SINGAPORE — Three months after being set up, the TODAY Enable Fund has raised S$265,000, reaching more than half of its target sum of S$500,000 for its first year. And the charity dinner and auction held on Tuesday night (Feb 28) at Grand Mercure Singapore Roxy hotel in Marine Parade gave the fund its biggest boost to date, raising S$200,000, inclusive of an anonymous donation.
Artwork done by six artists with special needs, as well as some personal items of fund patron Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong were auctioned off.
The auction raised close to S$64,000, and a commemorative book on Mr Goh published by the National Trades Union Congress received the highest bid of S$32,000.
Mr Goh announced that the charity fund, started last December, would support programmes for persons with disabilities by April. He said that he was heartened by the generous contributions of the corporate and individual donors who snapped up all 30 tables for the dinner to the tune of S$125,000.
Among them were OCBC, Roxy Foundation, Tanoto Foundation and Wong Partnership, which each bought a full table for between S$5,000 and S$10,000, while individuals such as Raffles Medical executive chairman Loo Choon Yong donated S$10,000, and property developer Kwee Liong Tek and former chief of defence force Lieutenant-General (Retired) Ng Jui Ping donated S$5,000 each.
Mr Bey Soo Khiang, chairman of Tanoto Foundation’s Board of Governance, said that more could be done to get people to see and treat the special-needs community as “equals”.
“Part of the problem is that (mainstream society) can’t appreciate what the disadvantaged or disabled person faces … younger ones are opening up and being more caring, but being caring is just not good enough. (It’s about) appreciating and treating the person with (the) disability as normal,” hesaid.
In his speech, Mr Goh said that while meritocracy has been the bedrock of Singapore, society needs to move towards the direction of “compassionate meritocracy”.
Beyond educating and training a person with a disability to maximise his abilities, there could be more effort to “level the playing field”, by investing capital in those who lack the financial resources and family support.
“Those who have succeeded in climbing the ladder of meritocracy should also have the compassion to reach back down the ladder and give a helping hand to those who are struggling behind,” Mr Goh said.
Although the Government has programmes to help the underprivileged in society, the community should chip in as well, he added.
And this is where the TODAY Enable Fund comes in. The fund, administered by SG Enable — an agency that helps the special-needs community — is a way of putting this concept into action, he said. It is not simply to help people with disabilities out of a tight situation or with their daily needs, but to provide them with resources so that they have a chance to use their talents to achieve success.
The fund will support the aspirations of people with disabilities that are beyond their families’ financial means, and fund their transition to work programmes, such as mentorship or training initiatives to help them lead more independent lives. It will also be used to encourage community integration efforts to promote greater inclusion.
Mr Goh appealed to readers of TODAY to contribute as each small sum would make a difference.
Tuesday’s programme included a showcase by Ms Stephanie Ow, 21, on the erhu, a testament that being blind is no barrier to her mastering the difficult two-stringed Chinese instrument.
Miss Yap Foon Lyn, vice-principal of Methodist Girls’ School (Primary), said that the school has started a stall in the canteen selling smoothies, manned by students with special needs. The students also put up a handbell ensemble performance last night.