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Wanted: Dialect-speakers to explain Pioneer Package

Dialect-speaking volunteers are needed to spread awareness of the Pioneer Generation Package to seniors
The Straits Times - April 28, 2014
By: Toh Yong Chuan
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Wanted: Dialect-speakers to explain Pioneer Package Student volunteer Bradley Tang (left), 10, accompanying Madam Lim Shiock Shuan (with white cap), 96, during a visit to the Flower Dome. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

DIALECT-SPEAKING volunteers are needed to spread awareness of the Pioneer Generation Package to seniors.

The Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC), the Chinese self-help group, hopes to recruit "a few hundred" such volunteers by the end of the year, said the head of the group's volunteer arm Baey Yam Keng.

These volunteers will help explain the package to older folk, many of whom understand only Chinese dialects, at the 12 CDAC centres dotted around Singapore.

Although the self-help group already has several thousand volunteers on its roll, this is the first time it is starting a drive to specifically recruit dialect-speakers for a national project.

Mr Baey said the CDAC hopes to recruit older adults who speak dialects but may not have volunteered before. It is teaming up with the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA), the umbrella body for over 200 clan associations, to hopefully get members to volunteer.

"This recent development has given us a new focus on recognising the importance of dialects," said the MP for Tampines GRC, who has previously called for dialects to be used more to explain policies to seniors.

Last month, an official poll found that many Singaporeans were in the dark about the package's benefits or did not feel assured by them.

A big drive is under way to explain it to seniors as it offers medical subsidies and Medisave top-ups to 450,000 citizens aged 65 and older this year and who were either born in Singapore or became citizens before 1987.

About 1,000 front-line staff in public hospitals and polyclinics are being trained to help patients understand the package.

CDAC chairman Gan Kim Yong said explaining the package is "manpower-intensive" and many government agencies are limited by their resources, hence the role of volunteers is vital.

"These volunteers, they are on the ground, they are in the community, they are able to engage and communicate with the elderly," said Mr Gan, who is also Health Minister. He added that the CDAC is also reviewing its programmes for students, families and workers to better serve these groups.

Yesterday, about 700 volunteers from the CDAC and SFCCA took about 500 seniors to Gardens by the Bay, followed by lunch at a Chinese restaurant.

It is the second time both groups joined hands for such a community project, and SFCCA president Chua Thian Poh said it will be made an annual affair.

Among the visitors was Madam Chow Mew Yong, a 75-year-old retired dishwasher who lives alone in Kreta Ayer.

She enjoyed her first visit to the indoor Flower Dome, saying: "Even flowers have air-con."

When asked whether she is aware of the Pioneer Generation Package, she smiled and replied in Mandarin: "Yes, it is to help old people like me with medical bills, so I don't have to worry."

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