(Top) Distribution of food at CWS Headquarters. (Centre) Boys from the CWS Workers Corp Group distributing food during a visit to Kwong Wai Sui free hospital. (Bottom) Distribution of aid to victims of the Bukit Ho Swee fire of 1961
SINGAPORE – Dr Ee Peng Liang and Cyril Chew founded Catholic Welfare Society in 1959 with support from Archbishop Michael Olcommendy to help the poor in Singapore after Catholic Relief Services in the United States discontinued funding and donation of food to the needy in Singapore.
CWS’ initial project was to provide food relief to the poor of all races and religion in Singapore. Resources were mobilised and funds raised from within the Catholic Church.
CWS’ history is much intertwined with Singapore’s history – helping victims of the tragic Bukit Ho Swee fire and working with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the Vietnamese refugees in Singapore to caring for the progressively ageing population in Singapore.
CWS also collaborates with the government on community initiatives such as the Marine Parade Family Service Centre which started the ‘YAH! (Young-At-Heart) Programme’ to bring learning and educational opportunities to the middle-to-lower-educated elderly in the heartlands. CWS collaboration with the government also extends to the running of three nursing homes – St. Joseph’s Home, Villa Francis and St. Theresa’s Home. It also operates the Good Shepherd Centre (a crises shelter for women and children), Gift of Love Home (a home to the frail elderly who may require some assistance in their daily living), Poverello Teen Centre (a drop-in centre for youths-at-risk) and St. Vincent Home (a sheltered home in a residential arrangement that provides basic amenities to its ambulant elderly residents, but lets them manage their own daily activities to maintain their independence).
There was a restructuring of the Catholic charities in Singapore in 2006 which led to the formation of Caritas Singapore Community Council (CSCC) to oversee fundraising, distribute funds and look after the general welfare of the Catholic institutions and charities in Singapore. This allowed CWS to relinquish its coordinating role and to focus on direct services to the needy. However, CWS remains autonomous and is free to raise funds on its own.