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Including the Excluded: Everyone Plays a Part
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Including the Excluded: Everyone Plays a Part

John Doe
John Doe
Standing man in blue shirt with wooden wall backdrop.

Through working and volunteering in the non-profit sector, I often meet people living in dire circumstances. I vividly remember one incident while distributing breakfast to families living in public rental units. Speaking in simple English, the mother thanked us profusely for the warm porridge and noodles – generously contributed by a donor – so the money saved could go towards their monthly transport.

Giving goes a long way. But recognising and acknowledging the realities of those in need may be just as important.

Speaking after the association’s annual general meeting at Kallang Netball Centre on Friday, Liang-Lin, a fund manager for a US$7 billion (S$9.5 billion) firm focused on green real estate investments in Asia, hopes to bring her expertise to the table and increase the amount of financial support for Singapore netball during her four-year term.

Look around the world and it is not hard to see how the unmet needs of marginalised groups can lead to tension and ruptures in the social fabric. In Singapore, social exclusion and by default, inclusion, has become a hot subject – not the least because of our incredibly diverse society, aging population and the widening inequality.

Responding to these challenges require us to think more deeply and tangibly about the ways we respond to the disenfranchised. I believe developing empathy and simply taking time to understand the challenges of others, will play a critical first step.

I was encouraged to see in a 2016 study of Singaporeans’ attitudes towards social inclusion, that many saw the importance of ‘celebrating diversity’ and making a greater effort to understand vulnerable groups; be it the disabled, the mentally ill, migrant workers or disadvantaged households. The message is clear: we all play a part in making Singapore more inclusive.

At the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), it is our mission to identify underserved needs – and then empower donors to give meaningfully to meet them. In this issue of Change Matters, I’m happy to share several developments that will enable you to contribute to a wide range of social causes.

You might have seen the recent news about the launch of the LIFT (Learning Initiatives for Employment) Community Impact Fund. LIFT supports programmes that provide vocational training, social support and suitable job placements in the open market for disadvantaged persons.  Through LIFT, you’ll be able to help people with disabilities, persons recovering from mental illnesses, disadvantaged women and youth-at-risk to make a better life.

We also highlight the incredible dedication of HOME (or the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics). Amidst the challenges, HOME has steadfastly championed the well-being of migrant workers in Singapore over the last decade. Learn about how your support to CFS’s Migrants Emergency Assistance and Support (MEANS) Fund helps HOME provide vital financial assistance in a migrant worker’s time of crisis.

With your continued support, I believe we can help to foster a sense of belonging and empathy towards those who have less, enabling them greater opportunities to participate meaningfully in our society.

Joseph Lua

Assistant Director

Community Foundation of Singapore

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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

Teach a man to fish — and pay for the rod too

John Doe
John Doe
Black silhouette of a woman fishing

We have all heard the popular proverb, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. Everyone agrees, but few pay for the fishing rod.

Successful businesses invest in skills, people and infrastructure. In the same vein, donors need to fund these areas for charities to deliver social impact.

The challenge for charities
Donors often prefer funding programmes that support individual recipients directly over charitable overhead* expenses. This leads to negotiations for lower overhead costs or unwillingness to support programmes with high overhead costs. Many charities cave in to such expectations for fear of losing a potential funder.

Understandably, all donors want to achieve maximum impact for their gift, but reducing overheads is only good up to a point where the sustainability of the charity is not affected. All organisations incur manpower, training, rental and administrative costs at the very least. If charities are pressured to keep overhead costs unsustainably low, they will operate at sub-par levels and enter a vicious cycle of starvation.

At the Community Foundation of Singapore, we have learnt that when charities receive limited funding to cover overhead, service delivery is affected because charities have to divert resources to fundraise for the shortfall.

Honest conversations
There is growing recognition that efficiency is not determined by low overhead costs alone. Depending on the type of services or programmes, overhead can vary greatly across charities. For instance, a charity that distributes food rations via volunteers will have far lower overhead than a nursing home that hires skilled staff round-the-clock to provide care.

