At the President's Challenge (PC) Appreciation Night attended by Human Resources on 28 November 2018, Singapore's President Halimah Yacob revealed that the PC has raised S$2.5 million for the Empowering for Life Fund (ELF).
The president also noted the ELF will be matched by the Singapore Government, doubling the total amount to S$5 million.
The event saw President Halimah giving out tokens of appreciation to 70 top donors and volunteers.
In her speech, she noted that more donor organisations have stepped up to join on this meaningful work of doing good together, from 47 in 2013 to 82 this year. Among the new donors include household names such as Sheng Siong, Sian Chay Medical Institution, Maybank, and Bengawan Solo.
The president also acknowledged the long-standing support by key partners including Keppel Care Foundation, Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, Lee Foundation, Mediacorp, SingHealth, Stephen Riady Foundation, Terry Tan, and challenge sponsor, Tote Board Group, as well as the many individual donors.
Launched earlier in February to fund programmes which empower the less fortunate through skills upgrading, capacity-building and employment, the ELF is supporting 13 organisations in 2018.
At the event, President Halimah said: "President's Challenge was started almost two decades (18 years) ago with a simple but noble aim of raising funds for the less fortunate. Over the years, our philanthropic landscape has matured. But we also face new challenges.
"Technological advances, for example, has affected some groups disproportionately. Our social support system has to correspondingly evolve, which is why going forward, President's Challenge will also need to look into more customised and upstream support."
Noting that one way to support disadvantaged individuals is through enhancing their skills and employability, she added: "Employment is important, as it helps them sustain a livelihood and be independent. More importantly, it helps these individuals and their families regain dignity and self-worth. This is the reason I decided to establish the ELF under President's Challenge.
"As we talk about SkillsFuture and lifelong learning as a nation, it is perhaps even more critical that we support those who are less fortunate to upgrade their skills, so that they too have fair opportunities to secure employment."
On site, Human Resources spoke to Phyllis Lim, deputy director, U Care Centre, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), to find out how the ELF has benefited low-income families under the NTUC U-Care Fund, as well as how it will potentially help the business landscape in the long run.
Q How has the ELF fund benefited low-income families who are under the NTUC U-Care Fund?
NTUC U-Care fund was set up to use different ways to reach out to our low-income union members and their families. So, when the ELF started, we put forward a proposal to seek funding for our particular programme called Pathfinder.
Pathfinder is an extension of our Lift-Up programme. Lift-Up stands for "low-income families transitioning up". What we believe is that beyond just giving direct financial assistance to low-income families, giving them experiential learning, equipping them with the skills to help themselves is very important.
The Lift-Up programme, together with the Pathfinder programme, is an extension of identifying families as a unit to go through learning and identifying what are the areas that we can help increase their employability skills. The ultimate objective is for them to be able to look for better jobs or look for jobs if they are not currently working.
With the support of ELF, that is how we started this as a pilot. ELF certainly provided the funding support to allow us to do this programme.
Q You mentioned employability skills — can you give an example of some skills you are looking at?
Any skill that allows a person to find employment would be considered. It can be very wide-ranging depending on the individual needs.
The Pathfinder programme helps them to identify which occupation they would like to enter and what skills are required. It is structured in a way that we first help them to increase their self-confidence and adopt the mindset of being ready to take on new challenges. Then, we go through something similar to a SkillsFuture advice workshop where they will identify what profession or occupation will suit their personality. From there, they identify specific training courses.
One beneficiary we are working with is currently unemployed and interested in accountancy. She is taking related courses and is hoping to enter the profession after her training. Another beneficiary was a housewife with an interest in floral arrangement so she took up a course in that. Now she is working as a part-time florist.
The examples really show that by equipping our beneficiaries with the skills to do what they want to do and supporting them along the way, they really can find employment.
Q In line with that, how do you feel that the business landscape will benefit in the long run because of these initiatives?
It is still early because our programme just started this year. We hope that the programme will continue to support these families.
In terms of how it will benefit the business landscape, when they enter the workforce, they will be able to contribute meaningfully to whatever work they manage to take on and that will help the employer.
Photo gallery from the event:
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Note: Apart from ELF, the President's Challenge continues to support the Silver Volunteer Fund, as well as a range of other social causes including children and family services, healthcare and eldercare, disability services, rehabilitation of ex-offenders, as well as sports, the arts, heritage, culture and nature which have long-term positive social impact on the nation. The President's Challenge is on track to raise over S$13 million this year - the highest since its inception.
Photo / President's Challenge Lead photo caption / (From L to R) Ms Shirley Heng and Mr Heng Shen present handbaked cookies to Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee and President Halimah Yacob. Both Shirley and Heng Shen are employed by Metta Café and have benefited from skills training supported by the President’s Challenge Empowering for Life Fund (ELF).