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home 쐽 THE STRAITS TIMES THURSDAY, MARCH 5 2009 PAGE B3

BY ANG YIYING fill these positions, said National Council

UP TO five more family service centres


will come up soon, in response to rising
demand for their services.
Minister of State for Community De-
velopment, Youth and Sports Yu-Foo
Yee Shoon, announcing this at a seminar
More family centres of Social Service chief executive Ang Bee
Lian.
Up until recently, the unglamorous
field of social work could not attract
many new entrants, but the recession
seems to have turned the situation
around.
Ms Ang said that usually, half of each
for social workers, said these agencies,
which run counselling and other services
for families, will likely be located in areas
Demand for their services on the rise amid downturn year’s cohort of 180 social work gradu-
ates would join other sectors, but the
with one- to three-room flats. tight job market could push them to prac-
Social workers, noting that the resourc- workers who are earning less now be- middle-income families – including even tise in their field of study.
She did not say where these centres es of the existing 36 family service cen- cause their companies have shortened some living in five-room flats – are
would be or when they would be up, Asked whether social work graduates
tres were already stretched by an increase their work week, said its centre director among the fresh crop of clients. who join the social-services sector be-
though “it would not be too long”.
in the number of people approaching Grace Lee. “They’re not able to cope with their cause of the lack of other career options
More studies were needed on the areas
them for help during this downturn, were Over at the Ang Mo Kio branch of the personal loans,” she said. may be less committed to the work, she
of greatest need, she said.
Addressing the 300 social workers at glad to hear the news. Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centres, tele- Having one social worker handle 50 to replied: “I think they have more than one
the seminar held to discuss strategies for The Care Corner Family Service Cen- phone lines have been burning with twice 60 cases is common. passion. They already want to work in an
these tough times, she called for commu- tre in Toa Payoh, for example, has had 60 the number of queries about financial aid But the pressure may soon let up, as area where they can make a difference.”
nity development councils, family service per cent more people turning to it, mostly since the end of last year. family service centres get extra funding Those who require help but do not
centres and grassroots organisations to for financial aid, since the end of last The centre is handling 20 per cent to hire up to five staff members, includ- know where to go may call ComCare Call
work more closely together in a “many year. more cases. ing three trained social workers. on 1800-222-0000.
helping hands” approach. Several are contract or daily-rated Centre head Sivakami Chinniah said There will be enough social workers to ayiying@sph.com.sg

Wheelchair-bound librarian’s charity drive


LIBRARIAN Dennis Kweh may be
wheelchair-bound and blind in one
eye, but that is not stopping him from
attempting a 200km journey around
Singapore for charity.
Mr Kweh, 47, intends to traverse
the Republic’s city streets and forest
trails over three days next month on a
motorised four-wheel drive wheel-
chair.
The Adventure200 marathon,
which runs from April 21 to 23, aims to
raise at least $200,000 for the Spastic
Children’s Association of Singapore
(SCAS).
The money will go towards the set-
ting up of a clinic to teach children to
use gadgets for the disabled, such as
devices for those with difficulties in
speaking, and machines that let the
disabled use computers.
Mr Kweh was born with a rare ge-
netic condition called Morquio-Brails-
ford, which gave him very weak lungs.
He was forced to use a wheelchair be-
cause of spinal sclerosis, and lost sight
in his left eye because of glaucoma. Mr Kweh will attempt to travel 200km around Singapore in three days to raise at least $200,000 for charity. ST PHOTO: ALBERT SIM
He said he was inspired to help
SCAS after meeting cerebral palsy suf- He will be accompanied by a team
ferers from the association who had re- of eight volunteers and friends on his
gained confidence in themselves after journey through places like Orchard
learning to use the devices in their eve- Road and the MacRitchie forest trails.
ryday lives. They will clear the way for him to trav-
“It’s also one way to personally el through in his wheelchair.
challenge myself by getting out of my The National Library Board is sup-
comfort zone,” said Mr Kweh, who porting Mr Kweh’s endeavours and
said he had tried to sign up for mara- will publicise the fund-raising efforts
thons before but was rejected due to at its 22 public libraries.
health and safety concerns. CHERYL ONG

New test for severe


chikungunya cases
BY LIAW WY-CIN disease, said Dr Lisa Ng, who led the
SIgN team, a research consortium un-
SCIENTISTS in Singapore have found der the Agency for Science, Technolo-
a way to help doctors sieve out severe gy and Research.
cases of a debilitating mosquito- But the behaviour of the third sub-
borne disease from mild ones. stance was the reverse – its level was
found to be about three times lower in
If further studies confirm these ear-
patients with severe chikungunya,
ly findings, doctors could more accu-
compared with levels in those with
rately pinpoint patients with severe the milder form of the disease.
cases of chikungunya fever, in about This substance is found in blood
five years’ time. platelets, whose numbers fall in the
Currently, doctors look for signs course of the disease.
such as low blood pressure, confusion The head of the infectious diseases
and the inability to move arms and division at the National University of
legs as indications of a severe case of Singapore and National University
the mosquito-spread virus. Hospital, Associate Professor Paul
But there is currently no definitive Tambyah, hailed the study as the first
laboratory test that confirms the se- to look at how the body’s immune sys-
verity of infection. tem responds to the disease.
While studying the symptoms and He said: “It is a small study but it
blood samples of 10 chikungunya pa- does provide important preliminary in-
tients, scientists at the Singapore Im- formation which could lead to much
munology Network (SIgN) and doc- larger studies to validate the find-
tors from Tan Tock Seng Hospital ings.”
found that the behaviour of three tiny The researchers are now working
substances in the body was closely on studying samples gathered from
some 100 patients during the out-
linked to patients with severe cases of
break in August last year.
chikungunya.
Associate Professor Leo Yee Sin,
These three substances belong to a clinical director of Tan Tock Seng Hos-
group that sends signals to cells about pital’s Communicable Disease Centre,
how to behave and defend the body in said: “We hope this gives us higher
an infection, for example. confidence to validate what we have
The levels of two of the substances found and to understand the disease
were found to be about three times better.
higher in patients with severe cases of “If we can get something into the
chikungunya, compared with levels in clinic in five years, that would be
those who had a milder form of the very, very good.”

More cases of mosquito-borne diseases


DENGUE and chikungunya are caused increasing markedly, statistics show.
by different mosquito-carrying
viruses although they give rise to Mosquito-borne disease cases in
similar symptoms such as sudden Singapore:
high fever, headache, fatigue, nausea,
vomiting, muscle pain, rash and joint 쐽 First eight weeks of 2009
pain. Chikungunya: 211
While dengue is endemic in Dengue fever: 1,102
Singapore, with regular outbreaks for
many years now, chikungunya 쐽 First eight weeks of 2008
appeared only from 2006. But the Chikungunya: 14
number of people affected has been Dengue fever: 850