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Change at local levels ‘possible through collective individual action’

SINGAPORE — When calling for a change in society, individuals must be prepared to play a part and not underestimate what can be achieved at the local level, said Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday at a dialogue with youths.

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin (left), speaking at the SINDA Youth Leaders seminar, said help is available for single mothers, but he wondered if preventive measures could also be taken. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin (left), speaking at the SINDA Youth Leaders seminar, said help is available for single mothers, but he wondered if preventive measures could also be taken. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong

Singapore

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SINGAPORE — When calling for a change in society, individuals must be prepared to play a part and not underestimate what can be achieved at the local level, said Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday at a dialogue with youths.

“All of us collectively add up to what society is — who we are, what we believe in, what we do or what we don’t do. So, society, when you break it down, is about us,” he said at the closing dialogue of the Singapore Indian Development Association’s Youth Leaders Seminar, which was attended by about 130 Indian youth aged 16 to 20.

“Never underestimate the changes that you can make at the very local level ... Imagine if everyone in this room begins to actually do something about the things you believe in, and reach out and change. How many people would you be affecting? And then, collectively, similar groups elsewhere. And that’s where I think society begins to change.”

Held at the National University of Singapore’s Prince George’s Park Residences, the event was part of a camp for students from junior colleges, polytechnics and the Institutes of Technical Education to explore the role of youths in social change.

Mr Tan urged the participants to look at what they could do, such as spending time mentoring younger children or paying regular visits to citizens with limited mobility to help clean up their homes.

“It’s not wrong to be critical, it’s not wrong to have ideas but it’s always easy, isn’t it, to offer suggestions on things we don’t really have to execute. So, I put to you, what are the things you can do? ... Big ideas need to be deconstructed to bite-sized chunks, things that I can do,” he said.

Asked about his goals as Minister for Social and Family Development, Mr Tan spoke of the importance of mobilising the community and upstream measures to help groups such as single mothers.

A Member of Parliament of Marine Parade GRC, he said he is constantly trying to recruit volunteers while on house visits. Some tasks do not need to be performed by social workers and “it’s a very different society when we begin to be invested”, he added.

Help is available for single mothers, but he wondered if preventive measures could also be taken through schools and youth outreach programmes.

Mr Tan said he became more involved in helping the less-privileged over the years. In 2009, while he was still in the army and involved in organising National Day celebrations, Mr Tan’s team had soldiers and the military police doing drills at Assisi Hospice as part of efforts to reach different segments of society.

Asked by a participant if equal help and resources could be devoted to the elderly and transient workers, Mr Tan said the Government is addressing issues on both fronts but noted that there are many other causes including special-needs children, the environment, and heritage. Not all issues are addressed by the Government, as contributions are also made by voluntary welfare organisations and citizens, he added.

“I’d suggest not to look at it as, ‘Why are we not treating every sector equally?’, but (whether we are) dealing with the issues at hand: What more can we do, how do we improve it? I think that’s fair. That’s where we’ve got to keep on pushing boundaries.”

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