Pres­i­dent Hal­imah vis­its spe­cial needs cen­tre for adults

The New Paper - - NEWS - FOO JIE YING

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.


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