Friends for a Better World
Friends of Singapore learning about Singaporeʼs holistic and long-term approach to sustainable urban planning at the Urban Redevelopment Authorityʼs Singapore City Gallery.
The Singapore International Foundation (SIF), through a special SG50 edition of SIF Connects! Singapore, continues to build enduring international and personal relationships that spark ideas for positive change around the world.
BY ABIGAIL CHIA
PHOTOS SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION
ore than 100 Singapore International Foundation (SIF) alumni and Friends of Singapore (FOS), representing 20 different nationalities, gathered in Singapore last December for a special SG50 edition of SIF Connects! Singapore. Held on Dec 3 and 4, the event aimed to reconnect FOS with fellow SIF alumni and Singaporeans, as well as get them up to speed on the country’s latest developments. Participants included SIF programme alumni from India, Thailand, Malaysia, the United Kingdom and the United States who now volunteer as SIF representatives in their home countries to grow FOS communities.
A highlight of the two-day event was a dialogue with Singapore’s Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin around the theme of “What’s Next, Singapore?”. This dialogue was the culmination of a series of overseas dialogues that SIF had organised in Bandung, Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington DC and were based on SIF’s book, Singapore: Insights from the Inside – Volume II, capturing FOS’ insights on “What Is Singapore?”.
During the dialogue, several FOS offered their wide-ranging perspectives on how Singapore can build on its current success to achieve more in the next 50 years. They encouraged the country and its people to embrace innovation, and to leverage its cultural diversity to connect and deepen its relationships with world communities.
Fielding questions from the audience, Minister Tan reaffirmed Singapore’s commitment to breaking down barriers, learning from its foreign friends and developing people-to-people interactions. He said: “Learning is about... the tacit knowledge that we actually acquire from just talking to people, which is sometimes more powerful because when you learn and you see something happening – when you understand the process – you then begin to adapt it to your own conditions.”
GAINING NEW FRIENDS
In the spirit of fostering people-to-people exchanges, the FOS brought young leaders from their home countries to SIF Connects! Singapore, paving the way for a new generation of friendships. These included a 26-member Thai delegation from King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi and a 12-member multinational delegation from Malaysia’s International Youth Centre.
Reflecting on his experience, student Oeng Chhaifung from the Cambodian Mekong University, says: “(SIF Connects! Singapore) has inspired me to be an active citizen for my country and the Asean region, and to build networks with people around the world.”
To reacquaint FOS with Singapore and its developments, the programme for SIF Connects! Singapore included trips to the country’s first urban rooftop farm ComCrop and the NEWater Visitor Centre as well as The Future of Us exhibition, which offered glimpses into how Singaporeans can live, work, play, care and learn in the future.
The two-day event wrapped up with ShiOK! Nite, during which SIF recognised the contributions of seven Singaporeans under its Singapore International Volunteers programme.
Friends of Singapore at The Future of Us exhibition.
SMALL WORDS, BIG IDEAS
Participants shared insights on What Is Singapore and What’s Next Singapore.
“Cumulatively, what is a society made up of? It is all of us – individuals, clusters, small communities, big communities and interest groups. And if each of them, if each of us, begins to move, then at some point surely society begins to change.”
Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Social and Family Development
“One of the strengths that Singapore has is its ability to generate ideas... you have been able to solve many daunting challenges that many other countries, with much more space and resources, haven’t been able to solve.”
Matthew Herrmann, SIF representative in Washington DC
“Singapore’s success over the last 50 years has been in two areas. First of all, fantastic economic success. But the other great success has been in bringing together the diverse people who find themselves on this little red dot and forming a nation and getting people to work together.”
Christopher Davies, SIF representative in London
“Singapore is very strong in two or three areas, like urban solutions, new technology, and also in terms of value-added products, especially in sectors like logistics. So what Singapore can do is to look at exporting those services to countries that may need such support services. Singapore can join hands with countries like India and look at expanding opportunities in Africa and other large markets to realise common synergies.”
Sathish Raman, director of South-east Asia region, Confederation of Indian Industry
INVESTING IN THE FUTURE
The Singapore International Foundation (SIF)- Asean Student Fellowship was an exchange programme that ran from 1992 to 2004. It continues to make an impact on the lives of many in South-east Asia. Inspired by their experience in Singapore, 135 Indonesian alumni formed non-profit organisation Indonesia Bright Foundation (IBF) to give back to their community.
IBF provides educational scholarships to underprivileged Indonesian children with potential. It now supports 82 students, from elementary school pupils to undergraduates, in cities like Jakarta, Semarang, Solo and Pati. It also runs workshops and dialogues featuring prominent SIF programme alumni to motivate its benefi ciaries and encourage them to give back to the IBF.
To help the IBF work towards these goals, SIF partnered the Indonesian Professionalsʼ Association (IPA) to bring Singaporean and Indonesian communities together to support the educational growth and development of Indonesian youth. This collaboration culminated in the inaugural SIF-IBF-IPA study visit to Singapore for four of its benefi ciaries from Dec 1 to 6 last year. The visit was held in conjunction with SIF Connects! Singapore.
Mentoring them on their trip were IBF chairman Ibrahim Senen and IBF key member Ubaidillah Nugraha (Ubai), both of whom are SIF-Asean Fellows from Indonesia.
On top of the two-day SIF Connects! Singapore event, the group also visited several organisations and exhibitions, showcasing different aspects of Singapore from education and art to culture and the environment.
Ibrahim hopes that the students will be able to apply what they learnt from the visit to think about how they can contribute to Indonesia.
He says: “The visit is an inspiring and eyeopening experience for the students to see a developed country within the region which has advanced so far.”
Undergraduate Muhammad Zalaluddin Sofan, 23, who studies history at the University of Indonesia, was inspired by Singaporeʼs efforts to keep its rivers clean. He says: “I hope to offer input for government policies to clean up the lakes and rivers in Jakarta.”
Ubai hopes that the visit will also foster stronger relations between Indonesia and Singapore, leading to greater understanding and more opportunities for cooperation.
Representatives from Singapore International Foundation (SIF), the Indonesia Bright Foundation (IBF), the Indonesian Professionalsʼ Association (IPA), the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore as well as other Singaporean and Indonesian almuni of the SIF-Asean Student Fellowship at the inaugural SIF-IBF-IPA study visit to Singapore in December last year.
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