As mayor of Central Singapore District, Ms Denise Phua’s biggest wish is that its residents can have a better life.
She has channelled her energies into helping the Community Development Council (CDC) implement more than 50 initiatives for residents of all ages, and spanning issues such as a healthy lifestyle and support for those with special needs and disabilities.
Central Singapore – the largest CDC in resident numbers – has also been keen to tackle tough issues, such as support for the homeless and cardboard collectors.
Under its Enough Talk initiative, it provides support for these vulnerable groups by connecting them to the right agencies and offering solutions for their problems, among other things, said Ms Phua, who entered politics in 2006 as an MP for Jalan Besar GRC.
She said: “For example, for the homeless, we strive to support the local social service offices, ministries and help groups. We know there are rough sleepers approached by different parties and we help to provide the connection and some funding to the temporary homes set up for them.”
For the cardboard collectors, Ms Phua said there have been many instances of ad-hoc help given by various groups, but her team has taken it a step further, by visiting the collectors regularly and creating a database to better understand their needs.
Now into her third term as mayor, she plans to do more to help improve living conditions for lower-income residents in her district.
Central Singapore, with more than one million residents, has the most number of rental blocks, and a high proportion of elderly residents.
“We’ll be coordinating and supporting volunteer groups and related government agencies; launching public education; and structuring some support measures for those who have challenging issues such as hoarding and bedbug infestation and other vulnerable groups who have problems with their physical and housing conditions.”
Ms Phua added that she also plans to step up the fight against inequality.
“I’m very interested in convening a think-tank and a work team, to look at a more systemic way and approach to address the needs of vulnerable residents and low-income households living in rental flats in a more holistic way,” she said.
There is no let-up in her team’s plans to focus on problems thrown up by the pandemic, such as job losses.
The CDC will be piloting a community jobs scheme to help fund part-time work such as meal delivery and befriending for the elderly, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups.
“We are grateful to partner a big base of volunteers but for some regular roles, there is a need to create micro jobs in the community.”
Her hope is that, with the raft of initiatives on offer, more people in the district will come forward and volunteer.
“I believe that regardless of our abilities, regardless of our social or financial or education background, every one of us has something to give and can do good.”