Denise Phua, Mayor of Central Singapore District, is best known for promoting inclusive society in Singapore. Inspired by personal experience, Mayor Denise Phua frequently speaks up for disabled and special needs communities, including autistic people and people with low-skilled and low-income backgrounds.
Having notable career span with Hewlett-Packard and the Wuthelam Groups and serving as Member of Parliament, Mayor Denise Phua now heads Central Singapore’s Community Development Council with mission to assist people with special needs and bond them together with the community.
Central Singapore CDC (Community Development Council)
Central Singapore CDC, headed by Mayor Denise Phua, aims to improve residents’ lives and focuses its reach to four key communities: Children, Youth, Adults, and Seniors. The Council lifts up their quality of life through Physical Wellness, Financial Wellness, Socio-emotional Wellness, Lifelong-learning, and Services to others. In their programmes, CDC addresses the area of Arts & Culture, Environment, Healthy Lifestyle and Special Needs, as well as Assistance Plus (for those who need additional help) and Enough Talk (to inspire people to take action on things they care for).
Programmes implemented are varied from helping children with school kits to nurturing their confidence, developing potentials of youth in fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) as well as areas of interests in non-academic pathways (photography, etc.), organising financial literacy programme to help adults and families, and running voluntary social programmes (i.e.) to take immobile senior citizens to local places of interest.
In relation to art and culture, Purple Symphony is held to bring together people with (and without) special needs for musical performance. Various workshops are organised to help people implement the 6R’s (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Repurpose, Recycle) for better environment. Central Singapore also promotes healthy lifestyle by organising walking and running events as well as local market to promote healthy eating. Carnivals and parades are also set up to celebrate the abilities of people with special needs.
Mayor Denise Phua: Key Architect of a Plan for the Disabled in Singapore
Mayor Denise Phua, in her capacity as the President of Autism Resource Centre, was a member the Steering Committee for the creation of the 3rd Enabling Masterplan 2017-2021: Caring Nation, Inclusive Society, a multi-aspects plan to improve quality of life of persons with disabilities, give support to their caregivers, and create a more caring and inclusive community. The masterplan has become a roadmap for the national government to create an inclusive society.
Mayor Denise Phua is also a Co-Founder and former acting principal of Pathlight School, the first special school for autistic children in Singapore. Established to help preparing autistic children for workforce, this school teaches mainstream curriculum and life skills knowledge. The school, for example, teaches employability skills through a student-run café. Its positive contribution has been reflected in its fast growth, starting in January 2004 with 41 students and now has over 1,400 students.
Becoming the Mayor of Central Singapore District in 2014 for a three-year term and was reappointed in 2017, Mayor Denise Phua has brought up various initiatives to meet local needs. Among many are the Purple Symphony (Singapore’s largest inclusive orchestra that comprises musicians with and without special needs), Silver Alliance (platform for volunteers and partners to serve senior citizens through various activities), In Search of Purpose talk series (to inspire citizens to find bigger purposes in life).