YWCA’s history is rich with the many strong women who formed and contributed to the organisation’s work since its inception. We have been blessed with driven and talented women who all had one thing in common – the desire to better the lives of others. Dr Anamah Tan, who has been a member since the early 1970s, is a fine example of a trailblazer YWCA was privileged to have as a leader. She was presented the Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer Award by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) earlier this year.
Now 81 years of age, Dr Anamah has been volunteering since she was in secondary school. She fondly recalls her first experience, which involved performing first aid on the villagers in Potong Pasir. It sparked a lifelong passion for volunteering and giving back to the society, even until today. She now volunteers at the Singapore Association of Women Lawyers, having stepped down as President to give the younger women a right to lead.
The vivacious Dr Anamah’s first project with the YWCA was during the late Mrs Julie Tan’s leadership of the YWCA.
“Julie asked if I wanted to help in the early childhood programme we were going to start,” Dr Anamah said, “We were pioneers back then. We were the very first preschool in Singapore.”
Dr Anamah is passionate about ensuring equal access to early childhood education, which is something the YWCA still practices these days by keeping our preschool fees affordable. The very first preschool was set up in Marine Parade and she remembers the snaking registration queues and the full enrolments.
The first YWCA Child Development Centre was set up at Block 80 Marine Parade on 1 March 1977.
In her late 30s, Dr Anamah was elected as Council Member of the World YWCA, representing the YWCA of Singapore and served finally as Vice-President of Asia from 1977-1985. It was an opportunity she cherishes to this day as it gave her the platform to work on key global issues such as human rights, the environment and disarmament.
How did she find the time to volunteer amid her hectic schedule as a lawyer?
“You’ll find the time and make it count,” Dr Anamah sagely advised, “When you see someone whose life isn’t going well, wanting to help make a difference is just being a good neighbour.”
Her parting words of wisdom for our readers? “If you can’t make a hundred people happy, then just aim to make one person happy. Sometimes, that person is yourself.”