Singaporean society’s streak of caring and giving come to the fore at the PVPA 2018 awards

The inexplicable feel and inherent joy and warmth of giving was palpable as the President of Singapore Halimah Yacob honoured eight distinguished winners of the President’s Volunteerism and Philanthropy Awards (PVPA) 2018 today at Capella Singapore.

Awardees hailing from different walks of life working to bring smiles to the faces of people and fostering social inclusion and religious harmony in Singapore; a society, which often makes news for its philanthropy and "giving". Slightly over a week back, the President’s Star Charity raised a record total of SGD8.3 million.

Winners of the PVPA awards 2018 (from left to right) including Associate Professor Peter Pang Yu Hin, Dean of Students Office of Student Affairs, National University of Singapore, Juliet Ng, Head, Communications & Community Engagement Assisi Hospice, Adam Abdur Rahman, Managing Director Head of Corporate Affairs,  Citi Singapore, Stefanie Yuen Thio, Joint Managing Director,  TSMP Law Corporation Mergers, Emily Teng, Founder,  Blessings in a Bag, Abbas Ali Mohamed Irshad, Founder and Director Roses of Peace,  Dr Rupesh Agrawal, Senior Consultant Ophthalmologist and Clinician Scientist at  Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Anna Tham, Girl Guides Singapore Commissioner for Special Projects. Melissa Kwee, CEO of National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre is standing in the fifth position. Photo: Connected to India
Winners of the PVPA awards 2018 (from left to right) including Associate Professor Peter Pang Yu Hin, Dean of Students Office of Student Affairs, National University of Singapore, Juliet Ng, Head, Communications & Community Engagement Assisi Hospice, Adam Abdur Rahman, Managing Director Head of Corporate Affairs, Citi Singapore, Stefanie Yuen Thio, Joint Managing Director, TSMP Law Corporation Mergers, Emily Teng, Founder, Blessings in a Bag, Abbas Ali Mohamed Irshad, Founder and Director Roses of Peace, Dr Rupesh Agrawal, Senior Consultant Ophthalmologist and Clinician Scientist at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Anna Tham, Girl Guides Singapore Commissioner for Special Projects. Melissa Kwee, CEO of National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre is standing in the fifth position. Photo: Connected to India

PVPA awards honoured individuals, companies, ground-up movements, non-profit organisations and educational institutions that have achieved excellence in giving. Their stories and contributions act as a platform to connect communities and serve causes that are often overlooked.

Addressing the gathering, President Halimah Yacob said, “I’m heartened that this year's winners include firms that made giving an integral part of their corporate culture, as well as individuals who are passionate in helping those around them.”

“Through their selfless acts, they have shown that volunteerism can be a part of all our lives. When all of us pitch in to help those around us, we can make a greater and longer lasting impact on society,” she added.

The winner in the ‘Large Enterprise-Corporate’ category was Citibank Singapore. The bank has trained youth with financial literacy skills because they believe that youths are the driver of the economy. Receiving the award on behalf of Citibank Singapore, Adam Abdur Rahman, Managing Director, Head of Corporate Affairs, said, “There are two main things we focus on in the areas on philanthropy and volunteerism. Both are connected. From a philanthropic perspective, it is not about giving but also includes togetherness with the participation of all bankers.”

Adam Abdur Rahman, Citi Singapore Managing Director, Head of Corporate Affairs. Photo: Connected to India
Adam Abdur Rahman, Citi Singapore Managing Director, Head of Corporate Affairs. Photo: Connected to India

“Since 2002 to now, we have given USD17 million to work with NGO partners to enhance the objective we have set regarding financial inclusion and economic opportunities,” he said.

“From volunteerism perspective, we have 4,500 volunteers and colleagues from CitiClub. They organise events in which the staff volunteer. With philanthropy and volunteerism, we certainly hope to make difference in the community,” said the banker.

Citibank Singapore has reached 5,000 students and 6,000 women from the low-income group in this year.

The realisation of the huge contribution people like helpers at home bring to our lives made Stefanie Yuen Thio, Joint Managing Director,  TSMP Law Corporation, awaken to the cause she supports dearly. Stefanie said, “I was in the shower after a long day work and I was grateful that my maid had looked after the whole day my sick grandmother and my son who was then a baby. I remembered thinking about my success, my ability to fulfill my career dream is at the expense of so many of the families.”

“We hear so many stories that their family back home has broken down and I realise that we have a duty to give back, to look after these people. They are looking after us-our roads, our bridges, our buildings and our families and keeping them all together. That’s why we started working with foreign maids,” she added.

Her firm TSMP Law Corporation was declared the winner under the ‘Corporate: SME’ category.             

