Venerable Sek Ming Woon, one of two executrices of the late Venerable Suit’s estate, presenting a S$100,000 cheque to CEO of SG Enable, Ms Ku Geok Boon
The late Venerable Suit Woo Foong was a simple man. Born in China in 1921, he became a monk when he was just 12 and lived in monasteries until he passed away at the age of 97 in 2018.
In his final years, Venerable Suit lived in Singapore’s oldest Buddhist monastery, the Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery.
Known to be compassionate and generous, he was dedicated throughout his life to the pursuit of the spiritual as well as the alleviation of sufferings of the physical world.
It came, then, as no surprise that he had bequeathed proceeds from the only asset he owned – a house in Telok Kurau – to several charities.
The Mediacorp Enable Fund (MEF) was one of these charities. It received S$100,000 in support of its work to build a society where persons with disabilities are recognised for their abilities and are enabled to lead full, socially integrated lives.
The donation from the estate of the late Venerable Suit will go towards funding three broad areas: Aspirations and Last Mile Needs, Transition to Work, and Community Support.
In the area of Aspirations and Last Mile Needs, individuals will be supported in skills development or with financial assistance, while organisations will be aided in the development of their talents. The Transition to Work scope provides customised training and employment programmes to smoothen transition at critical stages of life. Community Support is a three-pronged effort that supports initiatives to enhance the independence and integration of people with disabilities, offers support to caregivers, and fosters a network of Special Education (SPED) alumni so that they do not become isolated.
Said Ms Ku Geok Boon, CEO of SG Enable which administers MEF: “We are grateful for this kind donation from the estate of the late Venerable Suit Woo Foong. It is most timely as the impact of COVID-19 on persons with disabilities and their caregivers is showing to be disproportionately huge compared to other vulnerable groups. (Venerable Suit’s) generosity will enable MEF to continue extending help and relief to persons with disabilities, and encourage them to keep their faith and stay positive, knowing that the community cares for them during these difficult times.”
Alumni Neo Kah Whye on his way home in a hydraulic van after participating in the Hydro Weekly programme at CPAS.
New support for SPED schools for continued engagement with alumni
Once a person with disability graduates from a Special Education (SPED) school, he / she may be transitioned into the workforce through programmes like the School-to-Work Transition Programme that enhances the independence and integration of the graduate.
However, such programmes currently do not include activities that help these graduates maintain the ties that they have built in school, as such bonding activities require extra resources that SPED schools do not have.
A need to support SPED school alumni networks
This is where the Mediacorp Enable Fund (MEF) comes in. MEF aims to build a society where persons with disabilities are recognised for their abilities and are enabled to lead full, socially integrated lives. SG Enable, an agency dedicated to enabling persons with disabilities, is MEF’s administrator while Mediacorp is its official media partner.
In supporting SPED schools and their networks, the community-based fund has since expanded its aid to include support for the caregivers of persons with disabilities, as well as for programmes that look to foster a network of SPED alumni so they do not become isolated.
Specifically, the MEF will support SPED schools or their parent organisations under its SPED Alumni Engagement funding for outreach programmes that encourages continued engagement by the community with their alumni networks.
On this, Ms Selina Heng, Manager of SG Enable said: “The relationships that these graduates have established in school are crucial to their overall development and it is important for them to continue to have a strong support network.”
SPED Alumni Engagement Support’s first recipient
In January 2021, MEF’s Community Fund supported Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore (CPAS) with S$20,000 under its SPED Alumni Engagement funding. This will go to defraying their cost of running their Beyond Boundaries Club’s weekly programmes, which include riding lessons, hydrotherapy, creative arts and music, digital art and flower design.
Ms Yurnita Bte Omar, Alumni Liaison Executive of Adult Services at CPAS said: “We are thankful to be the first recipient of MEF’s SPED Alumni Engagement funding. This will assist with the cost of running our weeklactivities, through which we hope to bridge the gap between our alumni and the community. With the funding, we also hope to reach out to more high support and home-bound alumni.”
