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Opening Remarks by Minister Desmond Lee at the Food from the Heart and Singapore Symphony Orchestra Joint Gala Dinner

Type: Official Speeches (All), Official Speeches: Desmond Lee

Topic(s): Financial Assistance & Social Support, Social Service Agencies & Partners

Mr Ronald Stride, Chairman, Food from the Heart

Mr Goh Yew Lin, Chair, Singapore Symphony Orchestra

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen


  1. It is my pleasure this evening to join you and support the joint fundraising gala dinner of Food from the Heart and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.


  2. Both organisations, which many Singaporeans are familiar with, are important partners in giving back to the community, including lower income families.


    • Food from the Heart is one of the largest food charities in Singapore and has been running food support programmes providing consistent and reliable food support to lower income families since it was established in 2003.


      • Food from the Heart, by working with community organisations, schools, and welfare homes, has uplifted the lives of more than 60,000 Singaporeans. In 2022 alone, Food from the Heart distributed over S$7 million worth of food to those in need.


      • You are also a staunch partner in the Charity Food Workgroup, which my colleagues at the Ministry of Social and Family Development formed some years ago to bring together various charitable organisations providing food support, so that our collective efforts to provide food support to those in need can be better coordinated, and food wastage reduced.
    • The SSO, on the other hand, has touched many lives through its world-class performances and community outreach programmes since its founding.


      • The orchestra’s most recent accolade as one of the best orchestras in the world, as named by BBC Music Magazine, is a testament of its musical excellence.


      • The SSO’s partnership with social service agencies has also enabled it to extend its reach further to the less privileged families to experience SSO concerts. SSO exemplifies how organisations outside the social service sector can go beyond philanthropy to enrich the lives of lower-income families with their talent and expertise.


  3. Tonight's joint gala dinner is a unique opportunity for both organisations to come together and celebrate their successes, as well as raise funds for their respective missions so that they can continue to serve our community and enrich our lives. This is especially important, after three challenging years battling COVID-19.


  4. The way both organisations and their volunteers stepped up to do more for the community when the need arose is exactly what Singaporeans have told us they would like to see as we refresh the social compact that binds us together. Where individuals and families have a strong sense of personal agency and self-reliance, community organisations provide quality support to those in need, and the Government creates conditions for opportunity and growth as well as ensures strong safety nets for those in need.


  5. I’d like to take this opportunity to share with everyone here the major work that has been ongoing on the ground to make a major push to transform how we support the vulnerable in our community better. Not the same old way, doing more in a better and much more coordinated way. FFTH is no stranger to this. This is Community Link, or ComLink for short, an example of how individuals, community, and Government have come together to put this social compact into action.


    • To understand how ComLink leads in the transformation of social safety nets here in our city-state, we must understand how it has been all this while, both in Singapore and around the world. Families who need support will need to approach different organisations and groups who provide specialised assistance in one form of the other. Families who struggle with interlocking issues will typically have to approach different organisations and undergo repeated forms of needs assessment. As society progresses, we have to do much better to support such families.


    • Our goal is to move the system from the agency or charity being at the centre, to one where we reorientate ourselves to put the families that we serve at the heart of everything we do.


    • Fundamentally, ComLink operates in this way. It delivers community and government support in a family-centric way to families with children living in public rental housing. Rental housing caters to those who have no other housing options, and they rent from the Government from as low as $56 a month.


    • For these families with children in rental housing, we make use of our data, to proactively reach out to around14,000 families. We pair our officers with volunteer befrienders to reach out to families proactively to understand their strengths, aspirations, needs, aspirations, and their fears.


    • We worked with ComLink families on a customised road map that the families own, making good use of data with their express consent. Families tap on the support of the ComLink officers and volunteers to co-develop action plans to achieve their goals.

    • Community partners, government agencies, charities, including Food from the Heart, secular and religious organisations, corporates, philanthropic organisations, social enterprises, and Institutes of Higher Learning, can then marshal specific programmes, and provide ComLink programmes and services, including financial literacy programmes, enrichment activities, sports, and many others. ComLink officers and our volunteers then link families up with programmes relevant to their specific plans and provide encouragement as families progress towards their goals and overcome their challenges. This is a very different, and intensive way of tackling stubborn inequality.


    • We have expanded ComLink islandwide in the past two years from four pilot towns to 21 ComLink communities, each supported by a Social Service Office. We hope for all ComLink families to be empowered through these efforts to achieve stability, self-reliance, and ultimately, social mobility.


  6. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the hard work of all our community partners as well as volunteers, which have contributed to our shared vision of a caring society.


    • It is in recognition of the important contributions of partners such as yourselves that my colleagues and I at MSF have dedicated 2023 as the Year of Celebrating Social Service Partners.


  7. The funds raised at tonight’s gala dinner will be critical to helping both organisations continue with their charitable works. For instance:


    • The funds will help Food from the Heart expand its Community Shops island-wide to better serve the lower income in our community and confer them with dignity of choice.


    • It will also help SSO nurture musical talents and host stage concerts so that more people can get to enjoy unforgettable moments like this evening.


  8. I therefore encourage you to show both these organisations your fullest support by giving generously from your heart.


    • Let’s all play our part to support the more vulnerable in our community  and create a more inclusive  society together.


  9. I wish everyone an enjoyable evening ahead. Thank you!