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Improving the lives of the less privileged
"THERE are about 3-5 per cent of Singaporeans who have special needs", said Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN) president Victor Tay, adding that they are at risk of falling through the cracks.
Armed with the conviction that this group of people can also contribute to the economy, APSN's Centre for Adults (CFA) has been helping them integrate into the society since 1997 by getting them employed.
"They are more focused on their job, are attentive and do not mind voluminous and repetitive job nature," said Mr Tay, who is also chairman of APSN-CFA.
The centre has courses in four different sectors which include hospitality and landscaping. To allow the adults at APSN-CFA have hands-on experience, a special project task force was set up in Lendlease - along with its business partners - to create a hospitality training facility to teach them housekeeping skills.
A group of volunteers from Lendlease design team provided pro bono concept design and layout planning services for the facility that was built in 2013 at APSN-CFA's old premises on Jalan Tembusu.
Simon Wild, head of sustainability, Asia, Lendlease, said: "Lendlease is focused not just on the buildings we create, but also the places we work in. We enrich the lives of people by creating places where people prefer to spend their time, places that contribute to the community, places that physically and mentally improve the quality of people's lives."
Community Day is Lendlease's flagship annual volunteer programme. One of last year's projects involved a group of 40 Lendlease volunteers spending the day with National Parks Board staff and clients of APSN-CFA landscaping course to plant shrubs at Sims Avenue Park Connector.
The section where work is done is connected to Lendlease's upcoming Paya Lebar Quarter development, and "will help to create a greener and cooler environment that can be enjoyed by the Paya Lebar community", said Mr Wild.
Lendlease senior development executive Ivie Sim, who was also project lead for the APSN-CFA and NParks Community Day project, said: "It's exciting that Lendlease gives us the opportunity to support the causes that we are passionate about. APSN, dedicated to training its clients for independent employment, is an organisation that is close to my heart."
Lendlease employees are encouraged to volunteer and sustain the programmes they embark on.
"At Lendlease, we support using our capabilities to volunteer," said Mr Wild. "We tap the strengths of our diverse workforce and develop our employees. We aim for enduring impact as we teach someone how to do something instead of simply doing it for them."
As Lendlease volunteer programmes are usually ground-up initiatives, it is no surprise that its ongoing project with Boys' Town was borne out employees' passion to help the youths through mentoring.
In September 2013, a group of employees spent a day at Boys' Town and realised that they needed to spend more time there for their engagement to be meaningful.
With that in mind, a monthly game of futsal kicked off, followed by the setting up of a mentoring programme.
Lendlease project manager Geoff Quong, who has been organising and participating in the futsal games and annual Community Day activities at Boys' Town since 2014, said the futsal programme "is rewarding as we get to mentor and share life experiences with them in a casual setting".
Boys Town executive director Irene Loi said: "The boys are appreciative of the care and dedication shown by Lendlease volunteers.
"They also enjoyed the friendship and time spent together. This has helped them adopt a positive outlook of their lives and of people in general, enabling them to integrate themselves with the community."
Lendlease has developed three-year community development plans for projects such as the Paya Lebar Quarter and Jem.
"By creating three-year plans, we hope to create more long-term social value for the communities we operate in," said Mr Wild. "The plans are then reviewed to stay relevant to any evolvement in the community."
- This article is part of a series covering companies contributing towards under-served causes. The Business Times supports NVPC's Company of Good programme as media partner. Go to www.companyofgood.sg for more information. Company of Good is in support of SGCares, a national movement dedicated to supporting the goodwill of Singaporeans and to guide them to better help those in need.