Monday 27 October 2014

Spirit of giving back 'alive and well' in CDAC

PM Lee lauds self-help group as it raises $17.8m for endowment fund
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 25 Oct 2014

FACED with mounting debts, Mr Lai Siew Kuan turned to the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) when he lost his machinist job during the financial crisis of 2008.

The council helped by finding and subsidising skills-upgrading courses for the sole breadwinner of a family of four, and helped match him to a job.

Now a sales executive, Mr Lai, 41, is paying it forward by volunteering at the CDAC. His two sons, aged 13 and 12, have joined him in volunteer work, which includes distributing rice to low-income families.

"Given how much they've helped me, not giving back - however I can - would be ungrateful," he said.

Mr Lai's story was cited by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night, when he noted that the spirit of giving back was alive and well at the CDAC.

Community self-help groups play a key role at a time of changing needs, he said, noting that an ageing population required stronger social support, and poor families faced challenges from the impact of globalisation and technological advances.

"Self-help groups keep the pioneering spirit of 'mutual help' alive, enable every beneficiary to strive for a better future, and foster a society where everyone, including those who have benefited, contributes," he said in Mandarin at the CDAC's charity dinner at Shangri-la Hotel, where $17.8 million was raised for its Endowment Fund.

"From CDAC and the lives they have touched, we can see that the spirit of mutual help, self-help and giving back is alive and well," he added. "This is what we stand for in Singapore."

Mr Lee thanked those who make monthly contributions to the CDAC, regardless of the amount they give. This was an important gesture which "shows that we all bear a shared responsibility to each other".

The CDAC supported 17,000 low-income households last year.

Through its "holistic family-centric approach", it has helped to nurture students' potential, and helped their parents become more employable through skills upgrading, said Mr Lee.

In doing so, it has also helped strengthen family resilience.

Yesterday's fund-raising dinner, only its second since the CDAC's inception in 1992, and attended by 820 guests, came against the backdrop of rising costs associated with running its programmes. This has outpaced the contributions it receives.

Its operating deficit - which rose from $5.7 million in 2012 to $6.4 million last year and is projected to be $7.5 million this year - has been funded by government grants and CDAC reserves, including its Endowment Fund.

The $17.8 million sum was raised from 183 donors - individuals, organisations, foundations and clan associations. In addition, the Government has pledged a one-time $10 million grant over the next five years.

The injection of funds will enable the CDAC to expand its outreach and initiate more programmes, said its Board of Trustees chairman Chua Thian Poh.

With these new initiatives, the number of household beneficiaries is expected to rise by 25 per cent to 21,000. The CDAC has raised the income ceiling of some of its help schemes to a monthly household income of $1,900 - up from $1,500 previously.

It also hopes to set up more inschool student care centres - its first was launched in Bendemeer Primary earlier this year - and expand its outreach to the elderly through information-sharing sessions conducted in Mandarin and in dialect.

More to benefit from CDAC's subsidised tuition programme
By Kash Cheong, The Sunday Times, 2 Nov 2014

More students will benefit from subsidised tuition by the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) from next year.

Currently, CDAC accepts those from households with a monthly income of $3,300 or less, or where earnings are $900 or below per person, for its tuition programmes.

But next year, households which bring in up to $4,000 per month, or have a per capita income of up to $1,000, can qualify. About 500 more students are expected to benefit, CDAC said.

CDAC, a self-help group for those in the Chinese community, offers subsidised tuition to about 3,600 students to help underachievers from poorer families improve their school results.

The revision was done after feedback from educators, schools, students and parents.

"We saw a need among this group of people," said CDAC student education and development committee chair Low Yen Ling, who is also Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Social and Family Development, and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth. "We want to put out more stepping stones; every child matters to us."

Those from homes with a monthly household income of $3,300 or less, or $900 or below per person, pay $8 for primary school tuition and $12 for secondary classes monthly for each subject. Those who qualify under the revised benchmarks will pay $30 for primary school tuition, $35 for Secondary 1 and 2 classes, and $40 for Secondary 3 to 5 lessons.

Children from poorer families will be given priority for tuition places, Ms Low said. The council will also give out $1.56 million in bursaries to 4,200 students next year, a 30 per cent increase in the number of recipients compared with this year.

At a bursary presentation at CDAC's premises in Tanjong Katong yesterday, single parent Vivian Kok, 41, hugged Ms Low, and was shedding tears of joy after her six-year-old son received a $280 bursary.

Her two older sons who are in secondary school may also get bursaries worth $450, said Ms Kok, who credits the childcare courses she attended at CDAC for her current job as a childcare teacher.

"The assistance is really a life-saver for me," she said in Mandarin.

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