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Sustainable Philanthropy Matters: The SDGs in SG
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Sustainable Philanthropy Matters: The SDGs in SG

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In this three-part series ‘Sustainable Philanthropy Matters’, we explore the surprisingly intimate relationship between philanthropy and sustainability and how the practice of one can in fact, lead to the advancement of the other. Both of these issues are close to our hearts here at CFS and we want to share how our philanthropy can help preserve our planet, our communities and our future.

In our previous article, we took a brief look at the history of philanthropy and sustainability. Here, we will examine the relatively newer Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their paramount relevance and importance today. The SDGs were adopted as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Additionally, the SDGs could and should serve as a guide to the next steps in Singapore’s social, environmental and even philanthropic evolution. Donors can create a greater impact with their giving by ensuring alignment with the SDGs.

Introducing the SDGs

When it comes to the 3P’s, People has long been seen as the more important P as compared to Planet (let us not talk about Profit!).

Of the eight Millennium Development Goals established in 2000 by the UN, only one was environment-related. Even in the first-ever Global Philanthropy Report, published relatively recently in 2018 by the Hauser Institute for Civil Society (Johnson, 2018), education was the most popular cause of choice for foundations around the world, with 35% focusing on at least one aspect. Health and social welfare also featured largely as priorities. Only one region, Latin America, had environment and animals as a focus and even then, at only 23.8%.

The 17 SDGs, birthed in 2015 at COP 21 in Paris, catapulted the idea of sustainability into everyone’s consciousness in vivid colour. It illustrated that sustainability encompasses many facets of society as well as the natural environment, with an infinitely long-term view of providing for future generations.At first glance, many of the SDGs seem to talk about social aspects anyway, but the beauty of the SDGs is that each goal is inextricably linked to several others. For instance, an initiative ensuring that farmers get paid decent wages while tapping on technology to grow food that is organic and pesticide-free aligns to SDGs 1, 2, 3, 8, 9 and 12.

SDGs in Singapore

Delving deeper into the 169 targets of the SDGs, one realises that quite a few of them may not seem to apply to Singapore. As a highly developed and modern country with a high GDP, 100% literacy rate and no real primary industries like mining, forestry and agriculture, we can claim to have already met many of the SDGs’ targets.However, it is the spirit of the SDGs at which we should look, and it is then that we realise that there is definitely more that we could do.

Let us examine SDG 1, No Poverty. Singapore claims that the first two indicators do not apply as we have no poverty line, national or international (Department of Statistics Singapore, 2021). Yet, it is clear that cases of relative poverty still exist in Singapore (Ng, 2018). The problem can be simply explained by the high cost of living in Singapore (ECA International, 2021), our high Gini coefficient (World Population Review 2021) and the majority of the households having an income below the national average (Dayani, 2021) but the fact remains that the problem exists, and we need to address it within the Singaporean context.

Thankfully, besides the Government’s efforts to reduce social inequality (Lai, 2019), Singapore has had a long history of philanthropists (Ooi, 2019) who have seen to the needs of their country’s people through their generosity. Fast forward to today, and even the man on the street can be a philanthropist, with easy, direct access to many charity channels and donation portals online.

Everyone Has a Role

Ultimately, this democratisation of philanthropy is a good thing. Accomplishing the vision of “peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”, requires the concerted achievement of each and every SDG.

Given the intricate interconnectivity of the SDGs, tackling any project that aims to deal with them would be a daunting task if attempted alone. Just as social issues are complex problems requiring multifaceted approaches by multiple stakeholders, so it is with the SDGs.

The 17th SDG, Partnership for the Goals, actually posits that we all have a role to play. Governments and agencies can only do so much. It is recognised that corporations and individuals alike all have responsibilities towards achieving the environmental growth and strengthening of Singapore (and the planet too, come to think of it). As the late philosopher McLuhan said: “There are no passengers on spaceship Earth. We are all crew.

Eyes on the Prize

In the previous article of this series, we shared that everyone, whether individual, group or organisation, had reasons to give. It is important to avoid whitewashing or greenwashing (basically, paying only lip service about being philanthropic). Giving back to the community and/or the environment should not be about meeting reporting requirements or ingratiating oneself with the local people.