Some 35 CPAS alumni, aged between 18 and 55, with moderate to severe physical or multiple disabilities will benefit from the funding this year.
How SPED schools can qualify for funding
SPED schools (or their parent organisations) hoping to get support for their alumni engagement initiatives can apply for the funding under two categories:
Applications that do not fall into these categories will be assessed on a case–by-case basis.
Schools can submit a proposal through their principal any time during the year but can only receive funding once every 12 months. Their proposal, complete with an application form, should map out key details such as when the activity will take place, its nature and objectives, the target number of participants as well as the budget.
Once funding has been given and the event or programme completed, a brief report of the entire proceeding needs to be submitted. Regular activities will require reports either on a quarterly, half-yearly or annual basis.
SINGAPORE: The Mediacorp Enable Fund is launching the Sustained CARE giving drive to support people with disabilities and their caregivers, who face a “disproportionately severe” impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Caregivers have been under added pressure to provide for their loved ones due to adjustments that have to be made in access to rehabilitation and care services,” said the company in a media advisory on Monday (May 24).
Many people with disabilities also continue to face challenges engaging in day-to-day activities, while also being affected by job losses and slower hiring, said Mediacorp.
Contributions to the Sustained CARE giving drive can be pledged online from now until Jul 30.
Donations will be used to meet the commuting and mobility needs of people with disabilities, nurture their talents, support their education and employment needs, and give respite and support to their caregivers.
“It has been a long fight against COVID-19 for everyone, and persons with disabilities and their families continue to face greater difficulties adapting to the challenges brought about by the pandemic,” said Mediacorp CEO Tham Loke Kheng.
“We are committed to working with SG Enable to leverage the reach of our multiple platforms and influence of our talents to do our part to help this vulnerable community.
“We are also very grateful for the incredible support from donors during last year’s campaign and we hope that those who are able to will continue to give wholeheartedly and generously again this year,” said Ms Tham.
The Sustained CARE giving drive follows a previous initiative launched by the Mediacorp Enable Fund in May last year to respond quickly to the immediate needs of people with disabilities during Singapore’s “circuit breaker” period.
That initiative raised S$577,000 in just over two months, supporting 2,000 beneficiaries.
SG Enable CEO Ku Geok Boon said: “The generous donations from corporates and the public have gone a long way in providing urgent and direct support to persons with disabilities and their caregivers, particularly during the circuit breaker.
“We are thankful for the public’s generosity and Mediacorp’s continued support with this second fundraising campaign to meet the beneficiaries’ needs as they adjust to the new normal.”
The Mediacorp Enable Fund is a community fund administered by SG Enable. It aims to help build a society where people with disabilities are recognised for their abilities and lead full, socially integrated lives.
SG Enable supports the fund’s administrative functions and Mediacorp is the official media partner.
SINGAPORE: A new foundation established by Singapore-based fintech firm Aleta Planet has donated S$100,000 to the Mediacorp Enable Fund, the company said on Friday (Oct 16) in a media release.
Aleta Planet announced on Friday that the foundation will make donations to various charities, aiming to “create a positive impact on society at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected many livelihoods”.
It will support the needs of the elderly and children in the local community, with an initial commitment of S$200,000, said the company.
The first of such donations is S$100,000 to the Mediacorp Enable Fund, a community fund administered by SG Enable that aims to help build a society where people with disabilities, including the elderly and children, “are recognised for their abilities and are able to lead full, socially integrated lives”.
SG Enable chief executive officer Ku Geok Boon said: “We are deeply grateful to Aleta Planet Foundation for their strong spirit of charity and choosing the Mediacorp Enable Fund to make their first donation.
“The generous contribution will provide much-needed financial assistance in meeting the last mile needs of persons with disabilities, as well as to help them fulfil their aspirations in life.”
This will enable the foundation to connect with suitable charity partners as well as manage the funds it receives.
