from Henry Kwek’s interview with Petir
Henry Kwek’s experience as a youth volunteer tutoring inmates at the Kaki Bukit Prison School left an indelible mark on him.
So when he became an MP, one of the things he set out to do was to help individuals from disadvantaged families succeed.
That, coupled with his background from a humble family, convinced him of the need to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots.
Social work is therefore a core of his constituency work. Here, he is planning to expand a key programme, Kebun Baru Cares to help more families.
WHO: Henry Kwek, MP for Nee Soon GRC. He entered politics in September 2015 and is the executive director of Foodtraco Group, an investment, trading and management consulting company.
WHERE: Nature Park Pte Ltd, a coffeeshop at Blk 159, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 .
ON THE MENU: Fried fish soup with bee hoon ($4) from Rong Ji and barley drink $1.30.
Helping low-income families
The Kebun Baru Cares programme provides young parents from low-income families with career advice, parenting and money management skills to help them break out of the poverty cycle.
When we do social work in the constituency, we are bringing the community together because the PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) and upper middle class chip in -with the outreach.
This year, we will work with non-profit organisation Beyond Social Services to target more families in the rental flats. We want to find out their needs and build a long-term relationship with them so that we can offer a wider range of help. This includes nursing, healthcare advice or football clinics for the kids.
Once we stabilise the family circumstances, the children will have a better chance of succeeding in life.
No child left behind
It takes a village to raise a child, and especially so for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
We’ve been working with Child @ Street 11, a good pre-school for children from low-income and challenging backgrounds, and Blackbox Learning, an established tuition centre that also helps low-income kids.
I hope to do everything I can to help the kids succeed in life.
Social and mobile elderly
Kebun Baru ward has the highest proportion of pioneer generation elderly in Nee Soon GRC, so my aim is to keep them social and mobile.
We have built ramps, link bridges and a sky bridge to connect HDB blocks to ease their travel. In the upcoming Mayflower MRT, all seven entrances will have barrier-free access.
We will start another senior activity centre for non-rental block residents to keep the elderly active.
Learn regional languages
I hope children can learn technology such as programming and life skills like financial literacy.
To unlock the potential of one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, our schools can teach the cultures and languages of our neighbours. Schools can consider offering languages like Vietnamese, Thai or Burmese while universities can make it mandatory for business students to take such modules.
Only with a deep understanding of our region will we be able to tap South-east Asia’s enormous growth.
Giving local small businesses a leg up
As Singapore invents its future, we must bring our start-ups along so that more local companies can be brought overseas.
We should encourage large local enterprises to partner start-ups to get more of their ideas to fruition.
We should strengthen the connection between research institutes and Singapore start-ups to push out innovations as quickly as we can.
I will contribute suggestions on how we can implement these ideas concurrently.