Abbas Ali Mohamed Irshad, Nominated MP and Founder of Roses of Peace. Photo: Connected to India
Abbas Ali Mohamed Irshad, Nominated MP and Founder of Roses of Peace. Photo: Connected to India

Winner of the individual award in the youth category for Interfaith harmony, Abbas Ali Mohamed Irshad, the 29-year-old Nominated MP has been inspired by his own personal experiences that became starting Irshad set up Roses of Peace (ROP), a youth-led ground-up interfaith initiative, created in response to the Charlie Hebdo incident in Paris. To date, the organisation has engaged more than 2,000 volunteers, and distributed over 40,000 roses as a means of spreading messages of peace, building bridges, and fostering interfaith harmony since 2012. He is also the nominated Member of Parliament in Singapore.

Speaking about the initiative, he said, “When we give roses to the public, the smiles it brings on the faces of the people receiving the rose is invaluable. People are heartened by this small gesture.”

Dr Rupesh Agarwal passionately works outside office hours to help the underprivileged in the society and perform eye-operation of the needy persons. Photo: Connected to India
Dr Rupesh Agarwal passionately works outside office hours to help the underprivileged in the society and perform eye-operation of the needy persons. Photo: Connected to India

Indian-origin doctor Rupesh Agarwal was declared the winner in the ‘Individual: Adult’ category. He is a Senior Consultant Ophthalmologist and Clinician Scientist at National Healthcare Group Eye Institute, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Singapore. Despite his busy schedule, he went the extra mile by providing support to the less fortunate not only in Singapore but also in India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

He is now a citizen of Singapore and passionately works outside office hours to help the underprivileged in the society with a team of like-minded professionals from different parts of the world through Rotary Club of Singapore or a non-profit organisation – Viraj Healthcare Foundation established by him and his brother, Dr Rohit in December 2016.  

Emily Teng, Founder,  Blessings in a Bag (right) along with Melissa Kwee, CEO of National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre. Photo: Connected to India
Emily Teng, Founder, Blessings in a Bag (right) along with Melissa Kwee, CEO of National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre. Photo: Connected to India

Emily Teng (winner of Kampong Spirit Category) and founder of Blessings in a Bag, turned the challenges she faced growing up into a force for good, providing disadvantaged youth in Singapore with opportunities to discover their passions and interests through mentorship programmes, after-school care, field trips, and classroom activities.

In the “Non-Profit Organisation” category, the winners are the Assisi Hospice and volunteers from their No One Dies Alone (NODA) programme. Since the group’s formation in 2014, the team’s pioneering efforts have helped 53 patients and provided 735 hours of care. This includes 33 end-of-life vigils, making Assisi Hospice the first in Singapore to be able to support this programme on a sustained basis, powered by volunteers from all walks of life.

Through their efforts, these PVPA 2018 winners have the potential to create a multiplier effect for doing good, and their contributions encourage others to bridge divides and build communities. Their actions exemplify how giving can take many forms, from philanthropy, skills-based volunteering to advocacy, each moving Singapore towards a City of Good in their own unique way.

“As we come together as a community to celebrate Singapore’s Giving Heroes, we reaffirm the values that hold us together as a society in the midst of many forces that always threaten to divide us. Giving unites people and reminds us that we share a great deal in our common humanity,” said Melissa Kwee, CEO, NVPC.

“The winners remind us that each of us can choose to use our power and influence in private and public arenas to uplift, comfort, create and expand our imagination of what it means to do good and do well. Together they represent a microcosm of what is best and beautiful about our society. May we start to put our hands to the plough to give towards the future we collectively envision," she added.

Stefanie Yuen Thio, Joint Managing Director,  TSMP Law Corporation Mergers along with Melissa Kwee and Emily Teng. Photo: Connected to India
Stefanie Yuen Thio, Joint Managing Director, TSMP Law Corporation Mergers along with Melissa Kwee and Emily Teng. Photo: Connected to India

This year’s PVPA winners were selected from close to 100 nominations, undergoing a stringent selection process based on volunteerism and/or philanthropy best practices; innovativeness of ideas; inspirational value; and the impact their efforts have created.  

The awards ceremony was hosted by Special Olympics athlete leader, Florence Hui and Mediacorp personality Yasminne Cheng. PVPA 2018 winners received hand-crafted trophies that were co-designed by Tru-Marine and students from Yio Chu Kang Secondary School. Singaporean artist Aaron Gan mentored the students on the design of the trophy.  

The evening’s performances showcased a diverse and socially inclusive range of artistes including OnWheels Dance Group, Cactus Rose Band and rapper Danial Bawthan, known as “Wheel Smith”.

Author
Ashraf Jamal
Ashraf Jamal – Senior Writer

Ashraf Jamal brings a rare depth to writing equipped with a degree in journalism, a postgraduate degree in political science, and a degree in law from the Allahabad University. His experience includes editing and publishing the Northern India Patrika and writing for Times of India for almost a decade covering just about any topic under the sun including NRIs and Indian diaspora.

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