Message from Chairman
Hello, I am Cassandra Chiu. I am a psychotherapist, social advocate and speaker who also happens to be blind. Besides my professional identities, I am also a user of a seeing eye dog, which is also an Assistance Dog.
As a blind person, my mobility was unimaginably improved from the moment I got my first assistance dog, Esme, in 2011. I was able to travel safely and independently despite not being able to see, all thanks to the help of my four-legged assistant; first Esme, and now Elke. In a heartbeat, I would say that Assistance Dogs have given me back my life!
The road was not always smooth though. In the early days, many people in our sunny island did not know what an assistance dog is, let alone that they are very well behaved and allowed in the public.
Over the years, thanks to the media and many supporters, Singapore grew to understand and welcome assistance dogs. Nowadays, I often hear little children explain to their parents that working dogs are allowed on trains, buses, in eateries and in shopping malls.
I am very, very grateful for the tremendous understanding and kindness that Singaporeans have extended to the blind with their seeing eye dogs.
My dream is that one day, the same kindness would also be extended to all Assistance Dogs, so people with different types of disabilities can benefit from specially trained assistance dogs who will alleviate their disability. I hope that you will join me. Together, let’s create a place for all of us!
Ms Cassandra Chiu
Cassandra Chiu is a Psychotherapist, Social Advocate, and Author. Chiu manages The Safe Harbour Counselling Centre and works with individuals experiencing depression and anxiety as well as lectures post-graduate students.
Cassandra was the first woman to use an assistance dog in Singapore and is known for her advocacy when the social environment was not quite ready. The challenges she faced led to her passion in creating equal opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. Cassandra is also a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, Social Innovation Park Fellow, and a recipient of The Singapore Woman Award.
Dr Dawn-joy Leong
Dawn-joy Leong is a researcher, multi-artist, TEDx speaker, lecturer and board member of the Disabled People’s Association, Singapore. She is a specialist consultant in the Arts and Disability, disability leadership, autism, neurodiversity, multi-art applications. Her work includes designing accessible, conducive and inclusive spaces, addressing mental health and wellbeing through her artistic practice, and disability advocacy.
Dawn-joy is Autistic, and her Assistance Dog, Lucy Like-a-Charm, provides mitigation support for Dawn’s sensory anxiety. Rescued from the cruel Greyhound racing industry in Australia, Lucy is now Dawn’s closest and most trusted companion, creative muse, and canine research assistant.
Mr Andrew Chew
Andrew Chew is a communications professional and social advocate. He has over 25 years of experience in public relations, community engagement, media and corporate communications in a multi-billion company. Besides his professional work, Andrew has been active in advocating and improving the lives of persons with disabilities. He was instrumental in introducing blind bowling to Singapore. Internationally, he was elected as the first Chairperson of the Tenpin Bowling Technical Sub-Committee at the International Blind Sports Federation and gained international accreditation for tenpin bowling as a blind-sport.
Locally, Andrew was recognised with a Meritorious Service Award at The Eye and Vision Health Awards by the National Congress of Optometrists & Opticians for active advocacy and voluntary contribution. As pioneering Director of Guide Dogs Singapore (Limited), he launched training programs and delivered services, secured overseas partnerships and developed the blueprint for eventual self-sufficiency.
Currently, as an Executive Committee member of the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped, Andrew is responsible for pathing the way for the association in its transformation journey. Being a firm believer of diversity and inclusion, he is committed to share his wealth of knowledge and experience to help persons with different disabilities improve their quality of life through Assistance Dogs.
Dr Kent Soon
Kent Soon is a Veterinarian and an animal advocate. He graduated from the University of Glasgow and has a keen interest in various aspects of veterinary medicine especially Neurology, Internal Medicine and Dermatology.
Having worked in a large practice and now at a veterinary emergency and specialty hospital in Singapore, Kent has seen and treated countless animals. His work philosophy has always been to provide his client and their furry loved ones with utmost level of care and attention.
Outside of work, Kent is actively involved in community work and believes in giving back. Since 2009, he has been assisting Wildlife Reserves Singapore to educate public on animals and the importance of conservation. In 2010, he volunteered for the Youth Olympic Games to care for the well-being of horses for the Equestrian Event and joined an overseas community project in Cambodia to educate the local villagers about common animal health and diseases and animal husbandry.
Having met Cassandra and her two seeing eye dogs, Elke and the late Esme, Kent is fuelled with passion and drive to promote the acceptance and use of Assistance Dogs for persons with disabilities. He is also committed to share and impart his veterinary knowledge and experiences to benefit more people and animals.
Dr Navin Nair
Navin Nair is an IT and HR professional, associate research writer, and a social advocate. He attains a DBA (Doctorate) Degree in Managerial Science, Double Masters in Human Resource Management. He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business.
Since 2006, Navin has been a strong advocate for Disability, Diversity & Inclusion in Singapore. He is actively working with the relevant government agencies to provide valuable feedback to improve the lives of persons with disabilities in areas such as Accessibility, Universal Design, Disability Rights & Awareness, and Inclusive Education, Work – Spaces & Communities.
As an External Adjunct Facilitator, he has lectured at various Institutes of Higher Learning, both locally and overseas in the fields of Special Education, Disability Studies, Inclusive Education, and Assistive Technology. He is also the Country Representative Volunteer (Singapore) at the Division of Inclusive Social Development in United Nations Enable and many other events and conferences.
Presently, Navin is a board member of Handicap Welfare Association as well as Disabled People’s Association. He has done many overseas community outreach projects for children with special needs and is now focusing on promoting the acceptance and use of Assistance Dogs for persons with disabilities to make Singapore a more caring and inclusive society.
Mr Ian Ong
Ian Ong is a professional counsellor with business management and accounting experience. He graduated with a Master of Counselling from Monash University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration (Accountancy) from National University of Singapore.
Prior to pursuing his interests as a full time counsellor, Ian was responsible for his company’s strategic direction, business development and overseeing daily operations including providing management consulting and accounting services to companies without in-house accounts team. With an keen eye for details and his accounting skills, Ian has been appointed as Honorary Auditor for several registered charitable groups.
Besides providing auditing services for charities since 2015, Ian also volunteers with various social service agencies to provide psychological first aid, counselling and emotional support to help those in distress. These include organisations supporting individuals recovering from alcohol and drug addiction, as well as the National Care Hotline – a helpline for people facing various forms of distress during the Circuit Breaker and COVID-19 season.
Ian’s vision is to co-create a safe, non-judgemental and encouraging space for all with the relevant emotional and psychological support available for those in need. He hopes through the use of these highly skilled Assistance Dogs, persons with disabilities will gain empowerment, independence and autonomy to lead a more fulfilling life.