Mrs May Wong MBE &
Mrs Lee Choon Guan MBE
Mrs Violet Wong &
Mrs May Wong MBE
Founding members of the Chinese Ladies’ Association taken at the first Annual General Meeting in 1916 held at Magenta Cottage
Opening of May Wong Lifestyle Centre by
Minister of State Chan Soo Sen
President Wee Kim Wee and MP Lai Tha Chai visiting the Henderson Home
President and Mrs Nathan with MP Indranee Rajah and Mrs Betty Chen at the Henderson Home
Maniza Jumabhoy, Steven Long and Mrs Betty Chen at the launch of the CWA Cookbook at the Sheraton Towers
Presentation of final cheque from CWA Henderson Senior Citizens’ Home to Eldercare Trust Dec 4, 2010
The Chinese Women's Association originally began as The Chinese Ladies Association in 1915 with a group of 23 young, energetic educated women under the leadership of Founding President, Mrs Lee Choon Guan MBE.
In the first year of its existence, the Association raised $6,000 to buy a fighter plane for the British War Effort. Over the years, the Association continued to raise funds for such causes as the Chinese and British war orphans and gave an annual donation to keep two beds for the poor of the Cross Street Hospital, later known as St Andrew's Hospital.
After the Second World War in 1948, sixty members regrouped under the leadership of Mrs Tay Lian Teck JP and the CLA was reactivated. Fundraising activities continued as before, to give assistance to the less fortunate and the deserving in the community. The blind, the deaf, retarded children, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Mandai Home for the Aged, the Malay Literary Society and the National Defence Fund are just some who have benefited from the Association's fund-raising efforts.
In 1960 the association changed its name to the Chinese Women’s Association (CWA) to broaden its scope and to meet the requirements of the changing times. The Executive Committees continued their many cultural pursuits and various fund-raising activities.
In 1978, at the invitation of the Singapore Council for Social Service (known now as the National Council of Social Service), the CWA under President Mrs May Wong and Treasurer Mrs Violet Wong, who were both in their seventies, assumed full responsibility for the operation of the Henderson Senior Citizen’s Home. The CWA was the first voluntary welfare association (VWO) asked to take over a home for the elderly. Later, sixteen other associations were asked to follow this example and run similar homes.
In November 1984, with the cooperation of the Housing Development Board, we initiated the opening of a "Corner" in the void deck of Block 118 Bukit Merah View as a pilot project to provide a meeting place for residents of the Home and neighbouring senior citizens.
By 1985, CWA was given recognition for its efforts by the United Nations and given a special award for the Most Outstanding Civic Organisation at the 40th anniversary celebration of the United Nations by United Nations Association of Singapore. The Citation read: "The judges agreed that the Henderson Senior Citizens' Home run by the Chinese Women's Association is one of the best homes of its kind in Singapore. It is a place where seniors come and go as they please, thereby allowing them to retain a certain degree of independence. The location of the Home creates a good environment for the senior citizens to integrate with other members of the society and to be appreciated and understood."
In January 1986, CWA also pioneered the opening of a Day Care Centre for senior citizens in this "Corner" for working children to bring their aged parents to the Home from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm daily. They were provided with breakfast, lunch and tea with a venue to socialize and exercise and spent the day with caring supervision. We also supplied a respite care service in our residential facility. President Wee Kim Wee visited the Social Centre and enjoyed chicken rice with the management committee, residents and PA recipients in 1986.
In 1990 The Home and Social Centre were moved across the street to Block 117, necessitating much work for renovation and fund-raising to make the renovation possible. At the Opening Ceremony we were pleased to dedicate the Committee Meeting Room and Social Centre to the late Mrs Violet Wong and the late Mrs May Wong, MBE, PBM, two ladies who admirably took on the challenge of running the facility in their late 70s and continued to do so for 11 years. We were pleased and gratified to learn that the Ministry of Community Development in 1992, considered our Home a model for other homes for the elderly.
In 2000, the Ministry of Community Development and Sports invited us to open a Senior Activity Centre for the elderly in the building. There is an alarm system linking their one-room flats to our Centre. We then decided to enlarge our facilities by taking over the void deck and an existing Education Centre facing our Social Centre on the ground floor.
The official opening of our new May Wong Lifestyle Centre was officiated by Mr Chan Soo Sen, the Minister of State, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Community Development & Sports in 2003 to coincide with Senior Citizens' Week and to celebrate 25 years of Care and Concern by the Management of HSCH. The Home remained solely funded by the efforts of the CWA.
In April 2004, President S R Nathan and Mrs Nathan were Guests of Honour at the Grand Finale Celebrations of the 88th Anniversary of CWA's Founding held at Raffles The Plaza which was transformed into a Parisian 'nightclub' Moulin Rouge, starring Dick Lee. The event was generously sponsored by Raffles International Hotels & Resorts. An amount of $408,000 was raised and a cheque was presented by the President to Henderson Home and the Singapore Repertory Theatre.
In August 2004, the Henderson Home was honoured by a visit from His Excellency President and Mrs S. R. Nathan, who toured the facility. The President and Mrs Nathan also honoured the CWA by being the Guests of Honour at a spectacular Gala Dinner Indian Fashion show entitled "Peacock Fantasy" held on 26th October 2004, generously supported by the Sheraton Towers Hotel who provided a sumptuous dinner and wines for the occasion, which raised funds for the upcoming CWA Cookbook.
