Dear Friends and Supporters of GDAB,
Empowerment starts with the heart – with the belief in one’s human desire to live one’s life to the fullest and in creating a society that enables everyone to do so. The Guide Dogs Association of the Blind (GDAB) in Singapore has been founded on that belief. With your continued friendship and under Dr. Francis Seow’s leadership, the team started with an idea and an aspiration, and set out on a journey to establish a Guide Dogs (GD) service in Singapore. As a result, for the past ten years, the awareness of the guide dog has transformed, and the way has been paved for the blind and visually-impaired community to benefit from the unparalleled mobility aid and friend – the Guide Dog. I, myself, am blind accompanied by my guide dog, Trevor, for the past two years here in Singapore. The impact of GDAB is felt everywhere I go and it enabled me to have an incredibly rewarding experience here. On this count, I feel honoured and privileged. Continuing the legacy, we have plans in place that will see a significant growth in the number of guide dogs in the streets and establish a sustainable service delivered by local expertise for the visually impaired community in Singapore.
May I take this opportunity to thank Francis for his leadership of this incredible organisation over the past ten years and I am delighted that Francis will remain on the board as a critical friend and advisor. Francis, your legacy will be felt, every single day, by many people for decades to come. Thank you.
Progress in 2015
2015 has been a pivotal year for the charity. While continuing to support the three existing GD teams, we celebrated the arrival of a new team with Gary and his wonderful guide dog, Jordie. We also continue to lead with world-class Orientation and Mobility (O&M) training and have delivered 96 O&M cases*, providing the basic O&M skills required for our beneficiaries to lead independent lives.
Finally, through our campaign “Towards a Guide Dog Friendly Nation”, we continue to drive awareness programmes and work with businesses and influencers to open access to public spaces for guide dogs – the basic ingredient to mobility with a guide dog. Most importantly, we delight in seeing the seven GD teams in Singapore continue to flourish, and in the growing interest in the guide dog as a mobility option among the visually-impaired community here in Singapore.
Developing Our Team
During 2015, we have had some changes to the team, placing emphasis on building local capability and building a financially-sustainable service through further investment in fundraising. During the year, we bade farewell to Cassandra Chiu and sincerely thank her for her loyal contributions to our cause over the years as an ambassador and in developing our O&M capability here in Singapore. In addition, we bade farewell to two of our long-standing board members, Kevin Kang and Ken Ong, who through their friendship and commitment to our cause, have assured the financial underpinning for the charity to operate effectively. We have also bade farewell to Andrew Chew, another board member, and thank him for loyally leading key developments in the charity over the past number of years, including bringing four guide dogs into Singapore, developing our relationships with our partners in Australia and much more. Thank you to all of you for everything that you have done and continue to do for the cause and for GDAB. You are part of our extended family.
We have also welcomed a few new and not so new members to the team. Vanessa Loh in the lead as our General Manager; Simone Oh is rapidly becoming a leading O&M Assistant Instructor in Singapore, and Zara Linehan, our resident GD mobility instructor who has brought with her the invaluable professional Guide Dog Mobility Instructor (GDMI) expertise to the team. Alvin Ching has joined the team to develop our outreach and fundraising programmes who, together with Cynthia Tan, drive office operations along with our devoted interns. We have also been joined by four new board members, Dr. Lennie Lee, our resident vet and dog advocate, Adrian Tan Chee Keong who brings in the human resource and business operations skills, Bryan O’Loughlan who oversees the financial matters of the organisation, and myself as Chairman of the board. I look forward to working with all of you to develop our local capabilities and to bring the organisation to greater heights in your respective areas of expertise.
On behalf of all of us, including the beneficiaries and their wonderful guide dogs, we thank you, our friends, supporters, volunteers and employees for your incredible passion and commitment to our cause without which, all this would simply not exist.
On the basis of this great momentum, we have established a plan that will see a significant growth in the number of GD teams in the streets and malls of Singapore, and will see the development of local expertise to carry the mantel, that is Guide Dogs, into the future. For those of us who are visually-impaired, orientation and mobility is the foundation for independence and a fulfilling life, and for those of us who choose to use a guide dog for this purpose, it is essential that we know that GDAB will continue to exist and support us in perpetuity with world-class mobility services. To that end, the key pillars of our plan include:
The training of two local GDMIs and two O&M instructors. This programme is expected to cost an estimated SGD$150,000 per trainee over three years, and is critical to our long term mission.
Train up to 15 new GD teams in the coming three years at a cost of SGD$40,000 per partnership. The cost per partnership is expected to fall in the third year with more local expertise.
Develop our fundraising outreach to support the organisation’s expected growth requirements.
Major on the Guide Dog Friendly Nation campaign to ensure the success of the GD teams.
We believe that the fundamental ability to move around independently is at the heart of human empowerment, and are proud to establish GDAB to provide a truly world-class level of mobility training and Guide Dog service in Singapore. However, we also believe that mobility is only a piece of the puzzle and therefore, we will continue to and make it a priority to further develop strong collaborative relationships with our friends in the sector and the relevant health and social care institutions in Singapore.
This is an ambitious but achievable strategy, and I would like to personally thank you, our friends, supporters, donors, volunteers and the general public for enabling us to continue to make this possible – the gift of mobility to the visually-impaired community in Singapore and thereby empowering them to live their lives to the fullest. I look forward to sharing with you our progress and successes through the coming year.
Guide Dogs Association of the Blind Limited