Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, Minister of State, Ministry of Community Development, Youth & Sports
Tan Sri Dr Tay Teck Eng
Emeritus Professor Kiang Ai Kim
Mr S K Ong
Fellow Board Members
Ladies and gentlemen
Good evening and welcome to SPD.
1. Thank you for taking the time to be here with us tonight on this very special occasion.
2. This is my first formal speech given as President of SPD, and I am very honoured to be addressing such a significant audience. Between all of you here today, you have seen SPD in all its states of development. All of you have contributed at some time in the past, and are still contributing, to its success. Because of you, I am able to stand here today and serve in this worthy cause helping people with physical disabilities.
3. We are celebrating the 40th anniversary of SPD tonight. From a ramshackle hut in the mid-1960s providing jobs for people with physical disabilities in the making of bottle crates, SPD today is a spanking 5-storey fully accessible building housing not only the sheltered workshop and training facility it was meant to be, but a day activity centre, rehabilitation centre, a specialized assistive technology centre, computer lab for people with physical disabilities, and a multimedia centre.
4. But SPD’s accomplishment is not only in its building. While we first began looking into the employment needs of the disabled, we have also branched out to providing services in other areas like education, training, day care, rehabilitation, technology and social service.
5. SPD owes its success to all of you and more. We would like to specially highlight someone here tonight who is very special to us. Moved by a speech given by Paulette Leaning, a New Zealander with physical disabilities, Tan Sri Dr Tay Teck Eng and a group of Rotarians took up the cause of the physically disabled and set up an organization that would look into their welfare. Thus began the sheltered workshop.
6. Dr Tay and his team sought help from members of the community and abroad. They personally made home visits providing friendship and care to those unable to come to the centre, and in some cases tangible help in the form of wheelchairs and other contributions. Their legacy continued and broadened when others came in and took over the baton.
7. Many names stand out in SPD’s history. It would be impossible for me to name each and every one tonight. However, one member whose contribution SPD owes much of its success to is the late Dr Ee Peng Liang. The start of SPD bears the mark of his contributions when he helped lay the foundations for the Society. Dr Ee was to give his support again when the Society was in need of a new facility to house other programmes for its beneficiaries. In 1993, he stepped in and tapping on his wide network, helped to secure the funds so needed to build this facility.
8. Through Dr Ee’s leadership as the Building Fund Adviser, we are greatly pleased to welcome in our midst Mr S K Ong who had made a personal contribution of one million dollars towards the building of the SPD Ability Centre, an amount that today, remains unrivalled.
9. For all their dedication, these individuals will be honoured tonight along with our Trustee, Emeritus Professor Kiang Ai Kim who through the many years since he first joined SPD, has remained our true friend and help.
10. We begin our next 40 years with greater challenges ahead. With Singapore’s ageing society, quality rehabilitation is set to come in focus. We are preparing to rise up to the challenge and to look beyond our walls. Plans are already underway to harness the knowledge and expertise of qualified therapists in Singapore, and to bring them together in a Therapy Hub to provide a higher standard of care to patients not only in SPD but to those in other VWOs.
11. SPD’s Education Programme has also undergone review in order to better meet our objective of leveling the playing field for our physically challenged students.
12. The advent of IT in the recent years has given new hope to people with physical disabilities. We see it enriching the lives of the severely disabled in opening up a new world for them. Our latest collaboration with ‘I’ squared ‘R’ (I2R) or Institute for Infocomm in developing a device called the Brainy Communicator will greatly benefit the severely disabled. We wait in excitement for its development and look on for more collaborations to provide more help for those in our charge.
13. We are also embracing the opportunities new technologies offer at our Multimedia Centre where we constantly engage in finding new and practicable avenues of engagement for our beneficiaries, mostly in the areas of IT and new technologies.
14. The challenges are not felt only in service delivery. There is now greater competition over the same donor dollar and the challenges are intensified with donors becoming more discerning and who face donor fatigue from the many appeals they receive. Today, we will have to devise more innovative, efficient and effective fundraising projects.
15. Armed with the same spirit with which we faced the last four decades, I am confident we are ready for the next 40 years to continue being a credible and relevant service centre for people with physical disabilities.
16. I take this opportunity to once again thank all of you for without you, SPD won’t be what it is today. I especially want to mention the SPD staff who over the past year have worked hard to help achieve the organisation’s objectives.
17. They demonstrate SPD’s mission everyday in the care they give. Their hands and faces will be remembered by our beneficiaries as the friendship and care of SPD. They are our true ambassadors, and on behalf of the management, I thank you for your efforts. With you, we look forward to extending our care and service for people with physical disabilities.
18. In her speech to our Founding Members 40 years ago, Ms Leaning said “The packs we carry differ in weight, but so long as we accept each other as people and as fellow-travellers, we can forget the feelings of pity, of differences in privileges and happily jog side by side together.”
19. We have worked towards this since 1964 and will no doubt continue to do so in order that one day, we can throughout all society, look beside us to find a person with physical disabilities, whether it be at work or play, and find nothing unusual or remarkable about that. That would be a true measure of an inclusive society.
20. Thank you ladies and gentlemen. I wish you all a pleasant evening.