CEO of the Community Foundation of Singapore Catherine Loh said: “We look forward to closer collaboration with the Aleta Planet Foundation to identify gaps in the community so as to foster more effective giving and amplify the positive impact they have on our society.”
Aleta Planet Foundation said its support for the elderly “will go particularly towards those abandoned by their families and those having to work despite their frailties”.
It will also focus on children with disabilities and those from low-income families whose parents “have little means to help them reach their full potential”.
Aleta Planet chairman and group CEO Ryan Gwee said that contributions to the foundation will increase over time “as part of a sustainable corporate giving culture”.
“As Aleta Planet has reached a level of growth, we feel that it is now fitting for us to give back to the community in which we operate,” said Mr Gwee.
“This is especially timely amid a pandemic and recession that have created considerable hardship for the most vulnerable groups living on the fringes of our society.
From cooked meals and cash relief to the provision of essentials, a new initiative by the Mediacorp Enable Fund — a charity fund by national media network Mediacorp and SG Enable — aims to help people with disabilities and their caregivers ride out the Covid-19 pandemic.
The initiative “C.A.R.E.” — short for the provision of cooked meals, assistance funds, respite care and essentials — will be driven by public donations, Mediacorp said in a statement on Thursday (May 14) as it launched the scheme.
The funds collected from the campaign will give beneficiaries access to:
Cooked meals. These will be for persons with physical disabilities or those with visual impairment who are living alone, frail persons with disabilities and aged caregivers
A one-off cash relief of S$400 for families with multiple persons with disabilities who face financial hardship and caregiving stress. This will help the families defray the costs of daily expenses and other needs, such as medical costs
Respite care — home-based respite that provides relief for caregivers. This will minimise the risks of burnout and injury for low-income elderly carers who look after persons with disabilities round-the-clock
Fortnightly distribution of dry food rations. This will help persons with physical disabilities or those with visual impairment who are living alone, frail persons with disabilities and elderly caregivers
Mediacorp said the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on people with disabilities and their caregivers has been “disproportionately huge”.
Those among this group who are seeking employment or are working have been hit hard, with some having lost their jobs, the company noted.
“Many have not been able to access rehabilitation and care services when non-essential services are suspended, while others face greater difficulty getting food and necessities due to mobility challenges,” Mediacorp said.
Singapore is in the midst of an eight-week circuit breaker to curb the spread of Covid-19, with rules to limit business activity and restrict movement for all but essential activities.
To drive the initiative, the Mediacorp Enable Fund — a community fund administered by SG Enable, an agency supporting people with disabilities — has started a fundraising campaign on the Giving.sg website. It has set a target to raise S$500,000 by the end of June.
Six Mediacorp personalities will chip in to the fundraising drive by rallying support and appealing for donations on Mediacorp platforms and social media.
They are presenters Glenda Chong (regional news network CNA), Fadli Kamsani (Warna 94.2FM), Lin Peifen (Yes 933), Chris Mak (987FM), Mohamed Rafi (Oli 96.8FM), as well as artiste Denise Camillia Tan from The Celebrity Agency.
Mediacorp chief executive officer Tham Loke Kheng said that nobody is spared the impact of the pandemic, in particular persons with disabilities and their caregivers.
“Mediacorp is committed to working with SG Enable to do our part to help this vulnerable group by leveraging our media network as well as the reach and influence of our artistes… to spread awareness of the C.A.R.E. donation drive,” she said.
“We hope that members of the public who are able to help can support wholeheartedly and generously.”
Read more at https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/mediacorp-launches-scheme-support-persons-disabilities-their-caregivers-during-covid-19
ABLE began with a vision that the physically challenged should not be left behind in society. That singular idea led to the founding of Abilities Beyond Limitations and Expectations (ABLE) in 2009 which sits under Caritas Singapore, the official social and community arm of the Catholic Church in Singapore.
