Good afternoon. It is my pleasure and honour to join you in this special celebratory occasion for the Community Chest.
I would like to thank President Tony Tan for gracing the occasion. Beneficiaries and their families, as well as professionals and volunteers in the social service sector, are thankful for your strong support all these years.
Let me also express my appreciation to the donors and volunteers of the Community Chest as well as the award winners, some of whom are present today. Your selfless giving has touched the lives of many Singaporeans.
Since its establishment in 1983, the Community Chest has raised funds for many charities and services, and improved the lives of numerous Singaporeans. Even more importantly, the Community Chest has nurtured a community of like-minded corporations, public organisations and individuals, linked by the common goal of helping the less fortunate amongst us.
As it marks its 30th anniversary, I would like to congratulate the Community Chest for its good work. I would also like to thank the many dedicated volunteers who had served on the Community Chest committee and sub-committees, as well as the staff. A special note of thanks to the two Chairmen who are within our midst today. Ms Jennie Chua had led the Community Chest for many years, and now continues to serve as Advisor. And Mr Phillip Tan who has just taken over the baton as Chairman.
An Even Larger Role for Community Chest
At his National Day Rally speech in August, the Prime Minister spoke about the need to provide greater assurance and support to Singaporeans and their families. This is so that we can build a more inclusive society as the country approaches a turning point.
The Government will adjust its policies and do more. But we will not be able to do it alone. The community too will have a bigger role to play in the coming years, to complement the Government’s effort. The Community Chest too has a bigger part to play in galvanising giving - not just money, but time, effort and talent. It will have to do even more to raise public awareness of needs, mobilise contributors and fund critical new services. It will have to innovate to keep pace with the changing profile and aspiring of the Singaporean donor and volunteer.
Some of the changes are already taking place. I have seen a number of new and creative efforts in recent years. I am also excited by some new ideas being developed.
Care and Share Movement Mooted
I have just received one such promising idea recently. It was a proposal, from the Community Chest of Singapore, to initiate a national Care and Share Movement. The objectives are to mobilise Singaporeans to contribute to worthwhile causes and to give a big push to social services for the needy, as Singapore approaches our 50th year of independence in 2015.
I think it is a very worthy idea for us to support. As we approach our nation’s 50th birthday, it is important that the celebrations are also meaningful for the less fortunate amongst us, and the organisations that serve them. Care and Share is an opportunity for Singaporeans to come together to show our commitment to building a more caring and inclusive society.
Care and Share is also an opportunity for us all to reflect on our vision for our beloved country Singapore - a place where we belong, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. We do not just want to beat the odds of history to survive. We want also to allow the human spirit to flourish. We want not to just live a materially comfortable lives, but we also want to live also purposeful lives.
No one will just feel they belong for what our society can give us. While we belong because we serve together, we build together and we toil together to realise what we want together. This is how we develop our sense of belonging to our schools, military units, community groups, society and nation.
Our 50th anniversary is one such moment for us to reflect on our achievement, to renew our commitment and to refresh our drive to build the cohesive and inclusive society that we want to belong.
And we have a wish. We wish that every captain of business or industry define and admire success not just from the magnitude of its profits, but also the magnanimity of the spirit to give and to serve; we wish that every Singaporean adult finds joy not only in his ability to command a better pay for a better life materially, but also in our ability to contribute to serve the community needs in tangible ways; we wish that every Singaporean student excels not only for his grades, but to excel so as to better help and touch the lives of those less gifted than them in society, because he appreciates his blessings in life; we wish that every family finds fulfilment not just from the bonds of familial ties, but also from the bonds we build with our society through our caring and sharing.
Perhaps through all these, we strengthen our sense of belonging to our nation, our sense of purpose in the community, and our sense of fulfilment amidst the toils of daily our lives.
Mobilising All Segments of Society
I look forward to the participation of all segments of the community – philanthropists, corporate and individual donors, Voluntary Welfare Organisations (or VWOs), and volunteers. We need all of you to come forward to contribute. I am again referring not just to monetary donations, but also contributions of time and expertise, through volunteerism and pro-bono work for example.
There are good examples of this. Let me briefly mention one organisation present here today. Keppel Group has recently supported the Community Chest Festive campaign with a donation of $100,000. In addition, through its volunteering arm, Keppel has been running regular activities to give employees the opportunity to show care for the less fortunate. They have brought cheer to groups such as needy elderly and special education students. Some managers from Keppel are also mentors to social enterprises.
Last evening I had dinner with a group of Singaporean businessmen and philanthropists. They were very kind, they asked me what is the one thing I hope they can do for the social service sector. I was greedy, I asked for two. I didn't ask for their money. I asked them for their time, and their talent instead. I did so because perhaps because money the easier resource to find. But time and talent are more difficult. I asked them and urged them to help mobilse the corporate chiefs to sit on the boards of our many VWOs, to guide them and to help them strengthen their management and outreach, so that we can do even more good for fellow Singaporeans in need. I asked them to encourage their staff to spend time amongst the less fortunate amongst us. I hope we can touch their hearts and allow their generous spirit to flourish.
Care and Share will raise the spirit of giving. I hope there will be many more such stories that we can share in the future: stories of people from all walks of life, willingly contributing their time, talent and money to improve the lives of those in need and we will truly move towards an inclusive and caring society.
Government Support and Commitment
The Community Chest has asked the Government to consider matching donations raised under the Care & Share movement over a period of a year. Social service needs are growing and becoming more complex. The Community Chest feels that the government matching funds can be channelled towards supporting VWOs as they expand or improve their services. It will also encourage more Singaporean individuals and organisations to do our part to care and share.
The Government is supportive of this proposal. We also agree that with more resources, VWOs can invest in capability building, organisational development, infrastructure expansion, process improvements, and technology deployment. These will help our VWOs to better position themselves to meet future needs beyond 2015.
The government is prepared to match donations raised by the Community Chest and VWOs during the Care and Share movement. I have indicated the government’s support to Mr Phillip Tan, Chairman of the Community Chest.
Many details will still need to be worked out. I have asked my MSF colleagues to work with ComChest to develop the idea further. I hope that we can finalise the implementation details by year end, so that the movement can be pursued over the course of 2014. In that way, we will have the time and the means to develop and roll out tangible programmes to benefit the sector by 2015, when we celebrate our 50th birthday together.
The Care and Share Movement has tremendous potential impact on our society. I am very encouraged that amidst its 30th anniversary celebration, the Community Chest has kept its eye on the future, and stepped forward to propose this worthwhile initiative.
It leaves me now to thank all of you once again – donors, volunteers and staff - for being a part of the Community Chest journey. Please continue the good work in reaching out to fellow Singaporeans and help us, find the spirit in us and grow the spirit in us, build a more caring and more inclusive Singapore.