CFS works with its charity partners to present the true programme costs needed for social impact. With that in mind, we also work with donors to map out sustainable and impactful ways of giving.

We need to continue to have such conversations about true costs; the funding of overhead is just the tip of the iceberg in our search for sustainable social solutions.

Joyce Teo
Deputy CEO
Community Foundation of Singapore

*Overhead typically includes manpower, training, rental and administrative expenses.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit dolor

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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Stories Of Impact

Heart Of Goodness: The Vocal Prowess Of Stefanie Yuen Thio

John Doe
John Doe
a person standing on a boardwalk in front of a glass dome building

She stands out for her irreverence. Her saucy humour. Her no-holds-barred views on a gamut of issues from cryptocurrencies to shady KTV business owners. However, right now, flanked by vibrant Pop Art in her living room and two energetic dogs, Stefanie Yuen Thio is in “pensive mode”. In fact, she is downright disturbed.

As part of the Singapore Together Alliance for Action (AfA) to tackle types of online harm, the corporate lawyer has just come from a discussion about the growing harassment women face. “It’s not just sexual grooming and revenge porn,” she says. “Women, more than men, face a higher incidence of gender-based abuse on the internet such as cyberstalking, trolling and violent threats, and teenage girls are even more vulnerable. 

“We need to take a stand. It’s time the community took control,” she says. AfA is a government-led initiative, tapping youths, tech companies and academics, as well as corporate figures such as Yuen Thio, to come up with ways to make the online world a safer space. Foremost is to raise public awareness of the need for it, as victims typically have little idea what to do. 

Other goals are to create a code of best practice, to offer assistance and to scrutinise how social media is shaping online behaviour as well as mental wellness. A recent study from Nanyang Technological University, for example, found that the more time we spend on Facebook, the greater our risk of suffering from depression. 

A Voice For The Underprivileged

Yuen Thio knows well how social media can define us. Her voice is regularly heard on LinkedIn, where she has over 13,000 followers and was ranked one of Singapore’s top voices in 2020. She can also be heard on the BBC, where she is a guest commentator. Her tongue-in-cheek posts can be uninhibited, sometimes raising eyebrows and drawing flak. But this is not distracting Yuen Thio, who is clearly comfortable marching to the beat of her own drum, from championing the causes she believes in and sparking conversations that could galvanise change.

The online harms alliance, launched in July, is the latest of Yuen Thio’s advocacy work outside of her day job as joint managing partner at TSMP Law Corporation, a boutique corporate-law practice. She is also bringing her energy and savvy to the pandemic’s exigencies: as Singapore battled Covid-19, she has been driving efforts to help frontline workers and those hard hit by the cratering of the economy. 

“I read a story about an ambulance driver who was turned away from a chicken rice stall and about nurses who could not get a taxi home,” she says. It dredged up memories of SARS, when hospital staff were shunned during the 2003 outbreak for fear of them somehow carrying the virus. “I thought f— that! We’re not doing that again,” she says.

Empowering Others To Help

So, early on in the crisis, she helped put in motion the Sayang Sayang Fund with the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), a nonprofit that promotes philanthropy. Yuen Thio, who sits on the board of CFS, seeded the fund with a $20,000 gift. Managed by CFS, the Sayang Sayang Fund has since ballooned to over $9.6 million and supported more than 359,302 people in the Republic. 

Her law firm, too, has stepped up. With many of its staff working remotely via laptops, TSMP is donating unused desktops to the needy. The firm, which sets aside 10 per cent of annual profits for charitable giving, has been sponsoring meals and care packs for hospital workers. And, in Cheng San-Seletar constituency — its MP is Nadia Ahmad Samdin, a former TSMP lawyer — its staff have befriended and accompanied seniors to get vaccinations. 

