Self-help groups such as the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) play an important role in Singapore’s new way forward, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today (Oct 24), referring to the Government’s shift to provide more government and community support for individual efforts.
Speaking to more than 800 guests at the CDAC Charity Fund Raising Dinner, Mr Lee said these self-help groups keep the pioneering spirit of mutual help alive and foster a society where everyone contributes, including those who have benefited.
When the forefathers of Singaporeans arrived in the 19th century, they banded together to survive in a foreign environment. This role is now played by the CDAC on a national basis, said Mr Lee. For example, it supported some 17,000 low-income households last year, he said.
The organisation nurtures the potential of students and helps parents to be more employable through upgrading their skills. Equipping them with parenting, financial management and healthy living skills helps strengthen the resilience of families, he added.
At the National Day Rally last year, Mr Lee had spoken of a strategic shift in nation building, with the Government and the community doing more to support individuals, moving away from the “tough love” approach of low and targeted state welfare. Singaporeans, he had said, were uncertain and anxious, feelings that were compounded by domestic social stresses.
The CDAC, which announced last month it would raise monthly contribution rates from Jan 1, has been running an operating deficit in recent years, as it enhanced its programmes for the community. Today’s fund-raising dinner was its second in the past 22 years, with the first dinner held in 1992.
The event raised S$17.8 million for the CDAC Endowment fund. The Government had also previously announced it would support the council’s programmes and initiatives by providing a S$10 million grant over the next five years.
Its beneficiaries include Madam Serene Ng, who battled medical illness while single-handedly raising her two sons, one of whom is dyslexic. With the CDAC’s support, her sons were able to receive tertiary education.
The Prime Minister said he understood the situation that Mdm Ng and the other beneficiaries were in and assured them of community and government support.
The monthly contributions paid by Singaporeans to the CDAC, he noted, are an important gesture which show that individuals bear a shared responsibility to each other.
Each contribution, whatever the amount, is important and valued and such efforts will make society more caring, Mr Lee added.