Many senior citizens don’t understand or know about PGP. “They ask, ‘Simi PGP’?” says Ms Mastura, 30.
That’s the question she tackles daily in her roles as Assistant Director (Policy) and Assistant Programme Manager at the Pioneer Generation Office (PGO). Her mission: to let our 450,000 Pioneers know how PGP can benefit them. “Our work is rooted in people, in relationships,” says Ms Mastura. “It’s about connecting with Pioneers and their families, and understanding their needs.”
But the package can’t be effective if awareness of its benefits is low – it needs strong voices and willing hands, and that’s where PGO comes in. Established in August 2014, PGO now has 15 satellite offices islandwide, with 300 officers and 2,600 Pioneer Generation Ambassadors who visit the homes of Pioneers. “We knock on every door in the heartlands,” says Ms Mastura. “We explain the package to Pioneers in a personalised way, using simple language and visual aids. And we go with a spirit of gratitude. PGP is really about thanking our Pioneers for their contributions.”
The walls of the Tampines satellite office are covered with hundreds of photos of Ambassadors with Pioneers. Each photo tells a story, and together, they are a testament to the immense outreach effort in progress. Besides sharing information about PGP, Ambassadors also evaluate whether Pioneers need other forms of assistance. “During one house visit, our Ambassadors met a Pioneer, Mr Lim, who could barely walk,” Ms Mastura shares. “They referred the case to our officers who brought him to a doctor for a disability assessment, and then followed-up to ensure that he received assistance every month under the Pioneer Generation Disability Assistance Scheme.”
Another Pioneer, Mr Wee, was the caregiver for his wife who’d suffered a stroke. Tears rolled down his face when the Ambassadors explained how the package would offer him medical subsidies. “Our Pioneers have an amazing sense of self-reliance – they worked hard, without fuss, and they don’t expect anything of others,” says Ms Mastura. “If we hadn’t knocked on their doors and engaged them, they wouldn’t have opened up to us about their difficulties.”
Ms Mastura completed her degree and Master’s in sociology at the National University of Singapore. After doing policy work in Social Programmes for four years at the Ministry of Finance, she requested a move to PGO in late 2014. “Having worked on conceptualising PGP, I knew it was time for me to be on the ground,” she says. “Here, I can find out what Pioneers need, and then quickly share this information with policymakers.”
Based at PGO’s Tampines satellite office, which is abuzz with activity, Ms Mastura says, “I’m always very encouraged by our Ambassadors. They put their hearts into the work and challenge me to do more.”
Looking at the photos, Ms Mastura explains PGO’s singular focus on people. “Here, you get to know people from all walks of life. What’s meaningful about our work is that we really get to feel what ordinary citizens feel,” she says.