SM Teo Chee Hean at Down Syndrome Association's "Mystique XIII" Charity Gala Dinner

SM Teo Chee Hean | 7 October 2019

Speech by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean at the Down Syndrome Association's "Mystique XIII" Charity Gala Dinner on 5 October 2019.

Mr Tan Soo Koon
Patron of the Down Syndrome Association (Singapore)

Mr R. Sivanandam
Chairperson of the Down Syndrome Association (Singapore)

DSA Advisors, Board Members,

Distinguished guests,

Members of DSA and their families,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to join you tonight and nice to see many familiar faces at the Down Syndrome Association “MYSTIQUE VIII” Charity Gala Dinner. I fondly recall attending DSA’s 15th Anniversary Celebration and “MYSTIQUE V” Charity Gala Dinner back in 2011, as well as your 10th Anniversary Celebration in 2006. I am delighted to be back to see the progress you have made as an association and also the progress that those with Down Syndrome has made in Singapore to find greater acceptance in society and to find a greater role in society and fulfill them.

Tonight is a good occasion to celebrate and recognise the achievements of DSA in this direction. DSA has come a long way since it started as a parent support group in 1995. In July 2007, DSA became a full member of the National Council of Social Service. Over the years, it has expanded its outreach and suite of services to support the Down syndrome community in Singapore. Tonight, I am heartened to see so many familiar faces who have steadfastly supported DSA’s work over the years, and are still contributing actively as Board members, advisors, volunteers and sponsors.

The theme of tonight’s event, “Leave No One Behind”, is particularly meaningful. It is the mark of what a caring, gracious and civilised society should be – how we bring everyone along with us, and ensure that no one is left behind. We need to pay particular attention to those with disabilities, so that they can receive sufficient support to keep up with and feel a sense of belonging in our community. Indeed, with the advances in medical sciences and technology today, there is a lot that we can do for those with disabilities. We can look at what they are able to do and try to make sure that we realise the potential of everyone.

While some children with mild disabilities can be easily integrated in mainstream schools, others with more severe needs may be better supported in special education schools, where they can receive more intensive specialised support. The majority of children with Down Syndrome are in special education schools, where they receive customised curriculum and specialised support. This will enable them to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to help them become active and well-integrated members of our community.

I am happy that DSA has opened a new facility, the Independent Living and Training Centre, in April this year. This is the first such centre in Singapore for young adults with Down Syndrome, to equip them with life skills such as financial planning, independent travelling, communal living, cooking, and other aspects of home economics. Through such training, we can help those with intellectual disability to live as independently as possible, and enjoy the same aspects of life that people without disabilities enjoy.

DSA has been doing excellent work through the Integration Facilitation Support Programme, which has been running for the past decade. More than 50 students have gone through this programme. The programme has helped more than 20 adult learners gain employment in the administrative, food and beverage, hospitality and logistics sectors. This year, we will have our very first IFSP student sitting for her GCE “N” Levels – Zhuo Ying, who spoke with us earlier this evening. Zhuo Ying, your story is an inspiration to all of us and we wish you all the best for the “N” Levels! All the best, Zhuo Ying.

A very much used phrase is “it takes a village to raise a child”, and it is true. What I witness here tonight is a testament to that. While the long-term care, education, support services and special equipment provided by DSA can help to transform the lives of its members, they also represent a significant financial toll on their families. While the government and DSA puts in more resources, it is still a toll on the families. DSA can only continue its good work if it receives strong support from our community, partners and other stakeholders. I urge everyone here to donate generously, and to rally your friends, families and colleagues to contribute too. It is a signal that our society supports, encourages and wants to bring everyone along.

Finally, I would like to thank all the members of DSA’s Board, management and staff for your hard work and contributions to the lives of all persons with Down Syndrome and their families. My best wishes to DSA (Singapore) on your 23rd anniversary. I wish you continued success as we all work together to build a more caring and inclusive home in Singapore for all of us.

Thank you for your presence and thank you in advance for your overflowing generosity. Thank you very much.