Asia's Most Influential: Koh Choon Hui, Chairman of Singapore Children’s Society
After 42 years as the chairman of the Singapore Children’s Society (SCS), Koh Choon Hui remains deeply convicted that it is his “privilege” to be able to continue to help children, youth and their families in need.
Children by their very nature are vulnerable and are highly dependent on others to satisfy their basic needs.
Koh, who is also the chairman of Singapore Pools, started volunteering at SCS in 1975 to help with fundraising to build up the organisation’s reserves. He assumed the role of chairman in 1978 and has since continually evolved its services and programmes to meet the changing needs of children over the decades.
“The 1970s and ’80s saw many women step into the workforce and we grappled with the challenges brought about by dual-income families, such as latchkey children, who return to an empty home after school.
From the 1990s, the increasing prevalence of internet and technology brought about new emerging issues and the focus of our work shifted to not just catering to basic needs, but their social and emotional needs as well,” says Koh, who is also a recipient of the Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer Award, the top government award for volunteerism, in 2017. Koh was also one of the National Day Award recipients this year, having been conferred the Distinguished Service Order award.
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Key programmes SCS has launched included the Latchkey Child Development Centre in 1979, the Tinkle Friend helpline in 1984 and a research unit in the 1990s to undertake local studies to identify social trends and issues related to children, youth and families in Singapore. In 2004, it launched its Bully-Free Programme to address school bullying.
Today, Koh acknowledges that while the typical Singaporean family generally can provide for their children, there are still those who face difficulties meeting their daily needs. In 2019, SCS reached out to close to 67,000 children, youth and families in need.
“The struggles and challenges of low-income families have been exacerbated by the pandemic,” he adds. SCS has provided financial assistance, meals and donated laptops to supplement government assistance and contributed to emotional support by developing resources for children and parents. Next year, it will be part of the government pilot scheme KidStart to enable children from low-income families to have a good start in life, and is continuing to explore how it may continue to provide support where needed.
What remains steadfast is his goal for SCS, which operates 12 service centres islandwide. “If their parents or caregivers are unable to provide their basic needs, and no other agency can help them, then we should see how we can help these children meet their needs.”
- Photography Darren Gabriel Leow
- Styling Joey Tan
- Hair Kenneth Ong
- Grooming Bobbie Ng
- Photographer's Assistant Eric Tan