Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Speaker of the Parliament of Singapore and Advisor to the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre
Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, and Second Minister for Law
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good afternoon. I am pleased to join you at the tenth edition of the President’s Volunteerism and Philanthropy Awards (PVPA).
PVPA recognises and celebrates outstanding givers in Singapore. Since its first edition in 2012, it has garnered almost 1,400 nominations and honoured 94 awardees. Over 550 nominations were received in 2020 and 2021 alone, a testament to the generosity of Singaporeans in times of crisis. While the award and its categories have evolved and been refreshed to reflect the changing landscape over the past decade, what has remained constant is the willingness of people to give and uplift those who need a helping hand. We should be proud that this culture of care is part of Singapore’s DNA.
In the past two years, I met people, organisations, and leaders from all walks of life who stepped up to help the community in a time of intense need. It is heartening to see that these efforts have continued beyond the pandemic. In fact, most of today’s award recipients have championed and supported their causes for years, some even over a decade! Such dedication and tenacity are truly inspirational in our endeavour to become a City of Good, a Singapore that cares.
Anyone can give, in their own way, big or small. Age is no limit. 73-year-old Grant Pereira is the recipient of the Senior category of the ‘People of Good’ award for his commitment towards the environment. Grant is a passionate advocate for the environment and wildlife. He devoted more than 30 years towards restoring natural habitats, rehabilitating wildlife, and creating green spaces to nurture biodiversity. He worked with multiple organisations such as ACRES, schools, and parks like Tampines Eco Garden and Singapore Botanic Garden.
Grant also initiated various campaigns to encourage harmonious living within our precious ecosystem by raising awareness on topics such as whale hunting, shark fin consumption and elephant rescues. As the founder of Green Volunteers with a volunteer base of 5,000 people, Grant’s work has extended to the region. To date, he has led thousands of volunteers in planting more than 300,000 trees in Southeast Asia including Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Laos.
Another outstanding leader in his field is Lim Tanguy, a familiar name in the judicial sector. As the Chief Executive Officer of the Law Society Pro Bono Services (LSPBS), Tanguy is a veteran lawyer who strongly believes that everyone in Singapore should have equal access to justice. Besides helping those in need of pro bono legal assistance such as foreign domestic workers, the ‘Leader of Good – Adult’ category award recipient sought to galvanise the legal sector to help the needy in Singapore with their skillset. In 2007, he left a firm partnership and took up the position of Director of Pro Bono Services where he started the journey to scale up the provision of pro bono legal services in Singapore. He lobbied the support of law firms’ management to pioneer pro bono programmes instead of the traditional approach of appealing to individual lawyers. This resulted in an unprecedented rise in volunteer lawyers from 400 to 1,500 volunteers in 2015.
Tanguy also developed a robust network of partners with the public, private, and community sectors. In partnership with People’s Association, Southeast Community Development Council and Northwest Community Development Council, LSPBS provides legal clinics for the public on a weekly basis. He often shares his passion and thought leadership at justice conferences to motivate bar associations to embark on the volunteering journey to uplift those in need. Tanguy is indeed an ardent contributor to our SG Cares movement!
Last month, 112 organisations in the corporate sector were recognised at the Champions of Good conferment ceremony. It is notable that more public institutions have gone above their call of duty to contribute to the well-being of society.
The National Library Board (NLB) is one such institution. While many have benefitted from their reading programmes, few might know of their initiatives that nurture a love for reading among children from low-income families and that empower persons with disabilities. NLB has been providing opportunities for Singaporeans from all strata of society to read, learn, and improve their literacy by leveraging their biggest asset – the public libraries – to provide safe spaces for persons with disabilities.
NLB also started inclusive hiring as early as 1991 and currently has a total of 31 employees with disabilities working across the network of libraries and archives. The organisation trains and upskills people with disabilities, and offers meaningful employment for them. In partnership with Autism Resource Centre, NLB carved out new roles to engage individuals with autism spectrum disorder in 2010, and in 2019, engaged more of those individuals to work in the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library as library service assistants.
Another example of an impactful and collaborative partnership is the one between Agape Connecting People and Barclays Bank. The collaboration is one of the City of Good award recipients today. Agape Connecting People is a social enterprise dedicated to promoting equity and inclusiveness for those who are underrepresented and underserved, such as ex-prisoners and single mothers, to integrate into society with dignity. Barclays is a global banking institution with a strong sense of purpose to do corporate good in Singapore.
With the help of Barclays’ funding, Agape was able to launch its training and job placement centre in 2021 to provide work-ready skills and employment opportunities to those looking to rebuild their lives. More than 180 people have been successfully placed into the workforce with nearly half of them women. Their involvement with the beneficiaries continues well into their employment. To ensure that they acclimatised well into society, Agape continues to mentor these beneficiaries for a year and help them mitigate workplace challenges along the way. Barclays’ employees from Singapore and the region also contributed their time, skills, and knowledge to equip the beneficiaries with employable skills and practical knowledge through their life-skills programme.
I want to take a moment for us to reflect on how each one of you has made an impact on Singapore’s future, contributing in different ways to build a more caring and gracious community. Some of you have nudged others into rethinking their priorities, inspired more to consider others before one’s self, created new opportunities for the community and given greater meaning to life.
The road ahead will not be devoid of challenges and obstacles. But as long as we continue giving our best for others, I believe that we can be a more inclusive and caring Singapore, with a strengthened social compact to build a better home for all of us.
Once again, I would like to extend my heartiest congratulations to the winners today. In the spirit of SG Cares, may you continue your good work and lead the path to a better and brighter future for all.
The President is responsible for safeguarding the national reserves and the integrity of the public service. The President also receives foreign dignitaries, officiates at state functions and performs other ceremonial and community duties.