Christmas came early for about 150 under-privileged children from the Tanglin-Cairnhill constituency on Sunday (Dec 21) who attended a special themed Christmas party organised by the area’s Citizens’ Consultative Committee.
Part of the celebrations was an interactive story-telling session with Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah, who is also the Member of Parliament for the area. The children were also entertained with games, food and other activities.
The Christmas party is an annual affair for the constituency but this is the first time it is combining its celebrations with a bursary awards ceremony. Seventy-nine children from low-income families received their bursaries – of S$100 each – along with presents from Santa.
“It means a lot to me,” said bursary award recipient Nur Diyanah Hayyu Maselan. “I am very happy I got this because not really everyone can get this bursary. I am just so grateful I get this thing this year,” added the 11-year-old, who plans to use the money to buy school items and stationery. “I like the magic show and the candy floss and the popcorn and all the games that I like to play,” added fellow bursary award recipient Rowshaun Subash, aged 8.
“It’s partly a celebration which is important for kids, but you can see we try very hard to incorporate values into it to make them understand about the spirit of giving and paying it forward and that other people have looked out for them,” said Ms Indranee.
“This is also the first year that we’ve combined the bursaries together with the Christmas party and the reason I did that was because I wanted those getting bursaries to think of it as a celebration – as a happy event and a positive thing – as opposed to making them feel that ‘I can’t afford my school fees’, or ‘I can’t afford my school books, that’s why I need this bursary.’
“It’s important to have this message so that they know and understand that the community cares for them and at the same time, it’s a community celebration.”
Children from less-privileged households on Sunday (Dec 21) received backpacks containing stationery and books to prepare them for the new school term.
Youth volunteers from the Sembawang Community Centre distributed backpacks to 91 children between the ages of four and 16 as part of a new initiative aimed at giving back to those less fortunate. The children came from 45 families living in the Sembawang estate – with most residing in two-room flats.
National Development Minister and Sembawang GRC MP Khaw Boon Wan was also present to assist with the distribution.
The backpacks, stationery and books were donated by residents and the children who received them appreciated the gesture. “It helps me prepare for the new school year which starts next year. The items that they give will help me in my studies which I can use to prepare for my PSLE,” said Dasuki Md Nasir. The 12-year-old will be starting Primary 6 next year.
“We also wanted our volunteers to be able see what the needy children in Singapore are like because I think in Singapore, we’re pretty much shielded,” said 24-year-old Singapore Management University graduate Gillian Goh, chairperson of the Sembawang CC Youth Executive Committee. “We really wanted our volunteers to experience that as well and kind of grow from the experience.”
Some companies are doing their bit to bring some holiday cheer to those in need.
Clients of the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) have put together Christmas stockings as part of their annual Christmas Stocking Challenge. Around 6,000 of the stockings are going to be sent to youths and children with disadvantages, or those with disabilities, for the rest of the festive season. But this year, some corporates are joining in the action for the first time. Apart from chipping in financially, their staff members contribute their time and help give a hand.
“When we actually incorporated this engagement session, the companies really liked it,” said Ng Rei Na, senior manager of social enterprises at MINDS. “At the end of the year, they’re looking for CSR (corporate social responsibility) activities, or activities whereby their staff can bond and do different things. We also wanted to take this chance to get (MINDS) clients to learn how to interact with members of the public, the correct social behaviour, communication and so on.”
The number of corporate contributions to the project has shot up as a result of making the project more interactive. In 2013, 40 per cent of contributions came from corporate donors, but this year it has increased to 95 per cent with more companies wanting their staff to take part in the cause as opposed to just donating financially.
“Of all the things I’ve done this year, this is one the best things I’ve sort of walked away from,” said Barclays director Alistair Duff. “We were talking about it afterwards, everyone felt very good about themselves. It was a great day; it felt like we’d given a bit back. And definitely with my wife and children at home, I want to get them involved as well.”
Over at Aii Stitch, the company sells fabric goods and sweets and employs only women in need, such as back-to-work moms and those who’d been abused. For this holiday season, it is setting aside 20 per cent of its profits for animals in need. This includes helping to pay for their medical treatments or contributing to animal shelters.
‘I don’t really want to impact just one party with a single project,” said Aii Stitch founder Leona Leong. “We thought we would hire people who are in need of a job. And we also want to give back part of our profits to those who can’t earn a living or who can’t get money like animals. They’re there, they need help.”
Aii Stitch is planning to raise its hiring in 2015, to keep the spirit of giving going into the new year.
Singaporeans are giving more of their money and time to charity, according to a survey released yesterday.
Individuals donated a record $1.25 billion this year, the highest since the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) started tracking donations through biennial surveys in 2000.
The average number of hours each person volunteered this year also rose to 93, compared with 72 hours in 2012.
However, the number of people donating and volunteering fell. In 2012, 91 per cent of 1,500 interviewees said they gave money to charities, but the number fell to 83 per cent this year when more than 1,800 were polled.
Similarly, only 18 per cent volunteered this year, compared with 32 per cent of those polled two years ago.
The growth in donations and volunteering hours actually came from current donors who dug deeper into their pockets or volunteers who spent more time serving the vulnerable.
For example, the average amount each person gave annually was $379, up from $312 in 2012.
The NVPC and analysts say the data reflects the importance of retaining and engaging volunteers and donors.
“Many regular volunteers committed more to their chosen causes and activities, having formed closer relationships with the non-profits or groups they had worked with over time,” said Mr Kevin Lee, a director at the NVPC.
People offer their time and money when they believe that they are making a difference in the cause they identify with.
Over the years, the NVPC surveys have shown that people give the most to religious organisations or informal and civic groups.
Dr Jonathan Ramsay, a lecturer at SIM University, believes fewer people are donating or volunteering because challenges remain, such as a lack of time or energy.
He said: “An important priority is helping people develop strong local ties with their neighbours, as research suggests that charitable giving occurs more often in such places. Another is to encourage giving in the workplace so that people no longer have to choose between ‘work’ and ‘helping’.”
Despite the fluctuation in giving patterns, the poor continued to donate the highest proportion of their income.
For the last three surveys, those who earn less than $1,000 a month have been giving between 1.4 per cent and 2 per cent of their wages, compared with 0.6 per cent for those who are pulling in $5,000 to $6,000 a month.
This is likely due to the poor having a higher degree of affinity with and empathy for their peers, overseas research shows.
Regular volunteer Loo Kuen Feng, who has been running recycling programmes and befriending the elderly for the last five years, said he continued to help out at Buddhist charity Tzu Chi because he felt that it valued his contributions.
“They have a structured programme where once we exceed a certain number of volunteering hours, we get more responsibilities as mentors,” said the 34- year-old health-care administrator. “This gives us room for growth and our inputs are considered in decision-making, so we feel our opinions matter.”
Source: The Straits Times