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Four critical gaps in improving employability for all
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Opinion

Opinion

Four critical gaps in improving employability for all

John Doe
John Doe
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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Events

International Women’s Forum Singapore: Empowering young women for a better future

John Doe
John Doe
picture of poon yu hui, lydia lim yong yee, betty chum, nur ashikin bte rahim, lim pei shan, joyce than jia yi, and laurina tay kai yee

They may come from disadvantaged families, juggling work with school, but that has not stopped them from pursuing their dreams or even helping others. For this, ten young women were presented with the 2016 International Women’s Forum (IWF)’s Education Grants on 30 September.

Managed by the Community Foundation of Singapore, the IWF Education Grants support young women who are currently pursuing a diploma or degree in local polytechnics or universities but face challenges in continuing their studies due to financial difficulties. Many come from low income families and need to work to pay school fees or supplement their household income.

Recipients are selected for their academic performance, as well as resilience and aspirations. During the selection process, the Education Grants Committee also highlighted that despite their difficult circumstances, many of the recipients still found time to give back to the community by taking part in voluntary work such as befriending the elderly and mentoring young children and teens.

At the dinner reception held at CapitaGreen and hosted by IWF Singapore leaders including Dr Aline Wong, Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, Arfat Selvam, Saw Phaik Hwa, Chong Siak Ching, Carmee Lim, Goh Swee Chen and Doreen Liu, recipients and mentors mingled and exchanged anecdotes and advice. The young ladies also took to the floor to share their struggles with work and studies, for some the responsibility of caring for ill or unemployed parents and above all their unwavering quest for further education.

The IWF women leaders applauded the strength and determination shown by the recipients and invited them to be ambassadors at the IWF Singapore 20th Anniversary Conference in 2017 so that they can continue to be an inspiration to others. As part of the mentoring programme, IWF leaders will impart guidance, career counselling and life skills to empower these young ladies for the future.

At the 20th Anniversary Conference, the organisation hopes to raise $250,000 to enable and empower even more young women to change the outcomes of their lives as well as their families’.

About the International Women’s Forum

The International Women’s Forum is a singularly unique organisation comprised of more than 6,400 dynamic women leaders in 34 countries and 75 forums around the world. IWF members span careers, cultures and continents, however, they are wholly aligned in their commitment to building better global leadership.

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Stories Of Impact

Minding the gaps: 10 friends collaborate to take on social issues in Singapore

John Doe
John Doe
10 charities received donations from Mind the Gap 200 (MtG200) fund at the SG Cares “Celebrating our Culture of Care” closing event at Tampines Hub in August 2019.

Widening social inequality, an ageing population, and the threat of climate change – these are the issues that frame our world today. Amidst increasing recognition of these complex issues, a group of ten donors have come together to establish Mind the Gap 200 (MtG 200), a multi-fund project, with the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS). Thus far, S$10 million has been raised.

The brainchild of Mr Tow Heng Tan, CEO of Pavilion Capital, MtG 200 is the first ever collective of donor advised funds to address social issues across multiple sectors in Singapore. MtG 200 will provide support to four areas of focus: community, education, healthcare and sustainability.

Since July 2019, MtG 200 has disbursed over $2m to a variety of initiatives that fall under its four focus areas. Close to $1m has been used to fund palliative care training, facilities and other in-patient programmes across charities such as Assisi Hospice and St. Luke’s Hospital. More than half a million will go to resourcing educational programmes across life stages – from early childhood initiatives right up to bursaries at the tertiary level.

During the SG Care’s bicentennial celebrations in August 2019, $200,000 was disbursed to a total of 10 charities, such as Stroke Support Station Ltd, YMCA, Very Special Arts Singapore and Waterways Watch Society. Finally, a further $150,000 has gone to fund training and job coaching to help socially excluded groups secure permanent employment.

The idea of launching a group of donor funds under a common umbrella took root in 2017. Back then, the word ‘divide’ regularly appeared in the news as well as in conversations. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also spoke about social issues at Singapore’s National Day Rally. The idea for the MtG 200 was thus born – with its aim to contribute towards a stronger and more cohesive society that will last another 200 years and beyond. Mr Tow rallied like-minded friends, and through his passionate advocacy, MtG 200 is now spearheaded by ten donor sponsors, many of whom are business professionals.

For Mr David Heng, CEO of ABC World Asia, MtG 200 was an opportunity to balance head and heart. He says, “Sustainability is an issue I think about every day, but more so from the investment angle. The MtG 200 project helps me to cover the non-investment aspect. I hope my friends will see the value in this project and lend their support.”

