Thursday 16 August 2012

Self-help groups to start joint student centres

By Phua Mei Pin, The Straits Times, 15 Aug 2012

THE four self-help groups here are coming together to start joint student care centres next year, as part of ongoing efforts to combine resources to help the needy in their communities.

Three primary schools have expressed interest to set up such centres with them in January next year, said Ms Shenaz Poonawala, the general manager of Mendaki's training arm Sense, which will be running the centres.

The centres will target lower-income families, and each group will provide financial and other assistance to students and their families from its own community.

Mendaki chief Moliah Hashim said: "It is another window for us to come in to help the community."

Besides Mendaki, the other groups are the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC), the Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda) and the Eurasian Association.

They revealed their plans yesterday at a National Day observance ceremony in Toa Payoh, which they held together with the Association of Muslim Professionals and, a group set up to promote racial harmony.

Ms Shenaz said the idea for the joint student care centres came after the self-help groups found that most existing centres provide only basic pastoral care and supervised self-study.

They are aiming to go one step further by running academic and character development programmes, and activities to teach good spending habits.

The self-help groups already work together on several programmes.

Tuition centres which they run individually have long been open to students of all races, and they also have a joint programme that helps single parents.

CDAC executive director Goh Chim Khim said: "We regularly discuss how we can do things together to better serve our communities. This is an approach that we want to keep working on."

Sinda chief executive T. Raja Segar, who estimates that 15 per cent of the students at Sinda-run tuition centres are non-Indians, said: "Whenever there is an opportunity to combine our programmes, we do it."

The president of the Eurasian Association, Mr Benett Theseira, said that his group, the smallest of the four self-help groups, had benefited from the tie-ups.

"We are able to leverage on the resources of the other self-help groups... and do joint programmes together," he said.

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