Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Raymond Anthony Fernando’s letter to VOICES: Invite caregivers, lonely seniors to Istana


My press letter to Mediacorp’s TODAY newspaper on the above subject is published today, Tuesday 24th October 2017.


I am glad that President Halimah Yacob is considering inviting more ordinary Singaporeans to the Istana (“More opportunities being explored for public to visit Istana”; Oct 22).


I urge her to invite to the Istana caregivers, past and present, as well as seniors who live alone either at an open house or to have tea with her. That is a good way to build an inclusive society. 


Caregivers hardly have time to relax and enjoy some form of recreation, especially when they have to take care of a loved one who is trying to cope with a physical or mental health condition, at almost all hours of the day. 


Everyone needs to understand that caregivers who make much sacrifices need to do things that brings joy into their isolated world. 


This is the same case of the elderly lonely who are lonely, lack key social support and cannot afford to spend on outings.


Engaging in joyful activities and making friends is so important for these two groups, to help lift the human spirit.


At the end of the day, true relaxation is all about connecting with people from all walks of life.





Monday, October 23, 2017

Opinion: Sound leadership and better working conditions for employees paves the way for high staff morale and productivity : An open proposal to Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say and the Singapore Government

With the implementation of the Tripartite Standard on Grievance Handling scheme that was launched by the Manpower Minister and supported by 220 employers, our workers can be assured of better working conditions (New scheme guides firms in handling staff grievances; October 20, 2017, The Straits Times).


Friendly ageing hiring, recruitment practices and retrenchments processes are important issues that needs to be addressed quickly as companies restructure with cost savings in mind.  To this end, it is comforting to know that these matters are being looked into by the unions and the manpower ministry. All workers – whether they are union members or not, need better working conditions and fair HR practices.


It was also mentioned in the ST report that supervisors have to be trained in managing employee feedback and unhappiness. With the government encouraging Singaporeans to upgrade themselves through continuous training, it is just as important for managers to be flexible and open to ideas from trainees and not stick to rigid procedures.  Bottom line: Both managers and bosses need to ‘think out of the box’.

Employees and all Singaporeans alike want to be listened to and feel that their concerns are taken seriously.

Some of the issues that cause unhappiness at the work place that sometimes leads to high turnover rates and much unhappiness include the following:

Lack of recognition: Staff will feel unappreciated when their superiors or bosses do not recognise the effort/s they put in to carry out any task.  It’s amazing how far a simple pat on the back, or ‘thank you’ note for a job well done can motivate staff.

Good ideas thrown out: Creative ideas and suggestions that can improve the well-being of the organisations or our nation should be embraced and not tossed out of the window just because it may entail extra work.   

Lack of remuneration: Employees who have not been promoted or given pay rises for several years will sure to feel dissatisfied, resulting in their not wanting to give their very best. They bottle up their unhappiness and dare not approach the boss as they are afraid of being ‘marked.’  In some cases, depression sets in, where work life and home life cause big problems as relationships sour – both on the home front as well as in the office.

No clear career path ahead:  When employees are not given clear career paths, they are not likely to give their 100 percent effort, but carry out the tasks at hand grudgingly because there is no motivation for them to push the limits.

Favoritism: Employer-employee relations can be tricky and at times, subordinates who lose out on promotions can be de-motivated, what more with office politics not being uncommon, and some bosses, regrettably, tending to favour certain staff.  For as human beings, we all have our ‘little favorites’ This was one of the issues I raised in my article to a local media company entitled Supportive Bosses raise Productivity”

For more details, do take time to read the full article by clicking onto the link below


Uneven spared of workload:   It often happens: The dynamic worker who can get the job done almost immediately and efficiently will be given a much heavier workload most of the time, while those who are not that productive will get a much lighter workload. Then there will be much unhappiness when the less productive worker gets pay increases or promotions while his/her colleague who has been very productive gets little or nothing. 


