Sunday 18 October 2015

247 honoured at MSF Volunteer Awards ceremony

Among them were 7 recipients of the Outstanding Volunteer awards, while 163 were awarded the Long Service award, and 14 presented the “Friends of the MSF” award.
By Monica Kotwani, Channel NewsAsia, 16 Oct 2015

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is hoping that more Singaporeans will come forward as foster parents, as it would like to put more vulnerable children in the foster care system, rather than to send them to institutional homes.

Speaking at the Ministry's Volunteer Awards ceremony, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin on Friday (Oct 16) also called upon the different sections of society to assist those in need.

We thanked 247 volunteers at the MSF Volunteer Awards last Friday. It can be tough to care for others – volunteers can...
Posted by Tan Chuan-Jin on Saturday, October 17, 2015

Said Mr Tan: "I ask all of us as Singaporeans to consider what it takes for us to take that step forward. Because collectively, if all of us begin to step forward, we can all begin to transform lives for the better.

“Together, our humanity and compassion can define us, both as individuals and as Singaporeans. And putting these values into action, I think that is when we can build a caring and compassionate society. And in so doing, we are really laying the foundations of a great nation, one that will endure and one that will be truly be home to us all."

At the ceremony, a total of 247 volunteers were honoured for their dedication in serving the community. Among them were seven recipients of the Outstanding Volunteer awards, while 163 were awarded the Long Service award, and 14 presented the “Friends of the MSF” award.

Foster parents were also recognised at the ceremony this year, with 134 of them acknowledged for protecting vulnerable children.

Among them are Mdm Asiah Mohamed Salleh and her husband Mr Ashraf Koh. They have been foster parents to six children in 11 years, including one who has Down Syndrome. Three of the six children still live with them.

Said Mdm Asiah, recipient of the Outstanding Volunteer Award: "The one I'm taking care of is a special needs child who could not speak. Now, he can speak and we can understand. So, that's my award.

“I have another child who did not know which direction she wanted to go. And I just supported her, so the credit goes to her. She wanted to change. And now she is in fashion and design.”

She also has another teenager, who is a Pharmacy student at a polytechnic. Mdm Asiah said she was once led astray and had been abused. “So, these are all my awards but credit goes to the kids because they wanted to change,” she added.

247 volunteers were honoured at the MSF Volunteer Awards ceremony last Friday. Their exceptional contributions and...
Posted by MSF Singapore on Monday, October 19, 2015

Foster mum among 247 volunteers hailed
She gets award for passion and dedication in taking care of boy with host of medical issues
By Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 17 Oct 2015

It is not easy to foster a child, not to mention a baby who cannot see, walk or speak at all.

But former part-time babysitter Mary Chan and her husband had a love strong enough to take on this gargantuan responsibility.

The foster child, affectionately known as "Ah Boy" to the family, had a host of medical problems.

Besides being unable to see, walk or speak, he had to breathe through a tube inserted into his throat and be fed a liquid diet through a tube in his stomach. He also had fits.

But instead of leaving him to languish in bed all day, Madam Chan took on the challenge of trying to communicate with him by asking him questions every day. "After 10 years, he finally started responding by smiling or lifting his left hand should he need food or the toilet," said the 63-year-old housewife, who has two daughters and two grandchildren.

Madam Chan, who became a foster mother as she loves children, cared for Ah Boy until he died in April as a result of complications from a stomach surgery. He was 13.

For her passion and dedication, she was honoured with the Outstanding Volunteer Award by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) yesterday.

She was one of 247 volunteers to be honoured. Ten received the Outstanding Volunteer Award and the rest received the Long Service and Friends of MSF awards.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, who presented the awards at The Regent Singapore, said: "Many of us talk about social issues deeply and passionately. But somehow, we hesitate when asked to step forward."

He added: "The volunteers we are honouring all started by taking that first step. Perhaps it was just to talk to someone, assist someone in need or reach out and just try to be human. They chose to care and to love others beyond themselves."

Madam Thiravingadam Sembugavalie, 76, a foster mother, received the Long Service award for 40 years of volunteer work. The housewife has fostered 42 children over the past four decades.

"I was born a Chinese but adopted by a neighbouring Indian family myself, so I wanted to share my love with all these children," said Madam Sembugavalie in Tamil.

Madam Chan may have fostered only one child, but her love was no less intense. When she took Ah Boy under her wing, finances in the family were tight. Her husband was a hotel bellman and she was a housewife. But that did not stop her from hiring a maid for Ah Boy so that he could receive round-the-clock care.

Though she is a Buddhist, she did not give up any hope of healing for Ah Boy and went to a church for nine weeks to pray for him.

She remembers the little things that made him happy, such as keeping the radio on all day as he loved to listen to English pop songs, and taking him out for children parties.

When asked if she would continue to volunteer as a foster mother, she said tearfully that she needed time to accept his death. "I may, but not now. I will wait till my heart is okay and not painful any more."

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