The Chinese Women’s Association is the first voluntary women’s organisation in Singapore to reach 100 years. For a women’s group set up in those times, from 1915 to 2015, it is quite incredible. I have great pride in that I have been able to contribute to the association by serving as President and Editor of the CWA Journal for 26 terms (1989 - 2016), immediately following the intermittent 28 terms commencing 1949 when my mother, Mrs May Wong, MBE PBM., first served as President. The CWA has demonstrated that women can work in harmony together, and can be supportive and magnanimous and practice good teamwork with each other.
I was Vice-President to my mother in her latter years when she became frail and needed assistance, but I never had any intention of leading the CWA. However, with her passing in 1989 after her 90th birthday, I reflected on all the decades she spent as a member in CWA (since her arrival in Singapore in 1930) which made her life a more valued and fulfilling one, especially after my father passed away 22 years before she did. So I decided to continue in this job that I had inherited, and I must admit that it has made my own life more fulfilling and meaningful, especially when the senior citizens we help are so grateful for the care and pleasures we bring them. It has also taught me how to get on with different people and I have gained patience and maturity and learned to accept people for all their positive traits, overlooking their negative ones, as none of us are perfect.
During my Presidency, we raised funds and managed the Henderson Senor Citizens’ Home which we took on from the Council of Social Service for 32 years, and during that time set up the facility to consist of 3 sections – a sheltered housing with rooms for respite care in 1978, the May Wong Social Centre set up to prevent dementia in 1986 and a Senior Activity Centre opened in 2002 for activities for the senior residents living in the Block. The CWA gifted this facility to NTUC Health at the beginning of 2010, and we were able to present them with $650,000 for running the facility as well. We also made the stipulation that all public assistance residents at the date of handover would be able to live out their days without an increase in their rental contribution.
As many of our Founder members were wives of the original Singapore pioneers and were featured in the history galleries of the National Museum of Singapore, the CWA became an Inaugural Foundation Member of the Museum in 2006, and has supported many cultural events there and contributed to the museum’s funding since then.
CWA’S CENTENNIAL YEAR PROGRAMMES
For our Centennial year in April 2015 we launched the book “CHINESE WOMEN’S ASSOCIATION – 100 Fabulous Years” at the National Museum of Singapore with Guest of Honour, Ms Ho Ching, wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, whose grand aunt was a Founder CWA Member. She was Dr Lee Choo Neo, Singapore’s first women’s doctor, who graduated in 1919 from Singapore’s Medical School, King Edward VII Medical School.
We celebrated the Occasion in June 2015 with a Gala Dinner at Raffles Hotel, venue of so many fundraisers organized by our Founder members. We were graced by the attendance of President of Singapore, His Excellency Tony Tan Keng Yam and Mrs Mary Tan as Guests of Honour. The event raised over a million dollars for the St Andrew’s Mission Hospital.
In August 2015, as part of CWA’s Centennial Celebrations a public seminar AGEING WELL WITH MENTAL RESILIENCE was organised at Raffles City Convention Centre, with guest of honour Mr Lim Boon Heng, Chairman of Temasek, and former Minister in charge of Ageing.
Together with the South African High Commission, we were pleased to organize a Tintswalo dinner featuring South African produce and wine at the Fullerton Hotel in November 2015 to benefit the National University of Singapore Yusof Ishak Professorship in Social Sciences Scholarship Fund, commemorating Singapore’s first President’s vision of a harmonious Singapore made up of diverse ethnicity. CWA was pleased to assist the Fund in exceeding it’s targeted amount.
Finally, at the CWA’s Annual Christmas Luncheon, we made a presentation of $50,000 to the National Museum of Singapore to complete our Centennial year of Celebration and giving.
Our Association has the unique distinction of having several generations of the same family as members. At our Book Launch we welcomed 40 generational descendants of founders, who we have kept in touch with us. We now have a fifth Generation member. It will be these Legacy members who will carry the CWA on to the next 100 years.
Mrs Betty Chen, PBM BBM