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Singapore Government

Speech by Mr Tan Chuan-Jin at the MSF Volunteer Awards 2016

Speech by Mr Tan Chuan-Jin at the MSF Volunteer Awards 2016

Our Inspiring Volunteers
Friends and Colleagues
Ladies and gentlemen
Boys and girls

Good evening.

The video we just watched is not an MSF production. It is by local producer Sam Kang Li, who runs a small production house called Little Red Ants. He has worked with us on various projects before, and he volunteered his talent, time and own personal resources to produce a video, so that he could express his own perspective on our caring society. In the process of doing some of his past recording work, he felt that this was something he’d learnt about how the community got together to help. The inspiration that he got from seeing many of you in action has also allowed him to try to apply his skills to hopefully inspire others to do the same as well.

In the video, we are familiar with the scenes like these. It portrays the challenges of a family and how the volunteers, friends, neighbours, the former employer, and the public sector have stepped in to provide care and support when the breadwinner becomes disabled. It is good to have fellow Singaporeans creating conversations on such issues, and hopefully, this can help us realise that it really takes a village to make that difference. I thank all of you for stepping up and helping those in need. I hope that more Singaporeans would follow your examples.

One of the keys to progress for our nation is the collaborative endeavours of the people sector, the private sector and the public sector. We can’t do it alone; it is just not possible. But when we come together collectively and collaboratively, a lot of things can begin to happen. We can build the best infrastructure supported by all the relevant policies, but to really be effective in helping the people in need, you also need the last-mile effort, which is where the volunteers on the ground come in. You are intimately involved and it allows us to extend the reach a lot more. The private sector also plays a very important part. It really makes a lot of difference to VWOs or areas on the ground, when you have a corporation that can organise the volunteers, and apply the skills and areas of assistance accordingly.

Sam’s video has this message: “For those who have fallen behind, let our kindness be their hope.” And indeed, your kindness, as expressed in the years that you have been a volunteer at MSF, is why we are here this evening. I am heartened to see many of you each year at our MSF Volunteer Awards. It is really good to see all of you here and I am sure that it is an opportunity for some of you to catch up with old friends as well. It really takes many helping hands and giving hearts to build a caring society, and to give hope to those in need. My ministry certainly cannot do this without your generosity. The process of reaching out and helping to care for others is actually the way that we begin to build a very different society. Can you imagine a society where more and more of us begin to actively play a part?

The social sector is not just about helping the poor or persons with disabilities, but it is also an opportunity for us to bring our fellow Singaporeans together. When more of us come on board, we can reach out to more people. The wonderful thing is that it is a virtuous cycle. At the same time, we are building relationships amongst the various volunteers, and most importantly, we are building a very different society. This is something I hope all of us begin to look at as we apply ourselves in this space.

There is a big difference between the talkers and the doers. Often, I will encounter discussions about how society can be better and how much more that we could do for the less privileged, and then I will ask the audience: “You all are very passionate about low income issues and the elderly. I am just curious, how many of you actively volunteer?” Then suddenly the room becomes very quiet. If you are fortunate, usually about 5% will raise their hands. But be that as it may, at least there is an interest, but there is some level of inertia still. You could also help by nudging your friends, neighbours, colleagues – bring them along with you when you volunteer, for them to have a glimpse. And hopefully that experience itself will touch them and they will take that first one or two steps. I believe that is how it started for many of you as well, and look at where you are, you have stuck with us for a very long time.

I know that many of you are here not because you want to make big changes, but because you feel a deep desire to help fellow Singaporeans who are less fortunate, and to make things a little better for them. To be honest, big changes come from little steps. Cumulatively, when you add up the little changes, and all the little things that we do, that is where big changes begin to happen. So indeed, to the person in a wheelchair, to a child who is abused, to families without a home, what you do as volunteers means the whole world to them. You being there at the right time and place, lending a listening ear, providing advice, acting as a role model, keeping them in school or on the right pathway—you have changed completely how their lives have unfolded over the years. So it is really your act of small kindness that have make big changes to the society.

Honouring Award Recipients

Tonight we celebrate the hard and “heart” work of 232 volunteers. Some of you have been actively serving for several decades. Your unwavering dedication is really an inspiration to all of us, and I hope this would encourage others to also join you along this journey.

We have 213 volunteers here who will receive their Long Service Awards. Three of our longest serving volunteers this year are Ms Dass Elizabeth, Mr Lim Hock Heng and Mr Yahya Bin Osman. They have been Volunteer Probation Officers since 1975. That’s the kind of time which they have committed to this work. As VPOs, they complement the work of Probation Officers to help offenders successfully complete their probation and to turn their lives around. That’s really what we are here for – helping people turn their lives around

One of our Outstanding Volunteer Awards winner has also spent more than 40 years as a volunteer and social work educator. Associate Professor Ngiam Tee Liang is one of the pioneers of social work in Singapore, and has mentored many of our social workers: One of them, our very own Director of Social Welfare, Ms Ang Bee Lian. On top of his teaching at NUS, Professor Ngiam volunteers as a Research Fellow at MSF to share his expertise in the area of social planning for MSF’s research efforts. 

Professor Ngiam is joined by six other Outstanding Volunteer Award recipients tonight. We will pay tribute to their tremendous contributions in their respective fields. They are:

  • Families For Life (FFL) Council chairman Mr Ching Wei Hong, who has actively led several initiatives to encourage families to spend quality time together.
  • Foster parents Mrs Mona Phua-Lim and Mr Henry Phua, as well as foster mum Mdm Fong Wai Kheng who not only go the extra mile to care for their foster children, but are also excellent role models to encourage more people to be foster parents. 
  • Dr Lim Yun Chin and Associate Professor Fred Long, who have both served six terms as members of the National Council on Problem Gambling, also known as NCPG. They are instrumental in forming help services and gambling counsellor training programmes for NCPG.
  • Mr Philip Tan who is currently the Vice President of National Council of Social Service (NCSS) and Chairman of Community Chest. He has been a long-serving volunteer in various areas at NCSS since 1983. 

Can we have a big round of applause for all our volunteers?

We also have 16 “Friends of MSF” winners to show our appreciation for, as they are instrumental in ensuring success in our programmes and projects. In your contributions in serving the community, you have made a difference in the lives that you have touched.

Please join me in giving our volunteers a huge round of applause. Once again, thank you so much for being such wonderful role models, and being there for our fellow Singaporeans. It really does make a difference. And I hope that this effort will not stop, and many of you will continue to volunteer in the years to come. A society that is caring and compassionate really comprises of Singaporeans who actively spend time looking out for each other. When we have more Singaporeans doing that, I can tell you that the society is going to be very different.

Thank you very much and have a good evening ahead.

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