This hands-on volunteering is in addition to the pro bono work the firm does. All its lawyers are encouraged to do 25 hours per year, to improve access to justice for the under-served. The firm takes a special interest in cases where migrant workers are treated badly and works with groundup initiatives such as Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, Transient Workers Count Too and It’s Raining Raincoats

Yuen Thio, who was an advisory board member for the NUS Centre for Pro Bono & Clinical Legal Education from 2018 to 2020, recalls a tea that TSMP organised for foreign domestic workers. “We talked about their rights. And so many of them cried because nobody had ever looked at them with much humanity,” she says.

The Law Firm That Gives

The firm has also established the TSMP Law Foundation to allow more structured giving, something Yuen Thio is hoping to prod more wealthy Singaporeans into doing. With husband Thio Shen Yi, who co-founded TSMP with his mother, the couple has created a #GivingBack Foundation through CFS, which helps individuals set up and manage funds and grants. The foundation also works with over 400 charity partners in Singapore. 

Through these plans, she hopes philanthropy will be less ad hoc and will become more a part of the Singaporean DNA. As part of their legacy gifting outreach, for instance, CFS is encouraging everyone to leave something in their wills to charity, be it properties, equities, art or wine. But beyond that, she wants Singaporeans to start on their philanthropic path earlier in life. 

“Charity should start early and not only after you die,” says Yuen Thio. CFS can help set up foundations within as little as 24 hours and is reaching out to the well-off through private bankers and family offices. 

She also advocates getting the next generation involved to further institutionalise giving. “The tragedy of this generation is a sense of purposelessness. There are too many safety nets,” reckons Yuen Thio, who has a son studying in London. 

However, she notes that the youth of today also have an altruistic streak and can be swayed by causes such as climate change and social inclusion. Their motivations, compared to “my generation whose goal was to make money first”, will undoubtedly shape the future of philanthropy.

What is also firing her up at the moment is how women are reshaping philanthropy. She describes the no-strings attached, big-ticket giving by MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos, as inspiring. In her opinion, “…Women are more concerned about impact, not control. We look at needs and, in my experience, are much more ready to open our wallets when a cause resonates with us. We tend to give from the heart, men from the head. Men are less emotional, they think of data and longevity of legacy,” she says.

Another generous giver is Melinda French, the ex-wife of billionaire Bill Gates. Both Scott and French are donating to causes that empower women and boost education — things that Yuen Thio believes could turn the tide for gender equality. Reflecting further on how these women have come into their own after their divorces, she says, “Sometimes, when the wife has lived in the shadow of her husband, you need a marriage to break down for a woman to really shine.” 

Strength in Solitude

For herself, she has found solo travel to be empowering. Yuen Thio embarked on her first one three years ago and chose Beirut. “I had never lived by myself or had my own space. I wanted to feel how it was to be my own person in the world, out of my comfort zone,” she says.

Armed with her telephoto lens, the photography enthusiast made her way to the Lebanese capital and was thoroughly struck by the city’s contrasts. A memory of the bombed-out Holiday Inn rubbing battered shoulders with the palatial Intercontinental Phoenicia stands out for her, attestation to the resilience and durability of the human spirit.

Women, more than men, face a higher incidence of gender-based abuse on the internet such as cyberstalking, trolling and violent threats, and teenage girls are even more vulnerable. We need to take a stand. It’s time the community took control.

When she turned 50, she packed her bags for a solo trip to Bordeaux and then to Auschwitz-Birkenau. She chose the wine region in the southwest of France because she speaks French, and the concentration camps in Poland to try and comprehend the past. “I wanted to understand human history,” she says, adding that we shouldn’t run away from confronting terrible things. Walking through the extermination chambers, she was shaken by the banality of evil. “I remember thinking, ‘This is what evil feels like. It creeps up on us.’” 

Covid-19 has halted her travels, both for work and for leisure, but it has also given her time to slow down, connect more, write more. 

