President Halimah visits special needs centre for adults
In her first public appearance as president, Madam Halimah Yacob yesterday visited the Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN) Centre for Adults.
It is no wonder — the 63-yearold’s heart has always been in the social services sector, with her previous roles as the Minister of State for the Ministry of Social and Family Development and adviser to the National Council of Social Service.
The APSN centre at the Kembangan-Chai Chee Community Hub helps adults with mild intellectual disabilities find jobs.
The trainees — over 150 to date — learn basic skills such as cooking and cashiering.
Madam Halimah mingled with them, putting a reassuring hand on their shoulders as she asked them about their daily commute and their ambitions.
Occasionally, she joined them in their activities, such as sticking labels onto bags of cookies.
Her presence also caused a stir among the staff of the neighbouring voluntary welfare organisations, who dashed out to have a photo taken with her.
Retiree Emily Lee, 70, who was volunteering in the area, said: “She is an inspiration for young ladies in Singapore.”
Speaking to reporters after her tour, Madam Halimah reiterated the need to help people with special needs be independent and earn an income, so they can be integrated into society.
“I do hope that employers will be very forthcoming in order to support the work of APSN in terms of helping (the trainees) acquire skills, as well as to give them work to do — whether work at their own workplaces or work that is provided here at the centre,” she said.
One way she said she can help the special needs community in her new role is through the President’s Challenge, which allocates resources to various charities, including APSN.
“I certainly would want to see that continue, and APSN has told me that they have some ideas on how to grow and develop further support for adults with special needs,” she said.
APSN president Chan Chee Keong said Madam Halimah’s background means she knows the issues faced by the special needs community.
“She has a lot of context, especially as a trade unionist... And I think she is going to speak to (employers), especially the work that our people do,” he said.