A decade in, ABLE has empowered many with physical disabilities to live dignified, productive and independent lives through their signature Return-to-Work (RTW) programme.
“We customise our Return-To-Work programme based on the needs of each client, who may have acquired a disability resulting from conditions such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury,” said ABLE’s Rehabilitation Programme Manager, Carmen Lok.
Always looking to support efforts that enable those with disabilities, it was natural for Mediacorp Enable Fund (MEF) to support ABLE’s initiatives through a partnership with SG Enable. MEF supports some of ABLE’s employment support services, allowing the charity to help people with acquired disabilities return to work.
“The partnership is very important to us especially in our efforts to help those with disabilities who come from low-income backgrounds,” said Ms Lok.
ABLE’s work may be targeted specifically at persons with disabilities, but for those it helps, ABLE is central to their sense of worth and well-being. Manfred Seah, 59, would certainly testify to this. Eight years ago, Mr Seah’s world fell apart because of a single, though deadly, bout of fever.
“I was on a business to trip to the US when I suddenly came down with a fever. I carried on with my activities as usual but after I returned to Singapore five days later, I had to be sent to the ICU. I was in a coma for one and a half months due to a viral infection,” recalled Mr Seah.
The virus attacked Mr Seah’s spinal cord and brain. By the time he woke up, Mr Seah could no longer walk and his left eye was affected. For a year, he was bed-ridden and had to undergo physiotherapy at home.
“After a while, I realised I couldn’t carry on like that. So, St Andrew’s Community Hospital, where I was undergoing physiotherapy, linked me up with ABLE in 2017.”
ABLE became integral to Mr Seah’s efforts to return to the workforce.
Mr Seah entered ABLE’s multi-disciplinary Rehabilitation and Training programme that includes rehabilitation, employment support, training and social work services. He started off with physiotherapy to improve his activities of daily living and increase his community mobility. Through employment support sessions, he explored potential job sectors, discovered what he wanted in his career and identified his training needs to achieve his career goal.
“I used to be the head of my company’s IT department, so I wanted to go back into something IT-related,” said Mr Seah.
ABLE’s Employment Support Specialist provided vocational counselling and helped him match his skills to available jobs and re-design his skill sets to increase his employability. When he was ready to go on a job hunt, ABLE was on hand to assist Mr Seah in the creation of a new resume and to approach employers.
“We have been fortunate enough to work with many inclusive employers willing to employ those with disabilities and give them a new lease of life. A common misconception employers have is that they would need to invest a huge amount of resources into accommodating employees with disabilities. However, this is often not the case. For example, it may be as simple as customizing the employee’s job tasks based on their strengths and abilities,” said Ms Lok.
Persons with disabilities face a variety of challenges when they seek employment. For example, some companies do not have group insurance that can cover the new hires with disabilities because of their pre-existing medical conditions. Others, like one employer who initially wanted to hire Mr Seah, do not have wheelchair-friendly offices.
“They wanted to hire me to teach English to their employees but their office didn’t have an elevator,” said Mr Seah.
In May 2018, a year after getting assistance from ABLE, he managed to secure a job as an IT system Advisor in an SME.
ABLE’s support does not end when its clients become employed.
“We offer post-employment support to help them transition back into the workforce,” said Ms Lok.
ABLE’s Employment Support Specialist visited Mr Seah’s workplace to better understand his work environment and provide accommodations advisory to Mr Seah’s employer if needed.
“This is so the newly employed can excel at their jobs,” said Ms Lok.
Life may not always be fair, but everyone deserves a fair chance. That is why ABLE strives to give everyone a success story like Mr Seah’s.
Theirs is an unlikely friendship. D J Saravana Kumar is a senior graphics designer at Fraunhofer Singapore. Tan Whee Boon is a quadruple amputee who lost his limbs as a result of a bacterial infection. They would never have met if not for an Israeli humanitarian project that became global.
