SINGAPORE: Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and the TODAY newspaper have started a charity fund to help enhance the education, skills and employment prospects of people with disabilities.
The TODAY Enable Fund, which was launched on Friday (Dec 2), will raise money for people with disabilities to fulfil their work, sports or arts aspirations, as well as fund learning programmes to help them lead more independent lives.
It will also focus on fostering greater empathy and inclusion in the wider community. The fund will be administered by SG Enable, a Government agency providing support to people with disabilities.
Mr Goh, the fund’s patron, launched the initiative at the first anniversary of the Enabling Village, a community space focused on the training and employment of people with disabilities.
The event also commemorates the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, observed worldwide on Dec 3.
Speaking at the launch, ESM Goh noted that every year, about two to three per cent of Singaporeans are born with some kind of disability, be it autism, Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy and so on. That brings the total population of people with disabilities to around 100,000.
"We tend to show compassion to people with special needs. But we should go beyond their disabilities and see them for their strengths and potential. I have been amazed by the resilience and talents of many of them," he said.
Not all families have the ability and resources to intervene early and help their family members with disabilities realise their potential, so this is where the fund could help, he said. “Beyond their disabilities, these people have abilities too. So the idea of this fund is to help these individuals and their families to unlock those abilities. They may have talents in areas like painting, music and so on, but their potential will not be realised if these talents are not properly nurtured.”
He added: “This fund will help create an awareness among ordinary Singaporeans that we can do something to include these people in our community, to help them develop their abilities and to turn their vulnerabilities into strengths.”
Madam Wong Seok Fun, who has two sons with special needs, hopes her children can benefit from the fund. She would like to enrol her children in sports classes that offer personalised coaching, as it is more conducive for them to pick up new skills through one-to-one coaching rather than in a group setting. But the cost of such classes is a concern for her.
“Children with special needs have latent potential waiting to be uncovered. I hope to expose my sons to different activities at an early age, to discover what they enjoy and encourage them to pick up new skills. It would be very helpful if families could tap (on) the fund to enrol their children for sports, arts, or other programmes to realise their full potential,” said Madam Wong.
Mr Walter Fernandez, Editor-in-Chief of Mediacorp and TODAY Editor, said: “A news organisation’s most important task is serving its community, by giving voice to its aspirations, raising its concerns, informing it of issues and trends that matter to them, and, ultimately, uniting it. This has been a core goal for TODAY from its inception.
“Singapore has made bold moves to build an inclusive society, and we want to play a bigger part in this effort. It is our firm belief that - to borrow a phrase, if I may - we are stronger as one. The fund will help in this effort. It will allow persons with disabilities to dream, and provide a path for them to realise their aspirations, so they, too, will feel that they are fully a part of our Singapore.”
TODAY is the fund’s official media partner.
Those who wish to donate can do so here.