Speech by President Halimah Yacob at the Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal Luncheon
Mr S Dhanabalan, Patron of The Salvation Army, Singapore
Colonel Rodney Walters, Territorial Commander of The Salvation Army, Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar Territory
Mr Bill Foo, Chairman of The Salvation Army Advisory Board, Singapore
Ladies and gentlemen
Good afternoon. I am pleased to be here at The Salvation Army’s Red Shield Appeal Luncheon 2018.
The Salvation Army has come a long way in building up a comprehensive network of social services to meet a wide range of needs in our community. Over the years, it has helped to build a caring society and raised children and young persons to become responsible adults who make meaningful contributions to Singapore.
It is important for Singapore to forge a cohesive, caring and inclusive society. Our system is based on meritocracy, but at the same time we strive to leave no one behind. Thus not only are we prepared to do our best, but we must also walk alongside fellow citizens who need help in keeping up. We must ensure that the difficult circumstances which some children are born into do not prevent them from taking advantage of the opportunities that are available. We must offer many pathways for every Singaporean to progress and lead a full life. We should meet the needs of different segments of Singaporeans, be it the young, the elderly, families and persons with disabilities. And this is where the partnership between the government and welfare organisations such as The Salvation Army becomes very crucial.
As part of my monthly “Tiny Bites” initiative to meet children from various children’s welfare homes, I had the privilege of visiting The Salvation Army Gracehaven earlier this year. I could see the good work of the staff, not only in caring for the children but also in reintegrating the vulnerable children back to their natural families or foster care.
Another commendable initiative by The Salvation Army is the Prison Support Services - Kids In Play programme which envisions a society where families of incarcerated persons are embraced. This is important because the ones who suffer the most are the children. When parents are incarcerated, the children are normally neglected and receive minimal care. The programme provides professional support such as casework and counselling to children and families of incarcerated persons so that they can cope with issues arising from the incarceration. It is heartening that the centre is targeted in its approach by customising its sessions based on each family’s situation. It also runs the Family Bonding Programme in prisons during the June and December holidays. This initiative plays an important role in keeping families intact, which is essential to inmates as family support serves as an important motivator for change.
Let me share with you an example. Mary* was one whom the Prison Support Services – Kids In Play has impacted positively. Mary was never part of the lives of her four children as she was always in and out of prison. In 2014, Kids In Play brought Mary’s children to meet her in prison. This was part of the centre’s Family Bonding Programme, which allowed Mary’s children to see her twice a year, without any physical barrier between them. These special occasions with her children gave Mary renewed hope to turn over a new leaf. With her family’s support, Mary found the strength to seek and maintain a stable job upon her release from prison in 2015. She was determined to work hard and regain her children’s trust. Today, Mary’s family has grown much closer together than before.
Apart from bringing families together, Kids In Play encourages teenagers in the programme to be Children Helping Other Children Ambassadors. This programme grooms the teenagers to be caring leaders and mentors to younger children, allowing the teenagers to give back to the community. It is important that we give them a sense of self-worth and dignity and ensure they have a role to play not only in their own rehabilitation process, but in the lives of others.
In addition, Kids In Play collaborated with the National University of Singapore on a research, to study the dilemmas faced by caregivers who had to manage children’s responses to the incarceration. With the recent findings, the Prison Support Services - Kids In Play programme aims to put into practice some of the research findings when working with caregivers around this delicate and sensitive topic.
The services offered at Prison Support Services – Kids In Play and Gracehaven are just two examples of the many diverse programmes run by The Salvation Army.
We need many helping hands. It is not just the government providing the resources, or organisations that reach out to the families. Everyone can do their part, not just in terms of funding, but also by being volunteers. We should support the many organisations that are doing their best to help the disadvantaged and the underprivileged.
In closing, I would like to thank The Salvation Army for reaching out to children who need care and protection, families in material need and other segments in our society who need help. Children needs a lot of care, especially when their families are facing multiple challenges such as illness and being incarcerated. Through its wide range of programmes, The Salvation Army has played an important role in supporting many disadvantaged groups within our community. I urge all of us to follow this example and come together to build a compassionate society for Singapore.