There have also been instances when the staff appraisal is used as a ‘weapon’ against an employee who falls out of the favour of the boss or the supervisor.   With this new scheme in place by the union in collaboration with the manpower ministry, workers can be given a fair chance to air their grievances so that if they are weak in certain areas, they can be counselled and given a chance to improve their performance within a given time frame.


This is why it is absolutely necessary to have a two-way staff appraisal in place, and this was a suggestion I made in the Straits Times some time back. I believe Mindef has such a system in place, but in the interest of all workers, unionised or otherwise, all government agencies and private companies need to adopt such a good HR practice.


Older Singaporeans with vast experience can mentor younger workers


Older Singaporeans who possess years of invaluable work and life experiences ought to be given the opportunity to mentor younger workers as they are well positioned to inspire and motivate inexperienced workers.  There should be no obstacles or road blocks put in the way of experienced elderly Singaporeans in reaching out to the middle age and younger workers. We must do away with the civil service mentality of ‘going by the book.’ There must be flexibility to adapt to different settings.


Layoffs should be the last resort


Unfortunately, when it comes to layoffs, usually the first workers that are asked to leave are those who command high salaries and have stayed loyal to the company for decades. We need to value such loyal employees – just as the Japanese style management does.  They view such workers as an asset, not a liability. 


With this new scheme put in place, a productive worker who has contributed to the well-being of the company and enhanced its image, through useful contributions, but not given fair recognition can raise the matter up in an amicable manner through the proper channels.


As companies restructure and downsize, it is inevitable that some unproductive workers may have to go.  Layoffs are of course painful as it can create behavioural and cost, hurt everyone in the company; with staff morale taking a beating.


No one likes unpleasant surprises. Instead of rushing off to carry out layoffs across the board, dedicated workers could be asked to take a few months of unpaid leave and still remain gainfully employed.  This will not only help the company to cut some costs, but will also allow the affected workers to either attend skills upgrading courses or look for other jobs.  Those on unpaid leave can also seize the opportunity to spend more quality time with their families.


It takes a leader to lead by example


Strong leadership must come from management who desire not to just save costs, but to save hearts and jobs as they display compassion for their loyal staff.


Undoubtedly, Raffles Hotel fits the bill as they embark on seconding staff who worry about losing their jobs, to their sister hotels for employment opportunities as the hotel will lose revenue with an 18-month restoration project that is taking place.


Raymond Anthony Fernando

Thursday, October 19, 2017


“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

- Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross -

I am also inspired by people who have overcome obstacles in life, and one such person is famous American basketball player Michael Jordan, who once said: “Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

For the past 3 and a half years, I make it a must to pray to my wife at the columbarium in my church where Doris’ ashes are laid. I go as early as 6am to pray to her even though the lights are only turned on at 8am.  I pray in the dark, but the light of the eyes in Jesus and my wife shines on me, and give me hope. It is very dark but I bring along my led light lamp so that I will not be groping in the dark and fall down.

Moreover, the stretch of road leading to the church is tricky as the MRT is being built there so many areas have been blocked off.  Going that early helps me avoid the peak hour crowd in buses and I find solitude at this hour when I can talk to my wife and Jesus – two people who always protect and care for me.

Whatever I have done; and continue to do for the marginalized in Singapore though my advocacy efforts, I do it with courage and conviction.  I fear no one. And those who believe in what I do will always give me encouragement. I will walk tall – as I walk the talk.  

Have a nice day, folks.



Raymond Anthony Fernando  

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Encouraging when ideas get translated into action!