A Real Need
Mr Tan has no hands and his legs end at mid-calf. A plate of yusheng, a raw fish dish, he ate in 2015 caused a near-fatal case of food poisoning that landed him in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Sadly, the drug that helped him fight the Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection also caused gangrene to develop in all four of his limbs. Amputation was the only way to save his life.
Once a technician in the gas industry, Tan had to quit his job. Activities he used to enjoy – swimming and basketball – became impossible.
“Without hands and feet, I just sink,” he said ruefully.
While he did eventually learn to move around on a donated motorised wheelchair, feed himself with the aid of elastic bands his wife sewed for him and even type using a stylus pen, Mr Tan is far from independent.
“I can’t go out on my own for long because I can’t go to the bathroom without help,” he said.
For that, he relies on his wife Madam Choong Siet Mei, 52, who is now also his caregiver.
“She has to be with me 24/7,” said the father of two.
The logical solution to his difficulties would have been prosthetic arms, and though he did receive some from helpful donors, they all proved ineffective. One from the United States could not grip the water hose that would have enabled him to shower on his own. Another from Hong Kong took up to 15 minutes to put on even with help and was too heavy to really use.
A Community Effort
It is for people just like Tan that organisations such as Tikkun Olm Makers (TOM), Hebrew for “repairing the world”, exists. The global non-profit network brings together local communities, getting people to harness technology to solve everyday problems of those with special needs.
In June 2019, TOM organised its first MakeAthon in Singapore where 60 local and Israeli Makers from various walks of life and with different expertise came together to overcome the daily challenges of 15 Need Knowers living with disabilities.
Joining the community effort was Mediacorp Enable Fund (MEF) which raised $30,000 as the main sponsor. Community efforts like these that promote integration are very much in tandem with MEF’s belief that society needs to support inclusion and champion the cause of people with disabilities.
Over three days, the team that worked on Tan’s problem, Team PJ, laboured to design a prosthetic arm with a hand that could function like a real one. The six members, who had never met till then, comprised physiotherapist students, computer science researchers and a teacher led by Kumar who has 10 years’ experience in 3D modelling. Tan provided real-time feedback as the team worked, their common goal drawing them together.
“He was at the side cheering us on, he brought us life,” said Kumar, an Indian national who moved to Singapore with his family six years ago.
Added Tan: “Participating in the creation process was the best part of the whole experience because I felt like I had a part to play.”
In the end, the team came up with a prototype – a 3D-printed rotating prosthetic arm with a grabbing mechanism that could be worn without help. They were awarded a joint third prize as well as $2,000 for their effort.
A Solution at Hand
It has been more than six months since but the bond forged between Tan and Kumar during those intense three days is just as strong, and the commitment to give Tan a hand that works remains.
“He is still working on fine-tuning the prosthetic arm. We visit each other or he calls,” said Tan.
While the prototype could grip things, the grip was not firm enough. The next version improved on this but there was the issue of control.
“I could pick up the water hose but I couldn’t control it,” explained Tan.
The third try resulted in a prosthetic hand that had good grip and control but was too heavy. Kumar is not giving up, though.
“Previously, I would just spend my time playing games on my computer,” he said. “I wouldn’t know what to do with my spare time. Now I know what I want to do.”
This is creativity for a worthy cause. This is technology put to good use. This is community support at its very best.
SINGAPORE: More than S$2 million was raised at a charity launch of Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong’s biography – A Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong Story on Wednesday (Nov 21).
The charity event sold more than 250 copies of the book autographed by Mr Goh. The books were priced at S$2,000, S$10,000 and S$50,000.
The proceeds from the event, as well as all royalties from the sales of the books, will go towards two charities Mr Goh is patron of – the Mediacorp Enable Fund and EduGrow for Brighter Tomorrows.
The book, which documents Mr Goh’s life and career, was officially launched on Nov 8 by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. It is written by former Straits Times journalist Peh Shing Huei.
