Blind World Magazine

SAVH seeks redemption.

January 18, 2006.
TODAYonline - Singapore.

WOOING back public confidence and restoring its charity funding are at the top of the Mr Tan Guan Heng's checklist. .

The new interim president of the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped (SAVH), said that he decided to take up the post last week after much persuasion from the executive committee, members from the blind community and community leaders. .

"It was a more than difficult decision," said the blind writer candidly. "But if your house is on fire, do you try to put out the fire, or do you stand idly by and let it burn to the ground and hope in vain that the phoenix will rise from the ashes?" .

His appointment came after former president Lyn Loh resigned this month, citing "personal reasons". .

Mr Tan, who was the first blind president of the former Singapore Association for the Blind between 1975 and 1980, will hold this interim post until SAVH's 400-strong members elect him in at a meeting on Feb 25. .

If he does garner a majority vote to officially become president, Mr Tan said he would set out to address inadequacies highlighted in a Commissioner of Charities report last month such as having more sighted than blind members as well as pursue greater employment choices for the blind. .

The Memorandum of Understanding with the Independent Society for the Blind an issue that has created friction among SAVH members would also be reviewed. .

But weighing most heavily on his mind: Funding. .

Mr Tan hopes to help the SAVH regain its Institution of Public Character status, which allows it to raise funds, and NCSS funding. .

Quipped the 68-year-old: "Without these, we have no 'vitamins'." .

Ever since its $1.4 million in annual funding from the National Council of Social Service was cut off in October, the SAVH has had to dip into its shareholders' funds to finance its programmes and staff salaries. So far, though, no staff member has been retrenched, and services and programmes such as Braille classes and the sheltered workshop offered at the charity have been functioning as per normal. .

Acknowledging that he has his work cut out for him, Mr Tan said gamely: "I'll give it a shot."

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