It can, admittedly, be tricky juggling one’s desire to do a particular act of charity with what said charity might actually want to achieve, or even what the eventual care recipients might really require. With over a decade championing philanthropy in Singapore, CFS deeply understands this need for balance between the desires and objectives of the donors, charities and care recipients. Yes, even if those care recipients are the flora and fauna around us. Visit here to find out how you can add value for People and Planet, today and tomorrow.

To learn more about CFS’s Corporate Sustainability efforts, please read more here.

To read the other 2 stories in the ‘Sustainable Philanthropy Matters’ series, please click below:

This article was written by Adam, a Principal Consultant with CFS and an experienced sustainability practitioner. He is an advocate for sustainable practices. His colleagues are still wondering how his monthly household utilities bill is only around $70.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CFS or its members.

References

  1. Department of Statistics Singapore. 2021. Government of Singapore. Singapore. https://www.singstat.gov.sg/find-data/sdg/goal-1
  2. Ng, Cindy. 2018. Commentary: So this is what the face of poverty looks like. Channel News Asia. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/commentary/this-is-what-the-face-of-poverty-inequality-looks-like-804881
  3. ECA International. 2021. Singapore drops in global Cost of Living rankings, but remains among top 10 most expensive locations. https://www.eca-international.com/news/june-2021/singapore-drops-in-global-cost-of-living-rankings
  4. World Population Review. 2021. Gini Coefficient by Country. https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/gini-coefficient-by-country
  5. Dayani, Dinesh. 2021. What is Singapore’s Average Household Income And Why It Is Different From The Salaries We Earn? Dollars and Sense. https://dollarsandsense.sg/singapores-average-household-income-different-salaries-earn/
  6. Lai, Lynnette. 2019. Parliament: Inequality has many causes and needs to be tackled practically, not ideologically, says Desmond Lee. The Straits Times. https://www.straitstimes.com/politics/parliament-inequality-has-many-causes-and-needs-to-be-tackled-practically-not-ideologically
  7. Ooi, Yu-lin. 2019. Singapore’s Earliest Philanthropists 1819-1867. Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship & Philanthropy. https://bschool.nus.edu.sg/acsep/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2019/08/PA-WP8-Singapores-Earliest-Philanthropists-1819-1867.pdf
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CEO Catherine Loh goes on MONEY FM 89.3 to speak about the Sayang Sayang Fund with Michelle Martin

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Financial management by Catherine Loh

Michelle: Let’s start with CFS and the work that it does. How does it support charities and why did the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) start the Sayang Sayang Fund?

Catherine: The Community Foundation of Singapore is also a charity. We were founded in 2008, and our main objective is to inspire philanthropy in Singapore. We do that by helping donors achieve a greater impact with their giving in communities through charitable funds. Donors can establish their own funds or if they wish, they could support one of the Community Impact Funds that we’ve started up.

The Sayang Sayang Fund is one of such Community Impact Funds. It was set up in response to the needs that arose from the COVID 19 pandemic. With our understanding of the needs on the ground, our network of community partners, government agencies, and charity partners, we were able to quickly see what the needs out there were and who needed help.

We thought that by setting up this Fund, it would be an effective way of garnering financial support from those who want to give and disburse it quickly to those in need. That’s why we started it.

Michelle: I understand the Fund aims to help healthcare workers on the frontlines and the vulnerable, and that the Sayang Sayang Fund has pledged some quarter of a million dollars in taxi vouchers to frontline staff of healthcare institutions. How close is the Fund to meeting that goal?

Catherine: I’m happy to say that thanks to the generosity of our donors that we have actually disbursed over $400,000 of taxi and transport vouchers to 129 public hospitals, polyclinics and community healthcare providers. For that I have to thank ComfortDelGro, Grab and Gojek for partnering with us. And I must say that when we started the Fund, our first objective was the welfare of the healthcare workers on the frontline supporting us.

It is only right that we provide them with some love and care, sayang them a bit; that’s how we started this Fund. That was the first project we were looking to do. But over time, when we raised the money, we reached out to the charities through grants calls to send over their funding requests to us, we found that there were lots of needs. In the first round of grants calls we received almost three million dollars in requests for funding, and that is why we decided to continue with the Fund to raise more money.

