Friday 25 October 2013

2013 President's Volunteerism and Philanthropy Award

Willing heart earns retiree top honours
Soup kitchen's founder one of nine lauded by President for charity work
By Linette Lai, The Straits Times, 24 Oct 2013

MR TONY Tay's typical work day can stretch up to 14 hours as the 66-year-old cooks and distributes food to the poor.

His routine starts at 4.30am, when he heads to the Genting Lane kitchen of Willing Hearts, the charity he founded, to oversee the preparation of 3,000 meals.

After the food is delivered to 38 distribution points, his focus shifts to the next day's meals, ensuring that such staples as bread and rice as well as eggs, meat and vegetables have not run out.

He calls it a day around 7 pm.

This unrelenting dedication to serving the community won the retired businessman top honours yesterday: the President's Volunteerism and Philanthropy Award.

Reflecting on his work since he founded Willing Hearts 10 years ago, Mr Tay said: "We've only one life, so why not make full use of it? As long as I can wake up and can serve, I will do it."

He was among nine recipients of the annual award presented at a ceremony last night by President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

The others include volunteer group Beautiful People, which helps troubled teenage girls, and non-profit organisation Care Corner Counselling Centre.

Their work was also held up by Mr Stanley Tan, chairman of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, when he urged Singaporeans to do more for the poor and not to "fully delegate it out to the Government".

He said: "Building engaged and compassionate communities means having communities that can look after themselves and the weak among them, are self-reliant and not dependent on the Government to solve every single problem."

Care Corner Counselling Centre's winning feature is its hotline counselling service, manned by volunteers who are encouraged to put in at least 100 hours a year.

The volunteers get 18 months of training before they tend to the calls.

The hotline is for those who prefer anonymity or are house-bound for medical reasons, said manager Jonathan Siew.

"About 30 per cent of our callers have mental health problems such as depression or anxiety," the 42-year-old added.

Beautiful People, founded in 2006, began as befrienders, working with organisations such as Pertapis Children's Home to offer activities such as make-up and cooking lessons.

"But we soon realised that what would help them get out of the cycle of poverty would be to get a decent job," said Ms Dawn Kong, 40, a founding member of the group.

Now, it equips the girls with skills for the workplace. In 2011, it even partnered high-fashion label Hermes on a charity project, which saw 12 girls from welfare homes working at Hermes roadshows for three weeks.

"We try to let the girls have a taste of what it's like to work in their dream industry," Ms Kong said.

"That gives them an incentive to chase their dream."

President's Award for Volunteerism

Standard Chartered Bank: Gives staff three days of volunteer leave every year. Involvement in community projects is also part of staff performance objectives.

Care Corner Counselling Centre: Runs a counselling hotline operated by volunteers who have to undergo an 18-month training programme.

Beautiful People: Mentors troubled girls to equip them with life skills.

Mr Tony Tay: Founder of soup kitchen Willing Hearts is still involved in the preparation and delivery of meals.

President's Award for Philanthropy

The Keppel Group: Commits up to 1 per cent of its annual profits to the Keppel Care Foundation, which was launched last year.

Children's Cancer FoundationIts signature event, Hair for Hope, raised more than $3.7 million last year.

Professor Saw Swee Hock: Donates extensively to tertiary institutions, most notably the National University of Singapore.

President's Award for Social Impact

HCA Hospice Care: One of the largest providers of home hospice care here, specialising in training caregivers in palliative care.

President's Special Recognition Award

Dr Oon Chiew Seng: After studying how dementia patients are cared for overseas, she set up Apex Harmony Lodge in 1999 for dementia sufferers here.

Groups honoured for commitment to investing in their volunteers
By Tiara Hamarian, TODAY, 24 Oct 2013

It began in 2006 with befriending activities for troubled teenage girls, such as make-up classes and dance lessons. But the volunteers behind Beautiful People (BP) soon realised there was scope to do more to equip these girls with useful life skills and help them integrate into society.

Today, the volunteer-run group provides intensive mentoring programmes, including My Beautiful Life and Good Work!. The latter will begin offering work experience opportunities from next week, with some 20 girls in the programme starting 10-week internships in companies such as Au Chocolat, Resorts World Sentosa, L’Oreal and the Pontiac Land Group.

With the help of 90 volunteers, BP has aided more than 140 girls.

The group was recognised yesterday at the annual President’s Volunteerism and Philanthropy Awards where they received the President’s Award for Volunteerism (Informal Group). The National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), the awards’ organiser, drew attention to BP’s efforts in “investing in volunteers’ personal growth as people and leaders”.

For volunteer Quek Jing Yan, 31, an Internet marketer, being a “big sister” means “(investing) time to empower and nurture them”, and to help them find new direction in life. She has been with the group for three years.

Nine awards were given out yesterday in categories such as the President’s Award for Volunteerism (Corporate, Non-Profit, Informal Group and Individual) and President’s Award for Social Impact.

Care Corner Counselling Centre, which received the President’s Award for Volunteerism (Non-Profit), was commended for how it has managed its volunteers over the past 26 years.

Volunteers who are willing to commit for at least three years go through a five-stage, 18-month training programme before they are qualified to counsel callers to its hotline who may have mental health or other personal problems. Many callers form bonds with their counsellors as they “have been calling in and speaking to the same volunteers every single day” for 10 to 15 years, and “it is important that (volunteers) try to stay on”, said Centre Manager Jonathan Siew.