Speaking at the event, Mr Goh said his generation enjoyed meritocracy and social mobility put in place by the Government and nurtured by society. He stressed that it’s important to continue efforts to keep Singapore a meritocratic society.
“A government bursary paid my way through university, my life turned out well, not just because of my own effort but also because of our practice of meritocracy, ” said Mr Goh.
“I did not have to rely on ‘guanxi’ (Chinese for networks or connections), I had equal opportunities to study, compete, get a job and do well on my own steam,” he said.
“Meritocracy cannot be left to its own devices. We must constantly adjust to maintain an open system with opportunities for all Singaporeans to advance themselves,” he added.
The Mediacorp Enable Fund, formerly known as the Today Enable Fund, seeks to help people with disabilities realise their aspirations, improve their skills and work prospects.
EduGrow for Brighter Tomorrows is an initiative that supports the growth of children from disadvantaged families in areas including education and character building.
SINGAPORE – More than S$960,000 was raised for the TODAY Enable Fund and local charity iC2 PrepHouse at The Enabling Fund Gala Dinner held at the Grand Hyatt Singapore hotel on Friday (Aug 24).
The amount, raised through donations, table sales and a live auction, is the largest amount raised from various TODAY Enable Fund fundraising efforts by far.
The gala dinner was jointly organised by SG Enable, an agency that supports persons with disabilities, and iC2 PrepHouse, an organisation that provides support to visually-impaired persons and their families.
The money raised will go to both the TODAY Enable Fund and the charity.
The TODAY Enable Fund – administered by SG Enable – was launched in December 2016 to nurture the talent of persons with disabilities, help them fulfil their aspirations, as well as improve their education, skills and employment prospects.
Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, the fund’s patron, was the guest-of-honour at Friday’s gala dinner.
“It is not possible for the bureaucracy to pay individual attention to the special needs of each person with disabilities, the spectrum of disabilities and needs is just too wide. Each person with disability is unique… This is where charities and voluntary welfare organisations come in,” said Mr Goh.
He said the TODAY Enable Fund can help individuals with disabilities fulfil their dreams. “I want to help them discover their undiscovered talents and abilities. I want them to lead a normal life in the mainstream society,” he said.
“We want a Singapore where (it is the norm for) people with disabilities contribute and achieve in society.”
Items auctioned off included a wire sculpture by special needs artist Joshua Tseng, Peranakan jewellery and a pair of Singapore Airlines business class tickets to New York.
Of the amount raised on Friday night, S$270,000 came from property developer Far East Organisation, which also pledged to contribute S$250,000 every year to the TODAY Enable Fund over the next three years.
Other donors included Lieutenant-General (Retired) Ng Jui Ping and property developer Kwee Liong Tek.
Lt-Gen (Ret) Ng said they made the winning bid of S$13,000 for the wire sculpture but redonated the item so that it could be auctioned off again.
“I think that Singaporeans who have done reasonably in their careers and lives should make a special effort to help those who are less endowed from birth,” he said.
The sculptor Mr Tseng, a 21-year-old undergraduate, said the amount raised at the auction exceeded his expectations.
Mr Tseng, whose vision rapidly deteriorated a few years ago, hopes the money will help those who are in similar circumstances. He received help from iC2, which subsidised his lessons and covered the cost of equipment needed for him to continue his studies.
To date, 31 beneficiaries have each received S$2,000 to S$3,000 from the TODAY Enable Fund. It helped Mr Lim Han Ming, 21, to pay for an illustration course and will help Mr Kenneth Lee, 26, to publish a short comic book.
The fund helped Ms Nuraqilah Fatin Swat, 23, to defray the cost of training and purchasing equipment for a latte art competition. For Mr Mohamad Ashree Mokri, 49, the money came in handy for courses in basic sports science and fitness training to support his dream of becoming part of the Singapore para powerlifting team.
The fund has also helped to pay for transition programmes for 280 persons with disabilities. Transition programmes help to maximise their learning and work potential, and enable them to lead more independent lives.