Michelle: Where are the urgent needs now Catherine, and how is CFS helping to plug these gaps?

Catherine: With the circuit breaker measures, the loss of work and everybody having to stay at home, I would say that almost everyone in Singapore is affected. So one of the very urgent needs that we are trying to address is really how to support the students that have to study from home, or ‘home based learning’.

Through our Recess@Home programme, we are very grateful that we have the partnership support of the Ministry of Education to quickly reach out to thousands of children who might need financial support. Because these students do get subsidies or free food when they are in school, now these students cannot go to school. We want to provide them with some financial support so at least there is some assurance that they do get their proper meals while they study at home. So that is one need.

We realise too that there are seniors that may be sick and are living alone at home and not getting their usual medical care and support. We would also love to set up an emergency fund for those community nurses or even volunteers who are still allowed to do house visits to provide these vulnerable seniors with any form of support that they might need. We understand that there are lots of groups out there that are already providing food and basic necessities. Community nurses could supply them with medicines, medical support, essentials or anything they might need while they are staying at home on their own.

Even young students from families that might need them to take on a part-time job to supplement the family income are no longer able to do so. We could provide them with financial support so they can focus on their studies and not drop out of school because of the worries of not being able to provide for their family. That is one thing that we would like to do as well. Of course, we also have a lot of foreign guests and workers who are falling sick and how can we help them.

Last but not least, back to our healthcare workers again. With the number of cases that they have to take care of, I think it is very important that they stay physically and mentally healthy so that stress doesn’t get to them. We do wish to be able to continue to support these workers with transport vouchers or even funding so their organisations can charter, say buses to send them home quickly after their long work shift.

Michelle: Given the number and the sheer variety of needs out there, how is the Fund approaching giving? I understand in your initial phase, CFS was seeking donations of a million and above. Right now is pretty much any help welcome?

Catherine: We do have a target of three million, and as we speak there are more needs surfacing, so I do think the Fund will continue to stay open as long as there are needs out there that need support. We do have a team of grant-makers out there to assess the situation.

We don’t work alone; we work with our partners like government agencies, NCSS (National Council of Social Service) and AIC (Agency of Integrated Care). We have our whole network of charity partners and we have our other funders who are active and even volunteer groups. We work with all these groups to gather all this information to see where and how the Sayang Sayang Fund can help.

Michelle: Is there a minimum of a million dollars to be able to donate?

Catherine: No, any amount is welcome. I must say that Singaporeans in general have been very generous because last week when many of us received the $600 of the Solidarity payment, many people have donated online in support of Sayang Sayang and also the other charities that happen to be fund-raising.

Michelle: Singaporeans are so generous, so lovely to hear that. Can you share a little bit of your estimate of how much you’re going to need to meet the evolving emergency needs you anticipate for the next couple of weeks?

Catherine: I do hope we can raise another one to two million dollars so that we can actually provide longer term targeted support. I think this pandemic is not going to go away by early June. The economy will only be slowly cranking up after that, so there will still be people who need support one way or the other.

Listen to the full interview here: https://omny.fm/shows/money-fm-893/influence-lending-a-helping-hand-during-covid-19

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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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Beyond cultural philanthropy: The art of making a difference

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group of musicians practicing together

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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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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Stories Of Impact

Helping migrant workers with a home and a heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*not her real name

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The competition was organised by City Harvest Community Services Association and received support from FUN! Fund, a Community Impact Fund jointly established by the Community Foundation of Singapore and the Agency for Integrated Care, with the aim of addressing social isolation among the elderly.

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development Mr Tan Kiat How attended the event. He encouraged the elderly to stay physically and mentally well, as well as urging them to participate in community activities and enjoy their golden years together.

Learn more about FUN! Fund at https://www.cf.org.sg/fun-fund/.

 

The programme provides the children with a non-threatening platform to connect with peers and have positive conversations. In addition, it exposes them to different people who can assist to broaden their perspectives.

L.S., a volunteer with the Reading Odyssey programme @ Spooner Road

中心“常胜将军”胡锦盛:比赛限时反应要快

现年92岁的胡锦盛是最年长的参赛者。自2017年退休后,他几乎每天都到活跃乐龄中心报到,从此爱上了玩拉密,每次可玩上三个小时,在中心是“常胜将军”。

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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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