Care Corner provides volunteers with regular clinical supervision and special pastoral care. “We want to make sure that their passion doesn’t burn out over time and they can feel good after putting down the phone,” said Mr Siew.

Of its 135 hotline service volunteers, 38 per cent have served between three and eight years and about 15 per cent for more than 16 years.

Mr Kevin Lee, the NVPC’s Director of Capacity Building , said “leadership commitment” is a quality that all the winners possessed. “You can see ... that through policies and processes they have put in place which sustain the organisations … they are very committed to what they are doing for the long haul,” he said. 

Soup kitchen cooks up hearty meals for the needy
Charity's founder who received help as a child now gives back to society
By Linette Lai, The Straits Times, 4 Nov 2013

THE Willing Hearts kitchen, tucked in a corner of an industrial building in Genting Lane, is a hive of activity.

A row of volunteer chefs cook up a storm in woks double the size of normal ones. Another line of volunteers - many of them students - ladle steaming portions into styrofoam containers.

In the middle of it all is 66-year-old Tony Tay. Every day, the Willing Hearts founder and 200 volunteers prepare 3,000 meals to be distributed to the poor and needy.

"Work? This is not work. Work is stress. Here, I come to see friends and chit-chat. Every day is a day off," says the retired businessman, despite the long hours.

Mr Tay, who was awarded the President's Award for Volunteerism last month, starts his day at 4.30am. He leaves around 7pm, after the kitchen is cleaned and food supplies for the next day are prepared. He takes his breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner on-site.

Dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, he readily lends a hand wherever it is needed - stirring a wok, loading a trolley - and makes sure the food gets to the right destination out of 38 distribution points, most of them being Housing Board void decks.

There is also the work in organising the charity's move next year to larger premises in Jalan Ubi, which will allow it to serve 2,000 more meals a day.

The new site will include a medical clinic, dentist and traditional Chinese medicine services. "But nothing is ready," says Mr Tay during a recent interview. "We are just living from day to day."

He estimates that the cost of setting up the new location is close to $400,000, including the $150,000 needed to buy five new combi-ovens. His organisation is appealing for donations for the ovens, which will streamline the cooking and allow Willing Hearts to cater for more people.

Mr Tay, who used to run his own insurance business, is sure that many more people would follow in his footsteps if they were aware of the extent to which some may need help.

"Singaporeans are ready to do a lot of work. It's not that people don't care - if people know about it, they will do something."

Still, he does not want the foundation - which he started in 2003 when he, his wife Mary Ho and seven other volunteers began distributing bread to the poor - to grow "too big", as that would be a sign that the number of people needing their help is increasing.

The voluntary group receives donations of food and money from other organisations and businesses.

What Mr Tay, who has three children and nine grandchildren, hopes to do though is to encourage a revival of the kampung spirit in which the community gets together to reach out to those who need help.

"I was from a poor family, and back then my neighbours would help us. Rich or poor, it didn't matter," says Mr Tay who relies on his savings to pay for his living expenses. "If everyone can help just one other person, that would be enough."

As a child, he and a sister were looked after by the Canossian Sisters for nearly five years, after his father left the family.

"When I was poor, I was helped without any questions asked," adds Mr Tay, who even after a decade with Willing Hearts, has no plans to call it quits any time soon.

"So now, I give."

Philanthropy rates high, but society ‘still needs to learn’ to take charge
By Tiara Hamarian, TODAY, 24 Oct 2013

Volunteerism and philanthropy rates may be at their highest in years, but Singapore is “desperately” in need of a mindset change to address the “entitlement mentality” and “increase the role community should play”, said National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) Chairman Stanley Tan.

In an address at the President’s Volunteerism and Philanthropy Awards yesterday, Mr Tan, who is serving his last year as chairman, said the community “must want to take back ownership” of its needs and be self-reliant.

According to an NVPC study, volunteer participation rose to an all-time high of 32.3 per cent last year from 23.3 per cent in 2010, while donor participation rose to 91 per cent last year from 85 per cent in 2010.

Despite this, Mr Tan said he was concerned that Singapore has become content to let the Government “own all our problems”.

Recalling a meeting with the Robin Hood Foundation in the United States — which aims to tackle poverty — he said the group had told him that they had “no faith” that their government could address the problem, and that was also why the people sector in the US is strong.

In Singapore, “I fear we may move towards the exact opposite, and that is a grave concern”, Mr Tan said. “It is good to have a strong, effective and giving government but it must not be at the expense of community resilience.”

To drive this mindset change, the NVPC has recalibrated its strategies. For one, it is working to introduce a combined “giving portal” to better connect volunteers and donors to charities and their programmes, and to drive “informed giving”. This is part of the centre’s strategy to innovate and inspire donors with new models of giving.

The NVPC will also continue to work on improving professionalism and standards of volunteerism and philanthropy. For instance, to share best practices on volunteer management, it has looked into hiring consultants to help charities improve on this front. It also plans to improve training efforts in the corporate sector to help spread good practices.

Research will also be key, as it can help the NVPC understand the realities on the ground. Targeted research can inform givers where help is most needed, Mr Tan said.

The NVPC has also formed a new division to develop networks and create campaigns to better engage the public, with advocacy as the agenda.

Mr Tan noted that for these strategies to be successful, the centre would need to invest in people, and the NVPC plans to make itself “one of the best training grounds in the sector. We will seek to draw talent and create a steady supply of potential leaders for civil society in the future,” he said.

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