Others, like Mr Chew Sutat, are already active champions of social causes. As the executive vice president of the Singapore Exchange (SGX), Mr Chew is also chairman of the SGX Bull Charge, SGX’s flagship charity initiative and chairman of mental health charity Caregivers Alliance Limited. Mr Chew, whose focus is on supporting caregivers, says, “By expressing solidarity with those in need, philanthropic giving has helped to alleviate social tensions that inevitably surface over time.”

For Mr Teng Ngiek Lian, MtG 200 complements his personal endowment fund called The Silent Foundation, which focuses on disadvantaged groups. Under the MtG 200 group, he helms the Singapore Unity Fund, aimed at addressing social divides. “One way we can effectively tackle inequality is to help the underprivileged attain upward social mobility, while simultaneously upholding the tenets of meritocracy. MtG 200 is a small step towards supporting the less advantaged, and helping them change their circumstances,” he added.

Mr Tung Chi Fung, CEO of Sheng Ye Capital and donor sponsor of the Knowledge Fund, echoes this sentiment, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. We hope to help disadvantaged young people to bridge the knowledge gap.”

Tapping on CFS’s deep understanding of local issues, the MtG 200 group of funds are targeted at identified gaps. It will help to build capabilities in the sector and provide impactful solutions that can be sustained in the long-term. Take for instance, its Intergenerational Fund, which seeks to tackle social isolation of elders in Singapore through purposeful intergenerational interaction. Over $300,000 has been disbursed to support such programmes by charities Empower Ageing, All Saints Home and Viraya Community Services.

Professor Kua Ee Heok, Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at the National University of Singapore, champions The Mental Health Fund and has helped to provide charities with limited fund-raising capacity with much needed support as they continue to advocate for mental well-being. The fund will also support mental health and resilience research and services for the young and old alike.

Ultimately, the vision of MtG 200 is to be a timely reminder for all of us to ‘mind the gap’ in our lives and to work with others in making a difference. Mr Tow expresses, “MtG 200 is a collaborative effort. Without the support of like-minded friends, this would not have gotten off the ground. With the support of CFS, together we can create an impact that will be exponentially bigger than what we can ever achieve as individuals.”

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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

Where there’s a will, there’s a way … to give a legacy

John Doe
John Doe
people of different races and ages socializing and catching up at a local cafe.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way … to give a legacy.
(Adapted from opening remarks at a Community Foundation of Singapore-LSPBS “Legacy Giving” Webinar on 1 September 2020.)

Legacy giving is one of the best kept secrets in town. For many years now, I’ve often wondered why more charities had not jumped on the bandwagon of legacy
giving. Why aren’t charities proactive in encouraging individual donors to give legacies whether via wills, CPF nominations, or even insurance policies? Examples
abound overseas. I saw firsthand one such stellar example of a pro bono law firm utilizing this modality of legacy giving during our Law Society “Lawyers Go
Global” mission trip to Sydney in 2018.

We went to Sydney as a team to learn from cutting edge innovative Sydney based law firms on law firm models harnessing technology and niche services in order to consider adopting or adapting them in Singapore. The law firm that left a deep impression on several of us in the team was Salvos Legal, affiliated with the Salvation Army. They offer humanitarian legal services and have an outstanding history and genesis you can research on. They combine the best of both worlds in fee earning lawyers sitting side by side and working hand in hand with pro bono legal practitioners. Fee earners cross-subsidise the provision of pro bono legal services. It was a joy to see both pro bono practitioners and fee earners working harmoniously in a single setting and committed to doing good (directly or indirectly) as a firm.

Salvos Legal turned legacy giving to charities into art form. They use radio announcements and organise Community Wills Days (where generous local solicitors
prepare simple wills in return for a donation to the Salvos). They have built up a fair amount of expertise and essentially encourage the public to donate via legacy
giving.

In Singapore today, death is still a taboo topic in some quarters. As an aging society with a silver tsunami, we need to speak about this elephant in the room. We need more discourse about prudent asset stewardship, legacy giving and planned and sustained giving long after we have left the earth. From the charity’s point of view, this could represent a creative fundraising modality. Indeed, local charities such as the Kidney Dialysis Foundation and the Singapore Children’s Society have started using donation via legacy giving. Closer to home, recently, to commemorate the life of CLAS founder, visionary and architect, the late Harry Elias SC, the Law Society Pro
Bono Services in collaboration with Harry Elias Partnership have set up the Harry Elias SC CLAS Fellowship Fund. This Fund is a continuing and cherished memorial to Harry that will fund expenses arising from the CLAS Fellowship such as their remuneration and practice-related costs to ensure that young lawyers have a glorious
opportunity to follow in the footsteps of legal legends and trailblazers like Harry E.