8 years ago, on 22 January 2009, I proposed through the press (The New Paper) that the government builds more psychiatric homes, and it has been implemented. Last Saturday, a sheltered home for psychiatric patients – the Anglican Care Centre (SACS) managed by the Singapore Anglican Community Services was officially opened and Health Minister Gan Kim Young officiated at the event. Read my press letter here: http://rayhope8.blogspot.sg/…/letter-to-pressnew-paper-22nd…
Advocacy pays, ya?
Raymond Anthony Fernando

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Public suggestion to the Health & Manpower Ministers: Provide financial options to Singaporeans who can’t pay big bills in private hospitals and review lengthy work hours for senior citizens

Having to pay for huge medical bills in view of rising medical costs has always been a deep concern of all Singaporeans, and it really saddens me to have read of the plight of Mr Thomas Lukose who was saddled with a huge medical bill (Patient could not get place in SGH, hit with $78k bill; Oct 11, 2017, The Straits Times).

But, it was commendable on the part of the operating cardiac surgeon, Dry Sriram Shanker to waive the charges for his services, after which Gleneagles Hospital also waive the medical bill of for Mr Lukose.

If we can build on that compassion and offer some options to Singaporeans who may face a similar situation in future, I am pretty sure the lower income groups will breathe a big sigh of relief.  Moreover, offering options is always useful to have contingency plans in place in anticipation of unexpected situations or developments that may arise from time to time.

Securing a slot in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is an issue that needs to be tackled quickly given that many Singaporeans are stressed out in having to balance work and family life.  So too securing a bed in a government hospital. Given these challenges, there needs to be some flexibility and options for any Singaporean who have problems paying huge bills due to the unavailability of ICU slots or beds in public hospitals. 

Until such time when the slots in ICU or beds are fully resolved by the Ministry of Health (MOH), there needs to be systems in place for Singaporeans to have peace of mind. 

Offer options

To begin with MOH should collaborate with private hospitals to allow Singaporeans who have life-threatening illnesses and cannot secure a bed in public hospitals to pay their bills at the subsidised rates in the private hospitals – as was rightly suggested my SPH’s Senior Health Correspondent Salma Khalik. 

Then there needs to be some other options open to Singaporeans who are saddled with big bills through no fault of theirs.  For example, patients could be allowed to pay big bills through an instalment plan – interest free as they would need follow-up treatment which includes medication.

Another option is for ComCare to help pay for part of the bill as this government fund was set up primary to help elderly Singaporeans facing financial difficulties. MOH needs to collaborate with MSF on this matter.

Although medifund is given to patients in subsidised wards, some flexibility can be exercised given the circumstances that the patient/s may be caught in – as was the case with Mr Lukose.   Thus, medifund assistance can be yet another option offered to such patients.

Another viable option is for the Tote Board and the President’s Star Charity to allocate some funds for Singaporeans who are in this predicament.

Once approved by MOH, the social workers at the private admitting hospital can then coordinate any of these schemes to make it a smooth sail for the patient/s so that his/her loved ones will have peace of mind. 

While crowdfunding can help to raise some funds, relatives should not be burdened to take this route as it will only add to their stress and anxiety at a time when they will be deeply worried over their gravely ill loved one.   

The recovery from life-threatening illnesses such as heart surgery must not leave the patient and his/her family with anxiety and worry, as it can affect the healing process.

Lengthy work hours will take a toll on the physical and mental health of workers

Separately, the Ministry of Manpower and unions needs to review the long working hours which security guards have to clock in – almost all of our security personnel work on a 12-hour shift on any given day.  Those in the industry could be given the flexibility to opt for shorter working hours (8 hours) or if they are fit to work the 12-hour shift.  With job uncertainty and workers being laid off as companies downsize and restructure, some of our retrenched workers who have bills and mortgages to pay may have to work in the security line or drive cabs as jobs are hard to come by.  

Lengthy works hours – especially for senior citizens can have damaging effects on their physical as well as their mental state.

On 24th August 2015, a study published in the British medical journal – The Lancet had an alarming warning for people who work more than 55 hours a week: They appear to have a 33 percent higher risk of stroke than those toiling a saner 35 to 40 hours each week, and a 13 percent increased risk of coronary heart disease, too.

