GRANTMAKING FOR

A MORE INCLUSIVE SOCIETY

Since our formative days, Tote Board has been driven by our foundational belief of giving hope and improving lives through grantmaking. We believe in a socially inclusive society that enables every member of the community, including Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), to fulfil their potential and make meaningful contributions. This is why we remain a long-standing supporter of the disability sector, which continues to be a key area of interest under our Strategic Focuses. Over the years, we have worked closely with diverse partners, evolving our support and strategies to better address ground-level needs and strengthen inclusion, education, and the building of a future-ready nation.

Our initial efforts centred on laying the foundation for critical services and programmes, such as Adult Disability Homes and SPED schools, through the Tote Board Social Service Fund (TBSSF), which was launched in 2006. Subsequently, recognising the shifting needs of the sector, support was expanded to other areas such as Early Intervention Programmes, supportive facilities, and the Training and Employment Programme (TEP). Over the past 5 years, we have committed more than $300 million to support these programmes.

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OVER THE PAST 5 YEARS, WE HAVE COMMITTED MORE THAN $300 MILLION TO SUPPORT THESE PROGRAMMES.

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In 2014, we embarked on our first strategic initiative, the Tote Board Enabling Lives Initiative (TBELI), where $31 million was committed to improve the lives of PWDs and their caregivers. TBELI targets specific areas that are underserved by typical programmes and services, such as transition management, data and technology, and public education. Recognising the rehabilitative and therapeutic qualities of sport, which can improve functional status and quality of life for PWDs, Tote Board also funds the Disability Sports Master Plan (DSMP) by Sport Singapore. As of 2019, Tote Board has approved a total of $14.87 million in funding, dedicated to starting inclusive gyms, outreach programmes and disability sports training programmes for coaches, and other DSMP initiatives that support inclusion and accessibility.

Tote Board's efforts complement the nation-wide Enabling Masterplan1, which is a multi-faceted roadmap for Singapore to improve the quality of life of PWDs, support their caregivers, and build a community that is more caring and empowering. Unfortunately, there is still a need to do more to facilitate the understanding and acceptance of PWDs within our community. To improve public attitudes and misconceptions, Tote Board supports impactful initiatives that aim to reduce barriers toward inclusiveness, such as the “See the True Me” public education campaign and the Goh Chok Tong Enable Awards (GCTEA).

The GCTEA aims to recognise PWDs’ achievements and encourages them to pursue greater heights. Fathima Zohra was one of the recipients in the first GCTEA ceremony. This story shares how the awards encouraged Zohra to continue speaking and stepping up to inspire PWDs and advocate inclusivity in society.

1 https://www.msf.gov.sg/policies/Disabilities-and-Special-Needs/pages/default.aspx

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SPEAK FROM THE HEART

FINDING PURPOSE IN ADVERSITY

Ever since her accident, Zohra has had to rely on a wheelchair to get around. Her spinal cord was damaged, leaving her paralysed from the chest down. The recovery process has been difficult, and rehabilitation and therapy have become necessities in her life.

'I have chronic pain almost 24 hours a day. I have so many [muscle] spasms that are extremely painful. There is so much that goes on in my body that I have to rely on therapy to feel better,' she shares.

These challenges have not stopped Zohra from leading a fulfilling life. Instead, she bounced back with a newfound purpose as an advocate for PWDs. Leveraging her unique perspective and empathy, Zohra seeks to bridge gaps in understanding. In addition to her advocacy work, she co-facilitates peer support groups for PWDs to help them with their struggles. As a co-facilitator, Zohra listens to PWDs’ experiences and guides them to better understand and manage their feelings. Apart from facilitating peer support groups, she works for an inclusive running group and uses her social media platform to speak up for those who live with adversity.

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Zohra thinks that greater representation and celebration of PWDs could be hugely inspiring, especially for youth. To further this cause, she has returned to modelling, reminding and encouraging others to look beyond their disabilities. From her perspective, Singapore has yet to fully recognise PWDs for who they are and what they can achieve. Sharing her observations, Zohra said, 'Most commonly, what they [PWDs] say is that able-bodied people only have feelings of empathy and pity towards them. They also feel that they are not given the same opportunities as an able-bodied person.'

Societal misconceptions of PWDs take an undeniable emotional toll. 'PWDs feel that their voices are not heard. They feel excluded and discriminated against. This causes a lot of frustration and sadness,' Zohra explained, elaborating that the extent of this frustration can be so extreme, it causes physical harm to a person or those around them.

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Every single day, we [PWDs] are fighting ableism and ignorance in a society that tells us to hate our bodies.

We are much more than what happens to us. We are much more than our pains and struggles. We can still go out and lead fulfilling and accomplished lives.

Celebrating PWDs' Abilities

In 2019, two years after starting her advocacy work, Zohra won the Goh Chok Tong Enable Awards for her contributions towards encouraging inclusiveness for PWDs.

To Zohra, winning the award was a great motivating factor at a time when she needed it most.

'This award became a reminder that society recognised me for all that I was doing and all that I was struggling to achieve in my life. It is very hard to live in my body and still get out there, graduate and work every day,' she said.

The award spurred Zohra to take her advocacy work to new heights. She has since started advocating inclusiveness for a wider range of disabilities and is keen to continue amplifying PWDs' voices. Spearheading an initiative called “You are not alone” on Instagram, she plans to feature stories of PWDs, individuals with chronic illnesses, and those with mental health conditions to inspire and encourage others.

Above all, Zohra encourages breaking away from labels and norms. Her position is one of inclusion, embracing the importance of promoting meaningful interactions and real conversations so that society can better understand the struggles and perspectives of those who fall through the cracks.

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Fund-Raising

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