Speech by Ms Indranee Rajah, Second Minister for Education, at the Heartware Network Fundraising and Thanksgiving Dinner 2019 at the Furama Riverfront Singapore
Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee and Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, Advisors, Heartware Network
Dr Ting Seng Kiong, Chairman of Heartware Network
Partners, volunteers and friends of Heartware Network
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to be here this evening to support Heartware Network’s Fundraising and Thanksgiving Dinner 2019. We are here to celebrate Heartware’s 20-year journey of camaraderie, hard work and transformation of the lives of children and youths.
“Heartware” refectory describes what your organisation is all about. This year, Singapore commemorates its Bicentennial by appreciating our Merdeka generation and their accomplishments. Looking forward, Singapore must build upon that foundation and look for ways to add heart and value to our growing nation. Youths play a crucial role and, as such, it is imperative that we invest more time and resources to groom and inculcate in them the right values or the right ‘heartware’.
TRANSFORMING THE LIVES OF DISADVANTAGED CHILDREN
Character education is key in moulding today’s youths into good leaders of tomorrow. This aligns with Heartware Network’s mission of transforming the lives of disadvantaged children and youths by equipping them with soft skills like self-empowerment and self-confidence, building their character, and enhancing their resilience to handle future challenges.
In fact, Heartware Network’s mission has much synergy with that of the inter-agency taskforce – UPLIFT – that I am spearheading in MOE to strengthen support for disadvantaged students and families. UPLIFT seeks to understand and identify gaps, which prevent students from reaching their full educational potential, and to work with like-minded community partners such as Heartware Network to address these gaps. Through the years, Heartware Network has established many meaningful and sustainable community programmes like the Heartware Tuition Programme and the “Support-Our-Pioneers” programme.
Started in 2009 with only 16 volunteers serving 21 children, Heartware Network’s Tuition Programme seeks to support disadvantaged primary school students who are under-performing in school. This is a powerful initiative because firstly, the Heartware youth volunteers are just a few years ahead in their academic learning. They can share their techniques and strategies in learning and bolster their academic fundamentals. But it’s not a one-way process – the volunteers themselves also grow by being mentors. By helping students with their schoolwork, they reinforce their understanding of the subjects. In being role models, the volunteers need to first ensure that they themselves are disciplined and embody good values.
The pool of young tutors come from various Junior Colleges, Integrated Programme (IP) Schools and Universities. I recently met one of the youth volunteer tutors, Si En, from Raffles Institution (RI) who has been volunteering with Heartware since 2018. He dedicates his time after school to guide the children in their schoolwork. Si En encourages and motivates them to aspire high for their future. Travelling from RI in Bishan to Xishan Primary School in Yishun every week is no easy feat. But Si En feels this is well worth it in return for having a chance to give back to society and make a difference in the lives of the young children that he supports.
Over the last two years, the Heartware Tuition programme has grown from strength to strength. It has increased its pool of youth volunteers by about 70 per cent, and currently has about 290. More than 400 primary school students have benefitted from this programme. This would not be possible without the support and effort of the partnering primary and post-secondary schools, as well as the various social service agencies, many of whom are here today to join us in celebration of Heartware’s journey. We also take this time to thank the youths who had joined this programme in the initial years. For example, Chew Lin, who is now a doctor practising at Singapore General Hospital. She joined the programme in 2010.
TRAINING YOUTH LEADERS, OUR NEXT GENERATION
Not only does Heartware Network support disadvantaged children, it also works to build a caring society by empowering our youths to provide help to others in need. Through the “Support-Our-Pioneers” Programme, youths are given the opportunity to provide socio-emotional support and companionship to visitations and activities. They learn to develop empathy and compassion towards the elderly, overcoming the generation gap between the two age groups.
Besides engaging youth to be community champions, Heartware Network trains and encourages youth to be tenacious individuals. Heartware Academy equips youth to learn practical skills necessary for workforce and at the same time pay it forward by imparting their knowledge to the next generation of youth volunteers in a self-sustaining cycle. This aims to raise the standard of volunteerism and develop youth who will grow to be leaders in their own right.
To strengthen Heartware Network’s partnerships with schools, MOE and UPLIFT will help to raise the awareness of Heartware’s programmes among more schools. In this way, schools with specific needs can decide how better to leverage Heartware Network’s programmes in supporting their disadvantaged students. Other schools can decide how to work with Heartware Network to nurture compassionate, caring students who will give back to society.
Everyone can make a difference and play an important role in strengthening our society. Regardless of our backgrounds, we must all work together to build community bridges. So, let us pass on this purpose to engage youths and shape them into inspiring future leaders with the right values and the ‘heartware’ to take Singapore forward.
Once again, let me extend my appreciation to everyone present here today, for your generous support to Heartware Network.
Thank you very much and have an enjoyable evening.