Published on 10 November 2023
A very good Friday morning to everyone. It is a joy to see all of you, and to be here with you at this year’s Toy Buffet.
2. Organised annually by Food from the Heart, the Toy Buffet has taken a three-year hiatus due to Covid-19, but is now back bigger and better with more partners as well.
3. Since its inception in 2004, the Toy Buffet has grown tremendously. Starting with 1,000 toys, the Toy Buffet now distributes over 10,000 toys each year to thousands of primary school children under the Ministry of Education’s Financial Assistance Scheme, and some of them are children from Community Link (ComLink) families. This is a great achievement, and kudos to the team at Food from the Heart.
4. This growth is a powerful testimony of our spirit of community and shared responsibility as part of our social compact. It also demonstrates Food from the Heart’s unwavering commitment to support our children from lower-income families.
5. This year’s Toy Buffet marks another milestone in its journey. It is back with a bang, partnering nearly 60 companies and 25 schools to conduct toy donation drives and raise funds. I understand that today we have 500 volunteers at the event but overall, close to 1,200 volunteers have stepped up in various capacities to do more for the community by getting themselves involved in this year’s Toy Buffet.
6. In the same spirit, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will continue to partner the community to strengthen support for lower-income families. This is because strong families are the bedrock of our society, and we want all our families to achieve stability, self-reliance, and social mobility.
7. While Singapore has made some progress over the years on the issue of income inequality, lower-income families continue to face more complex challenges, which may hinder their progress even when they are trying hard. This is why MSF has rolled out ComLink since 2021, an initiative which many of you may be familiar with.
8. Under the ComLink initiative, we:
- Proactively reach out to families with children residing in public rental flats to better understand their aspirations, strengths and needs;
- Journey with the families on their customised action plans; and
- Partner the community to provide more family-centric support.
(i) In the past, families would typically need to approach various agencies and community organisations to apply for schemes and grants. This leaves them with little bandwidth to focus on other matters, like employment and health. This is why we reach out to families and offer a helping hand that is Comprehensive, Convenient and Coordinated.
9. To that end, we are enhancing ComLink to ComLink+, in two key ways.
- Firstly, we are equipping and training our ComLink Officers to become Family Coaches who will play a stronger role in working with each family to determine the customised support they need.
- Secondly, we will work with the community to provide additional support to ComLink+ families that make progress in the identified areas in their action plans, like staying employed, saving up to buy a home, or ensuring their children attend preschool regularly.
10. Like the Toy Buffet, ComLink+ is a whole-of-society effort, and there are many ways in which all of us can support ComLink:
- We need more individuals to volunteer their time and commit to serve with Family Coaches as befrienders. Our befrienders help actively engage the families and encourage them through the ups and downs of their journey, and point them to opportunities where possible.
- We are also inviting more businesses, employers and donors to step forward and contribute resources, time, or in-kind support like opportunities for ComLink families.
11. Together, we can build a better Singapore, one that is more caring and inclusive.
12. I would like to thank all of you, our volunteers, corporate partners, Food from the Heart and Singapore Polytechnic for all the hard work that has been put in for this event.
13. I wish everyone an enjoyable day at this Toy Buffet. Thank you.