Besides managing the Henderson Senior Citizen's Home, the Chinese Women's Association has continued to support many other charities and in years past has contributed to the Red Cross Society, the Cancer Society, the Academy of Medicine Singapore, Children's Charities Association, Singapore Dance Theatre, LaSalle College of Arts, Hi Theatre!, Home Nursing Foundation, Hawkins Road Refugee Camp to name a few, and also reaching out to our overseas friends contributed to the Pinatubo Disaster Fund, and the Bangladesh Relief Fund.
In January 2005 our members contributed to the Sri Lankan Tsunami Relief Fund by raising money to build homes for homeless fishermen and families. In April, we supported the Silver Screen Awards Ball and thanked them for making Henderson Home one of their beneficiaries. On 21st May, CWA members participated in helping the Tanglin-Cairnhill Citizens' Consultative Committee (CCC) headed by MP Miss lndranee Rajah fundraise for the CCC Welfare & Education Fund by organizing a Gala Dinner and Fashion Show entitled "Unforgettable". CWA celebrated its 90th Anniversary gala on 21st August at Raffles The Plaza with YAM Tunku Shahariah of Johore as our Guest of Honour.
To mark the 21st anniversary of the May Wong Social Centre in 2006, the CWA and the Henderson Home held a Public Seminar "The New Face of Ageing" at Sheraton Towers Singapore. Minister of State for Community Development, Mrs Yu Foo Yee-Shoon was Guest of Honour.
The CWA 90th anniversary in 2006 was made most memorable with the launch of the CWA Cookbook consisting of member’s secret recipes. Mrs Maniza Jumabhoy gathered the recipes for the book. At the book's launch, held at the Sheraton Towers hotel, dishes from the book were cooked by the hotel's culinary team. Mrs Della Lee sponsored the book and the Sheraton Towers also supported it publication. At the end of the year CWA together with NParks officiated the inaugural awards gala dinner of the first Garden Festival held in Singapore at Suntec City. The event raised $100,000 for HSCH.
In 2007 the National Museum celebrated 120 years after a massive renovation. We were delighted and proud to find that former President Mrs May Wong MBE PBM was part of the history of Singapore presented in the new History Gallery and her actual voice recorded in audio history interviews. On 24th November 2007 our seniors participated in the Active Ageing Festival with a fashion show of items from our own Thrift shop organized by Mrs Alice Chong and Mrs Gertie Iwatake, and so impressed our Guest of Honour, Miss Indranee Thurai Rajah, Deputy speaker of Parliament and our MP, that she requested that they repeat the fashion show at the Community Centre.
2008 saw the Inaugural Henderson Home Golf Charity organized by Captain Robin Foo with event chairman Dr Maurine Tsakok which raised $200,000. Minister of Community Development, Youth and Sports, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan was Guest of Honour at the dinner following the tournament. Eight of the thirteen diplomatic wives who had contributed to "Hidden Talents 2008" benefitting the Henderson Home with more than $20,000, also attended the event together with their spouses.
The Singapore government hosted APEC meetings throughout 2009 for the first time, and CWA was honoured by being invited by Minister of State, Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon to chair the Social Events Subcommittee for the Apec Women Leaders' Network meeting from 3rd to 5th August 2009. It was a truly memorable participation and CWA is proud to have been a part of this historic 21 country Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation confederation meeting.
At the end of 2009, CWA decided to handover the Henderson Senior Citizens' Home to NTUC Eldercare, and we did this at A Public Seminar Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the May Wong Social Centre on 28th November 2009, having completed the 32nd year of CWA's management and funding of the Home.
A cheque for $250,000 for NTUC Eldercare Trust was presented to Mr Lim Boon Heng for the first year of running the Home. At the Christmas Party held on 4th December 2010, the balance of all monies in the CWA Henderson Home Accounts amounting to $411,190.43c was given to Eldercare Trust, who is committed to looking after the elderly clients. CWA has pledged to continue to support the seniors at the Henderson Home with parties, lunches and visits so that they know we still care for them.
After all these years of fundraising for the Henderson Home, it may well be asked "what are we to do now?"
In 2010 we embarked on programmes with the Thai Embassy, the French Embassy and the Brazilian Embassy to consolidate our international friendships, and at the same time, to raise money for others. We raised $25,400 for the PHUKET HAS BEEN GOOD TO US FOUNDATION as well as $19,000 to provide English Education for 38 orphans of the 2004 Tsunami. In December 2010, CWA together with the National University Health system held the inaugural Ceremony to Light-up their Christmas Giving Tree in the beautiful new NUHS Tower Block. We were pleased that our members and friends gave generously to needy patients. More than $250,000 was raised.
In 2011 we were hosted by the Indonesian Embassy and the Italian Embassy to charity events at the Residences, and again partnered with the National University Health system for its Christmas Giving Tree event.
In March 2012 our members collaborated with the National Museum of Singapore to launch their first exhibition IN THE MOOD FOR CHEONGSAM, by modelling their own cheongsams to fund raise for the Museum. We also helped to launch the Legacy Campaign (Writing the Next Chapter with You) on 13 October 2012 with the celebration of the Museum's 125th Anniversary Birthday Cake, inviting the public for donations of $125,000 for the Legacy Fund. CWA was the first association that pledged to raise this sum for the History Gallery, and we completed our pledge on Christmas 2013 with the assistance of the Indonesian and Turkish embassies hosting events for us.
Our members are committed to follow in the footsteps of our predecessors by continuing to participate in community action, by planning cultural, educational and social activities, contributing to charitable and civic causes and by fostering international goodwill and friendships. We are proud to have second, third, fourth and fifth generation members, and it is these younger members who will take the Chinese Women's Association far into the 21st century and assist in making it an enduring organisation in Singapore!