In addition, a study in 2014 found that working more than 55 hours a week at low-income jobs is associated with a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.  Then it was also found that the odds for developing depression were more than double for those who work very long hours.

Education and medical care are two important areas for the government to invest in. While the government is wise to invest heavily in education as students can be groomed to become tomorrow’s leaders, the policy makers have to also appreciate older Singaporeans – many of whom have done national service to protect our country and who have dedicated their whole lives to our country. 

Submitted for the government’s consideration, please.  
Thank you.



Raymond Anthony Fernando



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Opinion: Be mindful of sensationalising and glorifying violence

I totally agree with Dr Ng Eng Heng that counter-terrorism efforts could go on for a long time “7 times more Singaporeans radicalised in the past year: Defence Minister (Oct 9).

The defence ministry has done the right thing by getting our soldiers to participate in counter-terrorism missions for a decade in counties like Afghanistan against the Al Qaeda.  Although more training and deployment for our soldiers will continue so that Singaporeans can be protected should terror attacks occur, it is just as important that the media and movies producers be mindful of sensationalising and glorifying violence as it can influence extremists from following what they see.   

Let’s understand that violence begets violence.  Given the rise in terrorism world-wide, everyone has an important role to play in stamping out senseless violence.  

Because they have so much hatred and anger in them, terrorists’ groups have only one purpose – to maim and kill innocent people. They have absolutely no love for human beings. 

Some time ago, the movie Air Force One was shown in America and many other countries, including Singapore.  In this action-packed thriller, a group of hijackers seized the plane carrying the President of the United States and his family. 

By some strange coincidence, several years later in September 2001, American Airlines Boeing 767 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City killing 2,996 people and injuring 6,000 others, with damages estimated at $10 billion in infrastructure and property. The Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks.

Many of the Hollywood blockbusters which has excessive violence and broadcast through wide TV networks around the world could in some way be giving ‘ideas’ to terrorists or potential ones. These movies tend to ‘glorify’ violence. Given that terrorism is causing havoc in many cities, broadcasting stations may want to review what they telecast as the outreach is big.

World-wide media coverage of terrorists’ cruelty such beheading people or bombing crowded places will give terrorist groups the attention they crave for.  Bear in mind that a discontented society paves the way for terrorists to recruit followers and carry out terror attacks.


The media and platforms on the internet all over the world should therefore not play into the hands of terrorists by sensationalising coverage on violence and terrorism because it will not only instill fear and anxiety in people, but divide everyone.


Once fear grips people, they panic and become vulnerable to the evil doings of terrorists.  Thus, an effective way for nations to defeat terrorists is to build unshakable resilience and stay united – period.   


But while it is important for everyone to stay vigilant against terrorism, we cannot also be looking over our shoulders all the time, and be held ransom to terrorists.



Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Opinion: Volunteers can play an important role in the rehabilitation of patients in the long staying wards of the Institute of Mental Health: An open Public Suggestion to the Singapore Government

I applaud the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for their untiring efforts in helping long-stay psychiatric patients reintegrate back into society with a new rehabilitation programme (“A new dream for IMH long-stayers”; The Sunday Times –  Sunday 1 October 2017)

Well trained volunteers who exercise patience, empathy and compassion will be an excellent position to offer friendship to patients with mental illness who will feel loved and care for. Such social stimulation with reminiscence therapy conversations, combined with singing, games and storytelling by volunteers on a regular basis that can bring some enjoyment to those in the long-staying wards is the first step to getting the patients there to understand that that they are not alone in this world. 

Once the patients feel loved, the confidence they gain is the second step that will motivate them to learn a skill, secure a job and get back into society. 

The third step is to organise outings for the recovering patients as recreation is important for those who have been cooped up for years.

