Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the Singapore Children's Society 70th Anniversary Charity Gala Dinner on 22 November 2022.
Mr Koh Choon Hui, Chairman of Singapore Children’s Society,
Committee members of the Society,
Ladies and gentlemen,
A very good evening.
I am delighted to join you all for the Singapore Children’s Society’s 70th anniversary Charity Gala Dinner.
People often ask me - what has been the most enjoyable job in my career so far?
I have derived great satisfaction from my many different roles, but my stint as Education Minister has a very special place in my heart.
Interacting with our children inspired me greatly in the five years when I was in MOE.
Our children are the future of Singapore and the world, and I have been very encouraged by their hopes, passions, and aspirations.
People sometimes say that children born in Singapore today are fortunate.
People of my generation will remember the bread-and-butter issues that many families faced.
Over the years, we have indeed made significant progress as a society, in health, education, and economic outcomes.
Today, we rank among the top in the world for our human capital.
But while we have made progress, every generation will have its own unique challenges.
Children growing up today have to deal with issues that previous generations did not face. For example, the internet and social media can negatively affect adolescent mental health.
All around the world, COVID-19 has also thrown a curveball in students’ development. I am glad that our children are back in schools, and resuming their friendships and learning.
In their lifetimes, they will also have to deal with major global challenges, whether it is geopolitical turbulence or climate change.
As we look ahead, we will continue to support our children in building the foundations that help them succeed.
Childhood are the critical years when we form values and perspectives.
We are committed to creating opportunities for our children, from preschool to higher education, to build well-rounded perspectives and life skills that serve them well in the future.
But raising a child takes a village. While the government will do all we can, this must be a whole-of-society effort – involving parents and the broader community.
Contributions of Singapore Children’s Society
This brings me to the excellent work of Singapore Children’s Society.
Over the last 70 years, the Singapore Children’s Society has played a key role in strengthening families and supporting children.
Your longevity is remarkable. There are not many organisations around that can reach such a milestone.
How have you done this? It is because you have kept your services relevant over time, to meet the changing needs of children, and the evolving context of our society.
In the 1950s, when there was only a very basic level of social services by the government, Children’s Society stepped in to plug the gap, and set up a convalescent home for malnourished children.
But as our nation developed and dual income families became a norm, you started student care services to support “latchkey children” – children who wore their house keys around their necks so they could let themselves into their empty homes after school, as both of their parents were working.
Over the years, you have continued to introduce new services to respond to evolving challenges, such as programmes to address bullying, child abuse and neglect, to name a few.
Looking ahead, I am glad that Singapore Children’s Society continues to keep up with changing times and needs.
Today, as Choon Hui mentioned, you already run 11 service centres, offering a whole range of services to support children and youth, including those from vulnerable families.
You are constantly picking up new areas of needs, and taking action to address them. For example, the pandemic shone a spotlight on the issue of mental health, which you have identified as a new priority.
To address this, you have set up the Oasis for Minds Services (OMS), which provides a continuity of care for our children’s mental wellness journey, including not just community-based support, but also preventive care.
So very well done, Singapore Children’s Society! Thank you very much.
I have spoken about how you have kept your mission relevant over the years. But there is another very key reason why you have succeeded – the people who are at the heart of your movement.
I wanted to give special attention to your dedicated team of social service practitioners, staff, and volunteers.
They have been working tirelessly behind the scenes, and many have served for decades.
They are the unseen heroes, and many of them prefer it that way. They would rather let their work speak for themselves.
I understand that some of them are here with us at the dinner tonight.
I must also make a special mention of your chairman, Koh Choon Hui. Choon Hui has been the chairman of the Singapore Children’s Society since 1978. In fact, he has served in the society since 1975. Thank you very much, Choon Hui, and all of your team here.
Beyond your staff and volunteers, let me also commend those who have given generously to Children’s Society, and other worthy causes.
It is this spirit of giving that has enabled Children’s Society to go the extra mile, and to continue making a difference all these years.
You have heard from Choon Hui just now, how your donations make a tangible impact on the lives of the beneficiaries.
Those are stories of lives turned around, made possible by you and many other generous donors.
So as we continue to strengthen and refresh our social compact through the Forward Singapore exercise, each one of us can do more.
I thank all of you here tonight for your generosity, and encourage you to continue to contribute.
Finally, I want to congratulate Singapore Children’s Society again on your 70th anniversary.
You have come a long way since your founding in 1952.
Over the last seven decades, you have brought hope and smiles to countless children and families.
With the continued support of everyone here tonight, I am confident that Children’s Society will be able to fulfil its mission of bringing relief and happiness to children in need, for many decades to come.
Congratulations and I wish everyone an enjoyable evening ahead. Thank you.
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