Thursday 25 October 2012

President's Challenge not only raises $11m, but also promotes volunteerism

By Ian Poh, The Straits Times, 24 Oct 2012

FUND-RAISING remains at the heart of the annual President's Challenge campaign, but this year's drive had also aimed to encourage people to give their time and talents, said President Tony Tan Keng Yam yesterday.

Two new initiatives promoting volunteerism and awareness of social enterprises were started alongside fund-raising efforts, which raised more than $11 million this year, he noted.

The President's Challenge Volunteer Drive encouraged individuals, schools and organisations to take part in volunteering programmes and activities held in August and September.

And an awards committee is now choosing winners for the Social Enterprise Award from a pool of 37 applications. The winners will be announced in two months' time.

"Through volunteering, Singaporeans can give of their time, energy and ability across a spectrum of interests," he said.

Speaking at a reception held at the Istana to thank 60 individuals and organisations for their contributions, Dr Tan also expressed his hope to recognise social enterprises that have made "significant sustained contributions" to the disadvantaged.

He noted the struggles and successes faced by groups such as Eighteen Chefs, a restaurant in Simei which employs former offenders, and Dialogue in the Dark, a permanent exhibition at Ngee Ann Polytechnic that aims to raise awareness of people with visual and other impairments. They have to stay financially viable while helping their beneficiaries.

This is Dr Tan's first year leading the charity campaign started in 2000 by former president SR Nathan.

On the fund-raising side, more than $11 million was raised this year despite "challenging times", said the Challenge's steering committee in a statement. Last year, about $11 million was collected. The President's Challenge has raised more than $110 million since its first run in 2000.

Dr Tan also noted two corporate fund-raising projects that helped to encourage wider participation in the campaign.

The "Tap and Donate" project, jointly organised and managed by Singapore Press Holdings and EZ-Link, allowed the public to donate by tapping their ez-link cards on designated machines at selected locations. They could also buy special edition President's Challenge ez-link cards.

The President's Star Charity show produced by Mediacorp, meanwhile, allowed donors to make their donations online as well as over the phone.

Funds for the two projects were raised entirely from the public.

This year, 55 organisations will benefit from the amount raised, up from 39 last year.

This year's volunteer drive also roped in YouTube child stars Bigbro and Dr Jiajia.

The brothers, whose real names are Chua Jin Chou, 12, and Chua Jin Sen, six, helped raise awareness for the campaign by uploading a three-minute-long video on YouTube in August.

A segment of the clip, in which they discussed the value of volunteerism, was shown during the reception.

Said Jin Chou: "Doing charity does not always mean giving money to others. It also includes giving time."


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