Tuesday, 1 April 2014

500 women 'befrienders' to be deployed to heartland

Grassroots leaders will reach out to residents, explain Govt help schemes
By Carolyn Khew, The Straits Times, 31 Mar 2014

ABOUT 500 women grassroots leaders will fan out across the heartland from May to reach out to residents who may not know about government help schemes.

The women will be trained to explain policies such as the recent Pioneer Generation package under an initiative launched yesterday by the People's Association Women's Integration Network Council.

The aim is to have at least 1,000 members of the PA's Women Executive Committee (WEC) become befrienders, said Dr Amy Khor, who is the council's adviser.

This is about half of about 2,400 members from 105 such committees across the island.

Dr Khor, who is also the MP for Hong Kah North and chairman of feedback unit REACH, said the programme is "timely" as a REACH poll last year had showed that the elderly and low-income earners were less likely to be aware of government policies and schemes.

She said: "The WEC befrienders will not only explain major government schemes to residents but also provide a social support network by befriending them, especially the elderly, and sharing useful information that can benefit them."

About 400 WEC members hail from the pioneer generation. Last year, WEC members formed 500 interest groups.

Launching the befriender programme at Orchid Country Club last night, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said it was an "excellent initiative". WEC members are "well-placed to do this on the ground as they are often in touch with residents", he added.

The launch was held in conjunction with the annual Win Awards Dinner, where the PA women committees were awarded for their contributions towards efforts to help women in the community.

Private education institution director Joanna Portilla, 42, who has signed up to become a befriender, said the women were in a good position to reach out to residents. "Some of them could be unsure or unfamilar with the policies but if we tell them about it, they can in turn share it with neighbours and friends," she said.

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