Speech by Second Minister for Education Ms Indranee Rajah at the Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) MakeAthon

Published Date: 16 June 2019 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Her Excellency Simona Halperin
Ambassador of Israel to Singapore

Mr Gidi Grinstein
Founder of Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM)

Ms Dalia Feldheim
TOM Singapore Team Leader

Mr Mike Pegg
Global Head of Google Maps Developer Relations

1. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It is my pleasure to join you for tonight’s Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) MakeAthon.

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Singapore-Israel Diplomatic Relations

2. 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Singapore-Israel diplomatic relations. Our two countries have built strong ties and developed a special friendship over the past 50 years.

3. Singapore and Israel share several similarities. We are countries that were born in adverse circumstances, having to depend on our wits to survive. We had to integrate diverse groups and forge a common sense of nationhood. Most importantly, both sharing the same determination to thrive and build a better future for our peoples.

4. We have benefitted from this friendship, and through our exchanges, we have had the privilege to learn from each other’s experiences. Our bilateral cooperation continues to flourish, and has broadened and deepened over the years in many areas, spanning from education, to innovation and Research & Development.

5. In commemoration of our Golden Jubilee, the Embassy of Israel has organised a series of events highlighting the deep ties and collaborations between the Israeli and Singaporean communities. Tonight, we are gathered for the conclusion of one of the flagship events – the inaugural Tikkun Olam 1Makers (or TOM) MakeAthon.

Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM)

6. Drawing inspiration from the belief about “mending the world”, TOM is a global movement. It taps on and connects various local communities, and it helps create and share affordable solutions to the often-overlooked challenges of people living with special needs.

7. TOM also serves as a platform for them to crowdsource for solutions critical to their independence, inclusion and quality of life, for those with disabilities.

Inaugural Singapore TOM MakeAthon

8. TOM kicked off a month ago, on 16 May, when it started the first MakeAthon here in Singapore, in partnership with SGEnable, Google Singapore, Temasek Polytechnic and the Singapore Kindness Movement. Since then, the MakeAthon has connected over 60 Makers from Singapore and Israel with our 9 Need Knowers2, who presented various challenges: from requests for technological aids to assist in daily mobility, travelling and cooking, to physical aids such as lap trays, prostheses and telescopic canes, to help in activities of daily living. Over the past few weeks, the teams have been working hard to finalise their designs.

9. I met with some of the Makers and Need Knowers briefly, and spoke to them about the solutions they had developed. Today, some of our Need Knowers with Down Syndrome get lost while travelling on their own, as they may not hear the announcements made on the train. One of the teams has created a special application to assist them in travelling around more independently, so they can be shown the best options for reaching their destination, and receive reminders on their phone to help them on their journey. Our Need Knowers’ family members will also be kept updated of their exact location, at any point in time. That is important, because you worry about where your loved ones are, and being able to keep track helps. This is a very empowering development.

10. Through this MakeAthon, we have brought together people from all walks of life, with different experiences and areas of expertise to explore various ways to address our Need Knowers’ daily challenges. It is a testament to the innovation and ingenuity of our participants from Singapore and Israel.

11. Beyond that, it underscores the importance of empathy in guiding the development of these solutions. The ability to see the world through the eyes of Need Knowers, and appreciate their daily challenges. That is what must serve as the basis for developing these innovative and functional solutions, to improve the quality of life for persons with special needs.

12. As a society, both Singapore and Israel want to encourage and build this empathy, to create a greater awareness of people in our community who have different or special needs. We start from young, and some of our schools have launched dedicated programmes to build up our students’ capacities to understand and support their friends who may have special needs.

13. Some of our Institutes of Higher Learning have also established partnerships with non-profit and voluntary welfare organisations to engage and serve persons with special needs. We have Engineering Good: Student Chapter, which is a student-led organisation from the National University of Singapore. They partnered with SPD to build a cheap, portable, and easy-to-use solution to help wheelchair users climb steps more easily. They have also collaborated with the Down Syndrome Association (Singapore) to build a supporting harness to enable babies with Down Syndrome to crawl independently.

14. This MakeAthon is a timely reminder of how we can harness the opportunities afforded to us by innovation and technology to benefit persons with special needs within our community, and build a more inclusive society.

15. Thank you.

  1. “Tikkun Olam” is a Hebrew phrase which means “mending the world”.

  2. Need Knowers are persons with special needs, who will be presenting a challenge for the teams to design and prototype a solution for.

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