Retired activist champions PAP.SG
When Vincent Teo Tee Kian stepped down as party secretary of Buona Vista branch on reaching 63 years old five years ago, he thought he was heading for ad hoc advisory duties to continue his links with the community.
So, the party stalwart and grassroots volunteer, with more than 40 years under his belt, was more than surprised when he received a call earlier this year from Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Social and Family Development, asking him to take on a new role.
Mr Chan wanted him to be the lead coordinator for the Buona Vista chapter of the newly set-up PAP Senior Group (PAP.SG).
It requires Mr Teo, 68, to build a new team - which has doubled from an initial 15 to 30 volunteers, ranging from youths to senior activists - to conduct outreach programmes targeted at senior citizens and connect them with various government schemes and services such as the Pioneer Generation Package, Community Health Assist Scheme, as well as those by voluntary welfare organisations.
"PAP.SG activities are different from those organised by the residents' committees in that they are not funded by the government. Instead we rely on sponsors and benefactors who may be individuals or companies," said Mr Teo.
"We cannot also hold them during events at the community centres because they are party activities and hence not (politically) neutral as they serve the party, not communal interests.
"It's to tell the elderly that as a political party, PAP cares and will work towards improving their quality of life in their golden years," he said.
As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at last year's party convention: "The PAP.SG is an interest group, not a group of old people. It is a group which will champion elderly causes and active ageing."
It also uses activities to promote volunteerism from the larger community as well as to tap on the experience of party veterans like Mr Teo to come up with new ideas that address the needs of elderly citizens.
"Over the years, I have also been mentored by MPs and ministers like Peter Sung and Lim Swee Say whose experiences I can pass on to the new generation of party activists. I would also advise them that they should not come with ulterior motives such as hoping for personal gains other than to reap satisfaction from helping others; otherwise, you wouldn't be a volunteer for long," he noted.
Besides making residents aware of the Pioneer Generation Package, Mr Teo organised a tea session with Malay residents during Hari Raya to introduce the package in Malay.
As of August this year, PAP.SG has formed 42 local chapters, which will be eventually expanded to all 87 constituencies to create a nation-wide social network to provide help and support for all seniors. These chapters will also be tasked with developing profiles of senior citizens such as their risk levels so that they can be better served.
"Our seniors have played a crucial role in Singapore's development but they face issues and challenges intrinsic to a rapidly ageing society. Hence, it is timely that we form PAP.SG to act as their sounding board to the government. With the support of our 42 branch chapters, we are also able to reach out to our seniors and touch their lives in direct and meaningful ways so that we continue to keep them in the mainstream." Halimah Yacob, chairman of PAP.SG
This article was first published in the November 2014 issue of Petir Magazine.