During my visits to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), I have met some of our loving and caring volunteers – locals as well as foreigners, and it is so heartwarming to see them give their time and energy to bring a smile on the faces on the mentally ill. Those who have much love in their hearts and know how to feel for another human being would want to pass it on – and sometimes it breaks their hearts to see patients in their predicament.

During my conversation with a young Filipino volunteer on one Sunday, she broke down and cried when speaking of the plight of psychiatric patients.  It is no big deal for her and her whole group of domestic helpers to sacrifice their only day off in the week to bring happiness to the mentally ill. 

Right now, community visits to IMH is restricted to certain wards, but maybe it is time to cast the net wider by extending these community visits to the long-staying wards as well so that visitors will have a clearer understanding of mental illness and witness firsthand how patients there cope – and to see what the job entails for our dedicated healthcare workers.

With this suggested programme in place, IMH might just be able to secure more volunteers as they might be deeply touched by the plight of patients in the long-staying wards, some of whom have been abandoned by their relatives. Under the training of IMH healthcare workers, the volunteers together with the nurses can gradually bring these patients for outings.   As a pilot project a small number of patients – maybe around 4-5 could be taken to see the outside world.

It is by no means easy to secure volunteers, so an effective way is for those volunteering to have their contributions factored in their staff appraisals (for workers) and in the case of students, in their reports cards. For volunteers who give their time and energy to bring sunshine into the lives of the mentally ill, it also a learning journey for them as they can better understand what psychiatric patients go through trying to cope with the various brain disorders.  To some extent, it’s in a certain way – public education, and when more people are educated on mental health issues, we can slowly, but surely remove the stigma that plagues the mentally ill.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

A roof over the head, a meal on the table: A public suggestion to the Singapore Government on the homeless in Singapore

I am deeply saddened to read the report –“Homeless stereotypes busted: Most hold jobs, have been destitute for over a year”; CNA (Channel News Asia) Insider, October 7, 2017).

It is terrible.to be without a roof over your head or not be able to have a decent meal.  Everyone needs at least a bunker and a bed to rest their weary head on.  Singapore is not the only country that have homeless citizens. There are many other countries across the globe that have homeless people; among them America, India, the Philippines, China, Australia, France, Canada and Germany – just to name a few.   

A United Nations global survey in 2005 found that an estimated 100 million people are homeless worldwide. Habitat for Humanity estimated in 2015 that 1.6 billion people around the world live in "inadequate shelter.” Sometimes we witness Good Samaritans milk human kindness by coming to the aid of homeless people where they give blankets and meals to homeless people.


In a first study on the homeless in Singapore, a group of professionals – SW101 who carried a survey were surprised that even though people had jobs, being without a proper home was what these citizens of lower skills and education had to grapple with.


At a social work seminar, a member of SW101, Dr Ng Kok Hoe said that “Homelessness is one of the most serious implications of this kind of wage conditions.” Dr Ng added: “It was a wake-up call for us that you could hold a job, and still be in such housing instability that you end up on the streets.”   


In one night, more than 100 people including SW101 members, staff from community organization Montfort Care and other volunteers combed many places all over Singapore to determine how many people could be homeless.  They discovered that 180 people were homeless with 29 not wanting to reveal the public places they were sleeping at.  The vast majority of homeless people were men.  The locations where they rested included parks, and shopping centres, public housing blocks, pedestrian walkways and town centres and these areas were most unhygienic: pest-invested, uncomfortable and urine-stained.


Dr Ng said that the survey carried out was not a nationwide count, hence “is likely to underestimate the actual extent of homelessness in Singapore.”


Difficult task for MSF

 The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) don’t have it easy; they assist an average of 300 cases of homelessness a year. Not being able to get along with the relatives or wanting to sleep near their places of work are some of the reasons why some people choose to sleep outside their homes.


But citizens who have much empathy for the less fortunate can rally around MSF to bring that elusive rainbow to the homeless people in Singapore.


