Speech at Launch of Bizlink Work Therapy Programme and Lunar New Year Celebrations
Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Acting Minister for Manpower, Bizlink Centre
Dr Sureash Balan, Chairman, Board of Directors, Bizlink Centre
Mr Lee Soon Hin, Vice Chairman, Bizlink Centre
Mr Alvin Lim, Chief Executive Officer, Bizlink Centre
Ladies and gentlemen
- Good morning and a very happy Lunar New Year to everyone! I am very pleased to be here to launch Bizlink Centre’s Work Therapy Programme.
- About the same time last year, I launched Bizlink’s Transition to Work Programme with funding from Temasek Cares. I am happy to note that since then, the Bizlink Community has grown and consolidated its role as a service provider that meets the employment needs of those who need help, the disadvantaged and less fortunate Singaporeans.
Launch of the Work Therapy Programme
- Today, with the launch of the Work Therapy Programme, Bizlink aims to enhance its clients’ quality of life by engaging them in a range of activities that contribute to their lifelong learning, skill development and opportunities for building social relationships. The programme is an extension of the sheltered workshop programme, and aims to better prepare their clients to be more independent, with some eventually integrated into employment within Bizlink’s sheltered workshop or its seven social enterprises1.
- I want to share with you the inspiring story of 33-year-old John Koh, who has benefited from the Work Therapy Programme. John was born with Down syndrome and has an intellectual disability. When John first joined the programme in June 2013, he was very quiet and shy and had difficulty expressing his thoughts when spoken to. He would burst into tears when asked why he had left his previous job as a cleaner. His father, Mr Koh Song Poon, shared that John was often bullied due to his disability in his previous job and would always go home in tears. Prior to that, John especially enjoyed cleaning in his previous special school and doing housework at home.
- Under the Work Therapy Programme, and the training and care of the training officers, John slowly opened up and became more confident. He communicated better and made more friends. After he markedly improved his work skills, John was referred to Bizlink’s Cleaning Social Enterprise for an industrial attachment. He impressed his supervisors with his good work attitude and ability. I am happy to note that John has been employed as a part-time cleaner as of November 2013.
- I understand that Bizlink wants to expand this programme to include persons with disabilities (PWDs) as well as the elderly and needy disadvantaged residents within the Kembangan - Chai Chee neighbourhood. I thank Bizlink for extending this community-based programme to more segments of our populace. It is particularly important to help those in the vicinity because it does make it a lot more convenient for the individuals and the care givers, especially those who come from less well to do background, where there is the cost of transport and time spent moving from one location to another can be inconvenient at times as well.
Study by NUS-Chua Thian Poh Community Leadership Programme on Contentment Index of Bizlink’s clients
- I also understand that Bizlink has worked in partnership with the NUS-Chua Thian Poh Community Leadership Programme for a two-year study conducted on Bizlink’s clients. The study looked into measures of personal well-being to determine the Contentment Index of Bizlink’s clients with their current situation. Surveys were conducted with both Bizlink clients with disabilities and non-Bizlink unemployed people with disabilities for comparison.
- The study concluded that PWDs in Bizlink showed an overall higher level of contentment as compared to unemployed non-Bizlink PWDs.
a) Bizlink clients have a stronger sense of community due to the social interactions they have with their peers, compared to staying at home without gainful employment or meaningful engagement; and
b) Bizlink’s clients understand and accept that there are limitations to their work performance and productivity level. Hence, they have more realistic expectations about their wages. They are also content with being able to work and being part of a community that they can turn to when in need.
- Such studies show that organisations such as Bizlink play an important role in helping our persons with disabilities attain a better quality of life. Importantly, it is not just for people with disabilities, but especially for their care givers as well. This is something that we often overlook. We look at the individuals concerned, but strains and challenges that the family members have in terms of care giving is something that we should not underestimate. Allowing individuals to work and attend therapy is also a means of providing respite for the care givers.
- What we have done is the Government has adopted a multi-pronged approach when it comes to reintegrating the less privileged and disadvantaged, into the community. As our nation progresses, we should definitely not forget our “heartware” and should continue to nurture values such as empathy, care and compassion in everyone, for a more compassionate and caring society. This is where everyone can play a part. Bizlink certainly plays an important part in the whole scheme of things. But I do believe the rest of the community can contribute in ways that complement efforts carried out by institutions like this. I encourage employers to start by reviewing the way we do business, and support Bizlink’s efforts in caring for the less privileged amongst us. The rewards from making a difference to someone’s life, and helping the less privileged find their own niche to contribute meaningfully back to society, is immeasurable. And this is something I firmly believe in. Not just for companies, but for every individual, and for all of us in society.
- We often talk about how there may seem to be a regression in societal values, how we’ve become a lot more insular. But the reality is everyone of us is part of society. And we all can play a part, big or small, in making a difference. When we begin to give of ourselves in different ways, that’s when society begins to change. It’s as simple as that. We always talk about society in terms of something else, that it’s somebody else’s fault, and somebody else is not doing their job. But I think all of us could begin, in our own small way, contributing in ways that are within our control. And we have seen individuals coming forward to do that, and certainly institutions and companies also come forward to play that role. Bit by bit, as individuals and companies step into that space, we will see society change.
- I would say that efforts like these are important, not just only in terms of helping people with disabilities; not just in terms of making a difference to the care givers; but it also it makes a difference to those of us who are giving. In the process of giving, you receive a lot more as well. Most importantly, as part of the overall nation building perspective, that’s where you really tend to the soul of the nation as well. By working closely together, we can make our society a more inclusive and caring one, and thus, a better place and a better home for all of us. I congratulate Alvin and his team for the good work done for the community and look forward to more initiatives and programmes for the Bizlink community.
- Thank you.
These seven social enterprises include Bizlink Cleaning, Bizlink Data Entry and IT Services, Bizlink Packing Services, Bizlink Manpower Outsourcing, Bizlink Cards and Gifts, Bizlink E-shop and Bizlink Café.