For the gift-giver, legacy giving has four distinct, discernible advantages. First, it allows the donor to give their own voice to their unique personality, values and beliefs
for pet causes. Second, it creates a meaningful memorial of legacies that will perpetuate. Third, it positively impacts subsequent generations through a sustained
giving. Fourth, it deepens the connection between the charity and the donor.

Where appropriate, probate, wills and administration specialists, private wealth law experts and general practitioners in client advisories could suggest legacy giving to clients.

There are nuanced issues to consider for the donor and the attending lawyer. The form of the giving, whether it’s memorial giving, legacy giving and so on, and the
attendant risks involved. I shall not gloss over this aspect. Questions that need examining include: (1) how do you communicate to the testator or testatrix (person
making the will)? (2) are the template clauses appropriate to express the donor’s wishes? (3) what about the testator’s/testatrix’s mental capacity; or more precisely,
testamentary capacity? (4) from the donee charity’s point of view, what are the risks in accepting such gifts? These issues are fact-sensitive, complex in some cases and need careful analysis to avoid something going wrong (including misexpression of the testator’s/testator’s wishes).

The old saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way. But the new saying I have for you is where there’s a will, there’s a way …. to give a legacy. You can have the nous and the know-how, to find that way for your donors. Legacy giving leaves a legacy for life.

Source:Law Gazette

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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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Stories Of Impact

KidsExcel – Leaving no child behind

John Doe
John Doe
a group of children in a classroom

At a time when after school tuition and enrichment programmes have become the new norm, children from less affluent backgrounds are increasingly disadvantaged by their inability to afford these lessons. This creates an educational landscape that places each child at different starting points by virtue of their socio-economic backgrounds.

KidsExcel is a values-driven, academic and sports enrichment programme that aims to support schools and parents in providing a holistic education for kids. Its mission is to provide a holistic, well-rounded programme that develops healthy minds, healthy bodies and strong character, using sports and academic enrichment to nurture the physical, intellectual and social skills of children.

“KidsExcel seeks to address the prevailing asymmetry in educational opportunities for underprivileged children. The programme aims to develop these children holistically through a structured integration of sports and drama with academic enrichment,” said Victor Pok, Director of Vivakids which runs the programme.

By providing primary school students under the Ministry of Education (MOE)’s Financial Assistance Scheme access to a year-long enrichment programme, KidsExcel hopes to inculcate in students an intrinsic motivation to excel, which will hopefully follow them through their lives.

At a recent site visit to Fuhua Primary School – one of KidsExcel’s school partners – the Community Foundation Singapore (CFS) and its donors bore witness to the work they do. Each week, students spend three hours on academic enrichment and an additional three hours on sports as an added incentive for them to turn up for classes.

At the after school programme, students learn through interactive and engaging lessons that provide effective development opportunities. Math classes saw students engaging in friendly competition to solve problem sums flashed out by their teacher. Speech and drama lessons visibly instilled in them a sense of confidence. Frequent proficiency testing also helped facilitate differentiated lesson plans to suit the varied capabilities of students.

While the sports component was conceived to encourage students’ attendance, it plays a pivotal role in developing them holistically. A range of carefully designed and modified games provides opportunities for the students to learn values – such as teamwork and self-confidence – that are beneficial for their intrinsic development.

And the overall results are encouraging. The programme at Fuhua has seen full attendance since its inception. Through timely and consistent tracking of exam results, statistics from KidsExcel’s school partnerships reflect overall improvements in students’ literacy and numeracy levels.

In a spirited sharing of the school’s experience, Fuhua’s co-ordinating teacher-in-charge praised it as an affordable programme that provides sustainable value-add to students. “I have seen an improvement in many of the students and they really enjoy the time they spend with their friends during the programme. Many of them often come to my office just to ask me if the programme is on this week, the following week, or even in the following year. It really speaks to how the programme has given them something constructive to look forward to. Otherwise they will probably be doing nothing at home or gallivanting at the malls.”

“The support of CFS and its donors has been crucial in realising our aims, providing the platform to engage even more in the future.” said Victor.

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