Some 6,000 people have also benefited from community integration efforts under the fund, aimed at fostering inclusion and greater empathy for persons with disabilities.
SINGAPORE — Through its support services, one local charity is hoping to help visually-impaired persons lead a mainstream life, which includes studying at mainstream schools.
As Dr Audrey Looi, 48, founding board director of charity iC2 PrepHouse, said: “For the low-vision cohort, mainstream schooling is best for them because apart from the vision disability, they don’t have, for instance, mental disability that hampers their studies.”
But to cope, these visually-impaired people need to acquire compensatory skills — such as the use of braille, assistive technology and computer skills, social interaction skills. And this is where iC2 PrepHouse, set up in November 2012, comes in.
Like a preparatory centre, it teaches clients from all ages, from toddlers to students in tertiary institutions, these compensatory life skills. The clients can visit the centre whenever they feel they need help in acquiring new skills, or when they encounter difficulties. Some visit weekly, others visit monthly, depending on their individual needs.
Dr Audrey Looi, 48, board director of iC2 PrepHouse and her son James Ang, 17. James was diagnosed with Stargardt’s macular dystrophy, a genetic eye disorder which causes progressive vision loss, when he was eight.
About 10 staff work at the centre, with co-founder Madam Lee Lay Hong as the principal trainer. Madam Lee, herself a mother of two visually-impaired children, has a postgraduate degree in special education, specialising in visual impairments.
She went to Australia to learn how to help people with visual impairment so that she could learn to better support her own children. On her return, she wanted to help others like her.
To date, 126 have benefitted from its programme, with 83 beneficiaries still actively seeking intervention at their centre in Jurong Point shopping centre.
Founded by Dr Looi and Mdm Lee, the charity was two mothers’ response to their own struggles in getting specialised support for their low-vision children.
Dr Looi’s 17-year-old son, James Ang, was diagnosed with Stargardt’s macular dystrophy, a genetic eye disorder which causes progressive vision loss, when he was eight. As an eye specialist herself, Dr Looi, a senior consultant at the Oculoplastic Department at Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), knew James could continue studying in the mainstream primary school he was attending — with the right support.
But, even though the concept of low-vision curriculum exists in other developed nations like Australia, the UK, and North America, in Singapore, nobody they met knew about it, said Dr Looi’s husband, Dr Ang Beng Ti, 49.
Dr Ang Beng Ti, 49, and Dr Audrey Looi, 48, together with their son James Ang, 17, in their home. Photo: Najeer Yusof/TODAY
The senior consultant and head of department of Neurosurgery atthe National Neuroscience Institute said they even thought of migrating overseas for James’ sake. Then they met Mdm Lee, who was giving ad hoc lessons to help low vision children manage their disability.
Even though Mdm Lee charged only S$30 for travelling expenses, many families who sought her help expected her to provide her service for free. So a year after Dr Looi befriended Mdm Lee, they decided to formalise what Mdm Lee was doing and set up a charity to help others like themselves.
Mr Mirpuri Chandru Gobindram, whose 11-year-old son Grishm Chandru Mirpuri suffers from a visual impairment due to his premature birth, picked up Braille at the centre in his second year at kindergarten. “That gave him a solid foundation to begin his primary education in the mainstream class in Lighthouse School,” said the 49-year-old teacher.
Setting up and running a charity, however, is no easy task. The ability to raise enough funds is a perpetual challenge, given that the charity needs to raise at least S$350,000 per year to sustain its operations, said Dr Looi.
In August, iC2 PrepHouse is organising a charity dinner with SG Enable. Called The Enabling Fund Gala, the event on Aug 24 at Grand Hyatt Singapore aims to raise S$850,000 for iC2 PrepHouse and TODAY Enable Fund, a charitable fund to enhance the education, skills and employment prospects of persons with disabilities.
To find out more about the event, visit https://www.giving.sg/sg-enable-ltd/enablingfundgala