“I’ve always liked writing,” says Yuen Thio, who spent one holiday during her university days as a cub reporter for The Straits Times Life!. Whether advocating for clients, the under-served, or simply musing on an issue that moves her, Yuen Thio makes an impact with her inimitable, eloquent voice.

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

This article was originally published in A Magazine here. Permission required for reproduction.

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Events

Singapore Youth Impact Collective helps youths progress from classroom to working life

John Doe
John Doe
A diverse group of individuals standing united in front of a sign displaying the empowering message "Together We Can.". (From left) James Tan, Tan-Wu Mei Ling, Justina Tan, Joyce Teo, Dr Ang Kiam Wee, Pang Sze Khai and Jacky Ang.

Despite the heavy rain on the morning of 9 October 2018, hearty drumbeats and festive excitement filled the air at Level 5 of Block A, ITE College Central.

It was the much-awaited launch of the Singapore Youth Impact Collective, a first-in-Singapore initiative that uses the collective impact model to empower disadvantaged youths to progress more smoothly from the classroom to fulfilling careers.

The Collective also launched two youth empowerment programmes – A.P.T.I.T.U.D.E by TOUCH with a new centre at ITE College Central and Youth Forte by SHINE.

Guests were treated to a rousing performance by ITE College Central’s Brazillian percussion group Batidas Centro whose energetic drumming could be heard even at Level 1.

CFS Deputy CEO Joyce Teo gave a short inspirational speech, saying: “We believe disadvantaged youth have the ability to achieve their maximum potential. We promise that we will work together to improve youth work-readiness by enabling our youth to have the academic and vocational qualifications, personal assets, and opportunities to succeed.”

After the Collective was launched, guests were invited to tour the new centre and try their hand out at its various recreational activities, such as video games and darts.

Students from the Adventure Facilitation interest group were also on hand to demonstrate some outdoor tips while the Barista interest group youths satisfied thirsty guests with the delectable gourmet coffee they had brewed themselves.

The Collective, which comprises Changi Foundation, the Community Foundation of Singapore, Credit SuisseOctava FoundationSHINE Children & Youth Services and TOUCH Community Services, was formed when the members recognised the complexity of social issues disadvantaged youths faced and realised that multiple stakeholders needed to work together to find effective ways to help them.

Industry partners who are able and willing to provide opportunities for internships and job immersion experiences for the youthsare invited to contact youthcollective@cf.org.sg to see how they can support these programmes.

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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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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.

News

The Straits Times: Legacy of giving lives on

John Doe
John Doe
picture of sr nathan with 4 students

In his final year as president, Mr S R Nathan – together with a few of his close friends – started discussing with me the idea of starting a philanthropic fund to help “uplift” children from poor families.

Coinciding with the launch of Mr Nathan’s memoir An Unexpected Journey: Path To The Presidency in 2011, the S R Nathan Education Upliftment Fund was established to provide financial support to disadvantaged young people by helping them complete their education.

Despite Mr Nathan’s initial reluctance on naming the fund after himself (the humble and unassuming man that he was), we were glad he eventually relented, as it would help promote the concept of community ownership and inspire others to do the same.

Administered by the Community Foundation of Singapore, the fund has since supported close to 1,000 Institute of Technical Education, polytechnic and university students by providing them bursaries, scholarships and monthly financial assistance.

The fund resonated with Mr Nathan’s beliefs and conviction about giving and receiving kindness, which we witnessed first-hand while working with him to manage the grants.

He was always involved and would make time to meet the many recipients – getting to know them and their families. He would even follow up by sending handwritten notes of thanks and encouragement.

Mr Nathan has touched many young lives through this fund. His death leaves a void, but his legacy of giving lives on. I hope that in time to come, those whom he has helped will do the same by reaching out to help others.

Laurence Lien Tsung Chern
Chairman
Community Foundation of Singapore

Link to story: http://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/legacy-of-giving-lives-on

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