Set up a Foundation or Charity

To help resolve the problem of homelessness, I propose that a foundation or charity be set up by a group of budding entrepreneurs or volunteers who want to make a difference in the lives of the homeless people and in doing so, will be able lift the human spirit. Youths are the ideal group to set up the foundation as they could be the leaders of tomorrow. I would name the organisation as Home-Grown Foundation because it can set up on home ground.  It can be a start-up with grants from the government to invest in this venture.


To help Home-Grown Foundation be successful, it has to grow to meet the needs of the homeless; and as such its resources and funds need to grow as well.


The foundation’s office can be built at a HDB void deck and staffed by a few people on a paid salary. Staff employed through support from the government and the community, could include those who can raise funds, secure sponsorship and provide counselling services. If is not feasible to hire a counsellor/s, these professionals can be seconded from MSF. Given that Singapore has a multi-racial society, counsellors should come from the 4 main religious groups viz, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist and Hindu where spiritual support or even pastoral care will help lift the dampened spirit.


Computers and office equipment such as photocopiers and furniture could be supplied by successful companies who can be ‘enticed’ to give back to society for a worthy cause.  Corporate responsibility should be part and parcel of successful companies. Meals for the homeless can be provided by food charities with expenses for the meals met by philanthropists or corporate giants. Of course, it will help if the government can provide some funding from money that is raised for community projects on national levels or through Comcare.


I know of two food charities that have been magnanimous in providing free meals for the needy – Willing Hearts run by Tony Tay and Free Food For All (FFFA) managed by Nizar Mohd Shariff. Both require funds to keep doing these kind deeds. FFFA gives a healthy wholesome meal that comprises rice, a veggie and a meat to some 300 beneficiaries in Tampines, Chai Chee, Bedok North and Bedok Reservoir.  Both Nizar and Tony Tay can be co-opted to run a canteen at the Foundation or the locations where sheltered homes are located.


Allow fund raising

MSF could allow the proposed foundation, with supervision and audits to raise funds as follows:

  • The Public can make a general donation – They can make a general donation on behalf of people experiencing homelessness, mental or physical health issues and addiction.
  • Become a monthly donor – As a monthly donor, you can help keep administration costs low, allowing the foundation to allocate more funds to programmes and services.
  • Make a gift in memory of a family member, friend or colleague, or in honour of someone special or in recognition of a special occasion.
  • Organise its own fundraiser

Building simple inexpensive homes/shelters  

There are a few options which the government may want to consider.

(a) Many homeless people pitch tents at our beaches, but have to leave when the NEA checks the area.

With approval from the government simple inexpensive homes can be constructed in a hived-off area at the beach or in places where there is some land that can be used for makeshift homes. The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) should be able to identify unused buildings such as old primary schools which have large halls and classrooms. These old schools could be converted into sheltered or makeshift homes


(b) Religious groups can also play a role in helping homeless Singaporeans find a resting place. There are also some places in churches like the Catholic Church in Bukit Timah which can be used for this purpose. The caretaker there can ensure that the sheltered home serves its primary purpose of providing a safe haven for those who cannot secure a permanent home – for one reason or the other. 


Teaching a man to fish


There are endless typhoon and storms that plague the Philippines throughout the year. Singapore is blessed to be free from such natural disasters. Yet being without a home is also to some extent – a disaster.


Through these calamities of natural disasters, help will come to those who are willing to help themselves. It is the Buddhist Charity –Tzi Chi Foundation that rises to the occasion and gives hope when all hope seems hopeless.  The Filipinos are sort of immune to their homes and property being destroyed during the natural disasters. Through these adversities, they have become resilient with the wonderful support of the volunteers from Tzi Chi Foundation who fervently believe that it is unwise to give fish, but far better to teach people to fish.


