Mr Leslie Wong, President, YMCA of Singapore,
Ms Cynthia Tan, Chairman, YMCA Giving Gala 2017,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very good evening and thank you for inviting me to be part of your celebrations.
Firstly, I would like to congratulate YMCA of Singapore as you celebrate your 115th anniversary. You have come a long way in providing sterling service to the community in Singapore. I wish you many more years of growth as you continue on your mission of improving lives and nurturing community champions.
Just last month, YMCA conducted its 41st Y Camp Challenge for individuals with intellectual or physical disabilities. Beneficiaries and volunteers from Mountbatten Vocational School, Asian Women’s Welfare Association (AWWA) School and Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN) Student Care Centre were brought together to conquer confidence-building challenges and camp activities. Through this camp, 50 youths picked up basic skills and confidence to live independently. I am pleased to learn that YMCA, together with other community and Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs), have brought positive impact to the lives of many Singaporeans. Your efforts highlight the important role that the community plays in supporting persons with disabilities and their families.
Importance of community in supporting persons with disabilities and vulnerable families
A truly family-friendly society must necessarily also be a caring and inclusive society – one which provides strong support for vulnerable families and persons with disabilities. Our Third Enabling Masterplan charts significant steps towards empowering persons with disabilities to achieve their fullest potential as integral and contributing members of society. The Ministry of Social and Family Development will be rolling out initiatives to strengthen the eco-system of support for persons with disabilities and to continue to enhance the capabilities of VWOs. To build a holistic and seamless eco-system of support for persons with disabilities, it is important for the whole-of-society to come together to play its part – this includes the government, employers, VWOs, the wider community, and families themselves.
Services provided by VWOs and community service programmes are vital in our eco-system of mutual support. I am heartened to learn that YMCA International House hires interns with intellectual disabilities. These individuals are trained in housekeeping and food and beverage services from the APSN Centre for Adults, Grace Orchard School and Mountbatten Vocational School. We hope many more employers will follow YMCA’s example in recognising the strong contributions that persons with disabilities can make, and give them opportunities to be gainfully employed. This goes a long way in enabling independence and in building the confidence of persons with disabilities to step out and participate actively in our shared community.
Making Singapore a great place for families
More broadly, we must make Singapore a great place for families. Families are the foundation of our society, and the government is strongly committed to making Singapore a family-friendly city and society, where marriage and parenthood are Achievable, Enjoyable, and Celebrated. We have progressively enhanced our marriage and parenthood measures over time, to support Singaporeans in achieving their aspirations to get married, and have children.
Supporting the important role of fathers
One of our key priorities is to encourage fathers to play a bigger role in raising their children. Earlier this year, we legislated the second week of Paternity Leave and increased Shared Parental Leave from one, to four weeks. Including paid child care leave and unpaid infant care leave provisions, fathers can enjoy a total of up to eight weeks of leave to care for their new-born children in the first year of birth.
Fathers play a critical role in their children’s development and well-being. International studies have shown that children with more involved fathers develop better, physically, emotionally and cognitively. For example, these children have higher self-esteem, stronger language skills and adapt better in social situations. And I am sure that fathers will find a deep sense of fulfilment from helping their children grow, discover the world and master new skills.
It is important that fathers share responsibilities with mothers within the family. Many Singaporeans today, both men and women, want to have fulfilling family lives even as they have meaningful careers. Hence, as more mothers continue to work, fathers must correspondingly take on their share of parenting and domestic responsibilities. Having a true partnership between mums and dads would enable both of them to juggle their work and family commitments more sustainably.
To acknowledge the important role that fathers play, we supported a nation-wide “Celebrating Fathers” movement in June this year to honour the important roles played by fathers, and the sacrifices that they have made for their families. Many community partners and merchants participated in the movement by offering various activities and deals to celebrate fathers. I am also heartened that many fathers actively supported the movement. One of them is Mr Mohd Jamaluddin Abdullah, a proud and active father of five children. Jamaluddin used to work in a bakery cleaning cake moulds at age eleven as his adoptive parents would not provide enough to support his education. Today, he dedicates his time to serve as a parent volunteer at Zhenghua Primary School where his children study – actively participating in his children’s schooling activities and contributing to the community. Jamaluddin’s story demonstrates his commitment to active parenting and highlights the key quality of resilience in fathering. I hope that for many of the beneficiary families, both fathers and mothers, are just as involved in the child’s development.
More broadly, we need the wider community, including VWOs, employers, and co-workers, to come on board to celebrate marriage and parenthood, and to foster more supportive workplaces and communities. YMCA’s programmes that engage and support families are important contributions to a more family-friendly environment in Singapore.
All of us – in our own ways and in different capacities – can do more to help build a more caring and inclusive Singapore that truly celebrates families. Your presence here tonight signifies your commitment to this.
I thank you for your support of YMCA and urge you to continue to extend a helping hand beyond tonight. Thank you.