SPD Celebrates 50 Years of Service to the Disabled Community

SINGAPORE, 27 November 2014 – An idea mooted by a moving speech became the inspiration for a group of volunteers, including the late philanthropist Tan Sri Dr Tay Teck Eng, to set up a voluntary welfare organisation (VWO) in 1964. Known as SPD today, the organisation looked after the interests of those with physical disabilities and provided them social support and employment opportunities.

In the years that followed, SPD grew to become an important social service provider and advocate for the disability community. To mark its 50th year, close to 400 guests including staff, beneficiaries, donors, volunteers, partners and representatives from Government agencies and other VWOs joined SPD in the celebration of this important milestone at a gala dinner held at The Fullerton Hotel Singapore with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in attendance.

In her speech, SPD’s President Ms Chia Yong Yong commented on SPD’s journey thus far: “What started off as a small operation under a zinc-roofed sheltered workshop in Tiong Bahru has grown into one of Singapore’s more established VWO that advocates acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities in the society.”

Among the few individuals who have seen SPD unfold over the years is 65-year-old Gan Boon Leong, a master craftsman and a supervisor in SPD’s sheltered workshop. He is also SPD’s longest serving staff, having been with the organisation for 43 years. Boon Leong joined the SPD Sheltered Workshop in May 1971 after he became paralysed from an operation that went awry. At the workshop, he was engaged in contract work such as making wooden crates for bottled drinks. He went on to receive training in bookbinding at the workshop, and today the exquisite notebooks, photo frames and photo albums that he makes by hand are always popular with customers. “I am glad that with the help of SPD, I am able to earn a living and be financially independent, with the means to support my family,” said Boon Leong.

Several organisations were honoured at the event for their generous and consistent support of SPD. Five organisations received the inaugural SPD Patron Awards from the Prime Minister while three others received the SPD Distinguished Patron Awards for their donation of over $1 million to SPD.

SPD Patron Award*
Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation
Loyang Tua Pek Kong
NatSteel Holdings Pte Ltd
Presto Expat Motoring Services Pte Ltd
San Wang Wu Ti Religious Society

SPD Distinguished Patron Award#
Microsoft Singapore ($2,182,836)
StarHub Ltd ($1,415,471)
Far East Organization ($1,050,000)

SPD Youth Aspiration Award 2014 recipient, 14-year-old Samuel Lim, started the evening’s programme with his rendition of “Over the Rainbow” with musicians from Beautiful Mind Charity. With the help and imagination of five children between five and six years old from the Building Bridges EIPIC Centre at SPD@Jurong, the audience were brought back in time to where the legend of the Merlion began through a shadow puppetry performance.

Today, SPD serves 4,700 persons with disabilities through over 20 programmes and services at four centres across the island, including the headquarters at Tiong Bahru and three satellite centres – SPD@Jurong, SPD@Tampines and SPD@Toa Payoh. Its programmes and services encompass rehabilitation, day care, early intervention, consultation and assessment in assistive technology, sheltered employment, IT and vocational training, and education, employment and social support.

Besides providing direct care services to the community, SPD also helps build capability of the social sector. For instance, through its early intervention support programme, SPD conducts training for pre-school educators so that they are able to identify children who require intervention support. Trainers at the Infocomm Accessibility Centre, which SPD manages, develop information and communication technology-related curriculum for Special Education Schools and also train their teachers to incorporate the use of assistive technology devices in classroom learning. In addition, the SPD Therapy Hub also recruits, supervises and manages occupational therapy, speech therapy and physiotherapy professionals who are deployed to other VWOs and health-care providers. These professionals provide therapy services and/or consultation services to serve the needs of the clients in both the social service and intermediate and long-term care sector.

SPD was first known as Society for Aid to the Paralysed when it was formed in 1964. It became Society for the Physically Disabled in 1998 and to just ‘SPD’ in July 2014. It dropped ‘physically disabled’ from its name to reflect itself as an organisation that serves people of other disabilities as well, and not just those with physical disabilities.

For its strong volunteer, donor and financial management system, SPD was awarded the Non-profit Organisation Award by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre in 2006. It also received the inaugural Charity Governance Award (CGA) 2012 in the large charities category. The CGA was an initiative of the Charity Council aimed at promoting good governance in the charity sector by recognising charities that have adopted the highest standards of governance.


*The SPD Patron Award is given in appreciation to donors who have contributed at least $100,000 thrice or more.

#The Distinguished Patron Award is given in appreciation to donors who have contributed $1 million and above.