With this in mind the charity came up with the programme, CASH FOR WORK where they pay the affected families a fixed sum (500 pesos or $15 per person) to rebuild their homes. This programme was so popular that it attracted thousands of Filipinos to step forward to rebuild the damaged homes.  Good karma returns like a boomerang when kind deeds are done. Delighted and happy to see their homes rebuilt through the compassion of Tzi Chi, many Filipinos are today volunteers with this charity.


Like Tzi Chi Foundation, Caritas Humanitarian Aid & Relief Initiatives, Singapore or CHARIS for short has done much humanitarian work.  CHARIS is the umbrella body for overseas humanitarian aid by the Archdiocese of Singapore.

Humanitarian situations cover natural disasters and other adverse circumstances faced by the poor and needy, especially in developing countries in the region. Aid provided by CHARIS includes funding, medical aid and volunteers for immediate relief as well as the long-term support of those displaced and in need.

For a period of one week, from 29th Nov - 5 Dec 2015, 25 CHARIS volunteers came forward to help and experience working alongside the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda within Bogo City, Cebu, one of the shelter building sites that CHARIS supported with the generous donations from the Singapore Catholic community.

His Most Reverend José S. Palma, Archbishop of Cebu, commented, "The biggest donation came from all of you (CHARIS), and it came immediately, while government aid took months to arrive. The support and aid that we received from our brothers and sisters in Singapore provided us with the belief and strength to carry on. At first, when the disaster struck, it saddened us all that many lives were lost and many more displaced but the Philippines - even though we are a country with many natural disasters.

The house building project, aptly name Caritas Village, is run by The Archdiocese of Cebu’s Relief & Rehabilitation Unit (RRU), a group comprised of passionate young Filipinos intent on bringing hope back to their fellow displaced and poor Cebuano’s. Led by Father Charles Louis Jayme, the group has so far completed 48 out of 150 homes in the village of Bungtod, where 25 volunteers from Singapore went to help with basic construction work.

Cebu’s Relief & Rehabilitation Unit (RRU), a group comprised of passionate young Filipinos intent on bringing hope back to their fellow displaced and poor Cebuano’s. Led by Father Charles Louis Jayme, the group has so far completed 48 out of 150 homes in the village of Bungtod, where 25 volunteers from Singapore went to help with basic construction work.


RRU has also put in place a program of ‘Sweat Equity’ for the villagers who will live in the houses. The idea of this is to encourage a sense of ownership, equality and teamwork among the villagers to work together to rebuild their lives after the disaster. This is also to promote self-reliance and reduce the dependence on foreign aid groups who come in to build houses without requiring much help from the locals. Thus, each family in the village would need to complete about 400 hours of house building and would only be allocated a house by drawing of lots upon completion of the 400 hours.


Let charity also begin at home

( c )Taking the cue from both Tzi Chi Foundation and CHARIS, Home-Grown Foundation could, with the assistance of these two organisations help our homeless Singaporeans to build some inexpensive homes using the same concept of empowering them to build their own homes. MSF, the Ministry of National Development and the Ministry of Manpower can oversee the operations to ensure that the sheltered homes are clean and safe for living.


Skills training

Once the homeless people are housed with proper meals, they can be sent for skills training to enable them to earn better wages.  Once they become fiercely independent, they can apply for rented flats or even purchase it with government housing subsidies.


Submitted for your consideration, please.




Raymond Anthony Fernando
Positive reply from MSF today 10th Oct 2017

Dear Mr Fernando,
We refer to your email of 8 October 2017. Thank you for your feedback. We appreciate the time and effort you have put into the suggestions, which we will consider further.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) works closely with social service organisations and other government agencies to support families and individuals who may be at risk of homelessness. Our priority is to ensure that their immediate needs are met and they receive support to address their long-term housing and living needs. MSF also funds 3 Transitional Shelters, which provide shelter to homeless families and individuals who have exhausted all other means of accommodation. Social workers at these shelters will work with them to improve their family situations and on their long-term housing arrangements.

