Speech by President Tony Tan at the Launch of President's Challenge 2017


Mr Timothy Chionh

Managing Director, Wild Empire Choral Group

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good evening. Welcome to the launch of President’s Challenge 2017. Let me begin by expressing my appreciation to The Wild Empire Choral Group for presenting tonight’s concert. A choral group comprising students and adults, The Wild Empire Choral Group will be singing for charity tonight – a fitting way to kick-start President’s Challenge 2017.

Since inception in 2000, President’s Challenge has helped many disadvantaged families and individuals. This year, President’s Challenge will be raising funds for 52 beneficiary organisations spanning a wide range of social services, including children and family services, healthcare and eldercare services, disability services, and rehabilitation of ex-offenders. President’s Challenge will provide these beneficiaries with not just financial support, but also social support, skills and confidence, so that they can lead dignified and meaningful lives.

Improving Lives through Sports, Arts, Heritage, Culture and Nature

This evening, I am heartened that The Wild Empire Choral Group has invited some volunteers from Alexandra Health System and St Hilda’s Community Services, as well as beneficiaries from Filos Community Services and New Hope Community Services to join us in tonight’s concert. Music is a universal language that has the ability to touch and engage people. I am glad that more organisations are using the arts to reach out to those less fortunate among us. Take for example, New Hope Community Services, which runs an Arts and Music Mentorship Programme for at-risk youths and children from the shelters. The programme uses performing arts and music as a character development tool to inspire hope, confidence, and creativity in our young ones.

What New Hope Community Services has done is a good example of how we can use the arts to help the vulnerable. Indeed, since 2015, President’s Challenge has been encouraging more arts projects with meaningful social objectives. Last year, President’s Challenge supported the National Arts Council to nurture talent among at-risk youths.  We also supported the programmes of various social service organisations, such as the Alzheimer’s Disease Association and the Thye Hua Kwan Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children, to deepen engagement of their beneficiaries through the arts.

This year, President’s Challenge will continue this effort, and partner The Esplanade for the first time in three programmes to bring the arts closer to children with special needs, people with chronic illnesses and at-risk youths. 

Besides the arts, we have also in recent years identified the use of other platforms such as sports to help those who can benefit from such programmes. For example, this year, President’s Challenge will support the “Beat the Streets” programme – a values-based, life skills programme that aims to engage at-risk youths through wrestling. 

President’s Challenge 2017 has continued with this focus of supporting more programmes in sports and arts with social impact. Going forward, we will also continue to explore other meaningful platforms, such as those in heritage, culture and nature, upon which we can help improve many lives.

Meeting Singapore’s Evolving Needs

The expansion of President’s Challenge in recent years to support new areas such as sports and the arts is a reflection of the changing profile of our nation. Over the 17 years since President’s Challenge was established, the social needs of our community have evolved significantly. While the needs in our earlier years could be addressed by financial support, today’s needs are more complex and social in nature. For example, it could take the form of a cultural gap, for which the effective response may entail the building of social and cultural capital.

It is also in this same context that I introduced the President’s Challenge Volunteer Drive five years ago. I wanted to rally Singaporeans to give not just financially, but also their time to care for those around us. I am happy to note that more than 37,000 volunteers have volunteered for President’s Challenge since 2012. I am particularly encouraged that a very special group of people – our seniors – are starting to come forth to contribute actively to society.

I spoke at last year’s President’s Challenge launch event on how we can turn around the challenges of our ageing society, and capitalise on the life experiences, values and positive outlook of our seniors. I pledged 20 per cent of all funds raised under President’s Challenge 2016 to the Silver Volunteer Fund, with the hope that more seniors will step up to volunteer their time in community projects. I am heartened that many seniors have responded to this call. Take for example, the Share-a-Pot programme, a community-based frailty prevention initiative supported by the Silver Volunteer Fund. This programme is led by Alexandra Health System and aims to prevent frailty among seniors in the community. Senior volunteers in this programme organise weekly get-togethers for fellow community-dwelling seniors to drink soups with protein and calcium after their exercise sessions.

Another example is the Community Befriending Programme, where over 350 senior befrienders reach out to about 580 vulnerable or socially-isolated seniors living in the community, to provide them with psycho-social support. This is a very encouraging start to the Silver Volunteer Fund. More seniors are now keen to put their time and talent to good use by coming forward to volunteer and contribute to society.

I am therefore very happy to announce that President’s Challenge will continue to pledge 20 per cent of funds raised in 2017 to the Silver Volunteer Fund. With this, I hope to see more of us contributing to the Silver Volunteer Fund so that our seniors can continue to play their part for our society.

As A Nation, We Leave No One Behind

As Singapore progresses, we must grow together as one people. Singapore is our home. A home is not just a structure made out of a roof, supporting beams and walls. A home is also where we care for everyone who lives within it.

This is the spirit behind President’s Challenge. As a national movement, President’s Challenge supports a wide range of beneficiary organisations across numerous sectors to meet the needs of a growing nation. It is ultimately about building a caring, cohesive and inclusive society together. President’s Challenge is about caring for everyone in our community, in this place we all call home.

I am glad to now declare the commencement of President’s Challenge 2017.

Thank you and have a great evening.