouraging sustainable careers (getting supervisors and colleagues to accommodate marginalised individuals)

The simplest and most cost-effective way to help fund different programmes that tackle employability is by setting up a donor-advised fund (DAF). An individual, a beneficiary of a will, a trust, or a family office can set up a DAF. CFS will handle all fund administration and leverage our experience and network to ensure your giving is targeted, accountable and impactful.  

As a donor, you will save on legal expenses and enjoy upfront tax deductions at the prevailing rate on eligible donations. Donors will also receive regular statements tracking incoming donations to their DAF and outgoing disbursements to charities. CFS has an established track record when it comes to setting up DAFs. CFS is the first to bring in DAFs into Singapore and is currently the largest provider with over 220 DAFs and Community Impact Funds.  

If you would like to begin your giving journey with CFS, do get in touch with us.

References

International Monetary Fund. (28 November 2018). Economic Gains from Gender Inclusion: Even Greater than You Thoughthttps://www.imf.org/en/Blogs/Articles/2018/11/28/blog-economic-gains-from-gender-inclusion-even-greater-than-you-thought

Ministry of Home Affairs. (14 October 2020). Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on the Employment Rate of Ex-offenders, by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law. https://www.mha.gov.sg/mediaroom/parliamentary/written-reply-to-parliamentary-question-on-the-employment-rate-of-ex-offenders-by-mr-k-shanmugam-minister-for-home-affairs-and-minister-for-law/ 

Ministry of Manpower. (1 December 2022). Summary Table: Labour Force. https://stats.mom.gov.sg/Pages/Labour-Force-Summary-Table.aspx 

Statista. Labor force participation rate of women in Singapore from 2012 to 2021. https://www.statista.com/statistics/951113/singapore-female-labor-force-participation-rate/

The Straits Times. (17 August 2022). Singapore aims to have 40% of working-age persons with disabilities employed by 2030. https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singapore-aims-to-have-40-per-cent-of-working-age-persons-with-disabilities-employed-by-2030

The Straits Times. (3 July 2022). 3 in 4 older workers don’t intend to retire before 65; reasons include staying active, having purpose. https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/jobs/3-in-4-older-workers-dont-intend-to-retire-before-65-reasons-include-staying-active-having-purpose 

Today. (23 March 2022). Discrimination against workers and jobseekers declined, but ageism still prevalent: MOM survey. https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/discrimination-workers-jobseekers-declined-ageism-prevalent-mom-survey-1851551

World Bank. (3 April 2023). Disability Inclusion.
https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/disability#:~:text=Persons%20with%20disabilities%2C%20on%20average,outcomes%20than%20persons%20without%20disabilities.&text=Results-,One%20billion%20people%2C%20or%2015%25%20of%20the%20world’s%20population%2C,is%20higher%20for%20developing%20countries.

 

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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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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.”

Read more

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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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News

Posts of the late former Law Society President Adrian Tan has been published as a book
律师公会已故前会长陈锦海 曾发表贴文已结集成书

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LinkedIn posts by the late Mr Adrian Tan have recently been compiled and published as a book, titled “If I were King of Singapore”. 

All proceeds from the book will go to the Adrian Tan Memorial Fund, which is set up by Mrs Adrian Tan and managed by the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS). 

This fund focuses on two primary causes that are close to Adrian’s heart: ensuring marginalised communities have access to legal services through Pro Bono SG and advocating the welfare of migrant workers.

Learn how CFS can support you in making an impact towards the causes that you care about: https://cf.org.sg/donors/how-we-assist-donors/.

Book by Adrian Tan, with the title 'If I were King of Singapore'
新加坡律师公会已故前会长陈锦海的妻子,把他的LinkedIn贴文结合成书出版。《如果我是新加坡国王》所有收益将投入去年以他名义设立的“陈锦海纪念基金”。(叶振忠摄)

LinkedIn posts by the late Mr Adrian Tan have recently been compiled and published as a book, titled “If I were King of Singapore”. 

All proceeds from the book will go to the Adrian Tan Memorial Fund, which is set up by Mrs Adrian Tan and managed by the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS). 

This fund focuses on two primary causes that are close to Adrian’s heart: ensuring marginalised communities have access to legal services through Pro Bono SG and advocating the welfare of migrant workers.

Learn how CFS can support you in making an impact towards the causes that you care about: https://cf.org.sg/donors/how-we-assist-donors/.

2023年因病过世的新加坡律师公会前会长陈锦海律师,生前在LinkedIn发表的“如果我是新加坡国王”系列贴文已经结集成书,收入全数投入去年以他名义设立的“陈锦海纪念基金”。

陈锦海生前是义正律师事务所(TSMP Law Corporation)的合伙人,遗孀去年通过新加坡社区基金会(The Community Foundation of Singapore),设立纪念基金。

《联合早报》通过义正律所联合管理合伙人张祉盈律师,电邮访问陈锦海的妻子。

不愿具名的陈太太说,纪念基金旨在支持陈锦海撰写文章和社媒贴文常提起值得支持的慈善项目,“继续他的工作和精神遗产是有意义的”。

陈太太不愿透露纪念基金的金额,但根据新加坡社区基金会网站资料,设立基金的门槛为20万元。

基金的指定受益人都是陈锦海生前热衷的慈善项目,包括新加坡法律义务办事处(Pro Bono SG)和客工援助组织“康侍”(Healthserve)。

陈太太说,陈锦海在担任律师公会会长期间,强烈觉得新加坡法律义务办事处援助无力承担法律服务者的工作做得出色,所以基金将给予支持。为客工提供心理健康咨询,也将是基金的支持项目。

在法律界30多年的陈锦海,2022年1月起担任律师公会会长,上任两个月后不幸患癌,去年7月8日与世长辞,得年57岁。

 

撰写《纯爱手册》畅销书 自给自足完成大学教育


1988年,陈锦海在新加坡国立大学法学院念大一时,先后撰写刻画本地初级学院学生生活的《纯爱手册》上下集——“The Teenage Textbook”和“The Teenage Workbook”。

两本书成为畅销书,曾登上舞台剧、拍成电影和电视剧,而他也靠两本书的收入自给自足,完成大学教育。

陈太太说,尽管出身卑微,陈锦海对自己有机会追求法律职业向来很感恩。为了纪念他这份感激之情,她将另设“陈锦海助学金”协助国大的贫困法学生。

陈锦海敢怒敢言,在去世前的三年多,他在社媒积极发表法律相关贴文,旨在提高公众的法律知识。

因笔调活泼,涵盖法律变革、无偿服务和客工课题等的内容生动易读,赢得好评,LinkedIn的追踪者达3万8000个。

陈锦海曾说自己有时要评论新加坡政府的政策,却不想说“如果我是政府”,所以选择以“如果我是新加坡国王”的诙谐方式表达,“因为我们知道,这里暂时还没有国王”。

陈太太说,陈锦海一直想再出书,却被病症阻碍,“他不会想到,自己在LinkedIn发表的系列贴文会取得巨大成功,最终结集成书”。

“他去世后,公众和认识他的人都深切悲痛,许多人,甚至是通过LinkedIn认识他的人,都表示会想念他和他的作品。”

 

新书让陈锦海的声音永存

 

陈太太透露,很多人要求保留陈锦海的LinkedIn账户,以便继续阅读他生前的想法。

“这本书就这样出版了。对许多被他感动的人来说,这是让他的声音继续存在的一种方式。”

《如果我是新加坡国王》已在纪伊国屋书店(Kinokuniya)、大众书局、Book Bar和WHSmith樟宜分店出售。

信用:联合早报©新报业媒体有限公司。复制需要许可

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

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