As you have highlighted, members of the public also play an important role in helping the homeless. For example, they may refer such persons to the nearest Social Service Office or Family Service Centre for assistance. They may also call the ComCare hotline at 1800-222-0000.

Thank you.

Justin Sim

Assistant Manager (Social Support Policy) | ComCare and Social Support Division

Ministry of Social and Family Development


Opinion: Members of Parliament, Policy Makers and Civil Servants need to stay connected to the ground

There are many social problems which Singaporeans are struggling with every day so it is vital that members of parliament (MPs), mayors, ministers, policy makers and civil servants stay closely connected to the ground.

Long working hours, financial stress, unhappy home or married lives, lack of social interaction, high cost of living, homeless people are some of the problems that contribute to people falling into depression and in severe cases leading to suicide.

Many people are of the view that during the run-up to the General Elections, the politicians will visit homes to find out what are the issues residents face, in order to secure support so that they can get elected as MPs. After they get elected, it’s a different situation altogether, because very few MPs visits the residents. 

While MPs and Mayors are busy people, it is crucial that they stay in touch with the ground and visit the residents periodically – especially those who have mobility problems or are full time caregivers. 

Recently Mr Chee Hong Tat who is Senior Minister of State for Health took on the role of being a “Being a nurse for the day” at the Institute of Mental Health where he got an insightful peek into how the mentally ill are being care for by a dedicated team of healthcare workers and seeing for himself how mental patients are trying to cope with mental disorders.  This is a noble gesture on the part of Mr Chee as he was able to witness what it is like for caregivers to have to give love and support to their care recipients often 24/7.

The role of Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMP) ought to be expanded beyond speaking in Parliament. NCMPs, together with civil servants who could include Permanent Secretaries should shadow the MPs during their Meet-The-People’s Session (MPS) to get a better feel of the ground and have the flexibility to give constructive solutions to our policy makers.


Raymond Anthony Fernando



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Raymond’s letter to The Straits Times: Upskirt offences: Culprits need counselling too

My letter to The Straits Times on the above matter is published today, Tuesday 3rd October 2017.
District Judge Kenneth Yap recently correctly pointed out that there have been far too many upskirt cases and there was a need for stiffer sentences (Ex-bank officer jailed for upskirt videos; Sept 29).

But we should not just fine or jail those who do not respect a woman's modesty.

There are underlying issues that need to be addressed.
From the cases reported, there appears to be a link between stress and voyeurism.
Those caught include engineers, bank officers, salesmen and students who seem unable to cope with the demands of daily life, are lonely or are just plain bored.

They may see taking upskirt videos as a means of escapism and for a cheap thrill.

However, once caught, they pay a heavy price for their offence.
Those who are convicted are bound to lose their jobs, and both they and their loved ones can easily fall into depression from the negative publicity.

They will also be shunned by friends and former office colleagues.

So, let’s not just punish the sinner, but condemn the sin as well.
To this end, it is vital that voyeurs get mandatory treatment that includes counselling to rid them of their obsession with support groups helping them along the way.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Monday, October 2, 2017

Letter to The New Paper: Gurmit a good choice as hospice ambassador

My letter to The New Paper on the above subject is published today, Monday 2nd October 2017.

I refer to the reports that television celebrity Gurmit Singh did not place his late father in a hospice because of wrong impressions and lack of knowledge.

Hospice care is end-of-life care. The objective is to help give the dying peace, comfort and dignity. But a hospice is not a place where people go to die.

The good work of hospice care staff needs to be published so that more people who are sceptical of admitting their relatives into these places will consider this option which can also significantly reduce the strain on caregivers.

The stress and strain of caring for close relatives who are in the last stages of their life can lead to burnout.  

If the patient insists on living alone, there is also much anxiety for family members, as was the case with Gurmit, whose father was battling cancer.  

With his wacky and bubbling character, Gurmit is the right person to bring some joy into the lives of patients and create more awareness of end-of-life issues as a hospice ambassador.