Our Neighbours, Our Friends

ABOVE, RIGHT: SIF Connects! Bandung centred on a dialogue between Indonesian Friends of Singapore, including Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil (fourth from left), and representatives from Singapore. FACING PAGE: SIF representative in Jakarta Moch N Kurniawan introducing a benefi ciary of the Indonesia Bright Foundation.

About 150 loving critics and critical lovers of Singapore gathered in Bandung to discuss “What’s Next, Singapore?”.



wenty-one years ago, Indonesian student Ridwan Kamil flew to Singapore on his first trip abroad for a student exchange programme. The experience altered the course of his life. Then, as an architectural engineering undergraduate at the Institut Teknologi Bandung, he became interested in urban design thanks to Singapore’s well-planned cityscape. He went on to further his studies in that field. Fast forward to today and the student is now Mayor of Bandung, Indonesia’s third largest city.

On June 13 this year, Mayor Ridwan opened up his official residence, the Pendopo Walikota Bandung, to host a different kind of exchange organised by the Singapore International Foundation (SIF).

Known as SIF Connects! Bandung, the event was attended by 150 Friends of Singapore, comprising representatives from the SIF-Asean Fellowship alumni network, and partners and alumni of SIF programmes from Jakarta and Bandung.

They shared their perspectives on “What’s Next, Singapore?”.

The strong turnout reflected the rich tapestry of relationships between the Singaporean and Indonesian communities and a fitting testament to 23 years of SIF’s efforts in promoting friendships and meaningful collaborations between the people of both countries.

Anchoring the event was a dialogue between Mayor Ridwan, West Java Board of Library and Archives (BAPUSIPDA) head Tati Iriani, Sekolah Menengah Atas (SMA) Negeri 11 Bandung principal Dedeh Suatini, SIF-Asean Student Fellowship alumnus Ibrahim Senen, SIF Governor Ambassador K Kesavapany and Deputy Chief of Mission at the Singapore Embassy in Jakarta Timothy Chin.;

SIF Governor Jennifer Lewis moderated the dialogue. Mayor Ridwan shared how his stint as an exchange student in Singapore under the SIF-Asean Student Fellowship, shaped his perspectives. The fellowship, which ran from 1993 to 2004, invited 40 student leaders from Asean countries each year to spend a semester in Singapore’s universities to experience the Singaporean way of life.

Said the mayor: “Singapore changed my life in many ways. Influenced by my visit, I fell in love with urban planning and design; that’s why I took a master’s degree in urban design at the University of California, Berkeley. It also changed the way I saw the world.”

Sharing his view of harnessing friendships for good was fellow panellist and Indonesia Bright Foundation (IBF) founding member, Ibrahim Senen. The IBF is a non-profit organisation that provides educational scholarships to underprivileged children in Indonesia.

At the dialogue, Ibrahim Senen said: “The IBF initiative is (a way for) the alumni to give back what we had received from Singapore a long time ago. Singapore taught us a lot and provided opportunities for us. What the SIF did for us, we try to do at least for our people and our society.”

To date, the IBF has provided scholarships to more than 400 recipients, from elementary school pupils to university students.

SMA Negeri 11 Bandung principal Dedeh Suatini shared about an annual school programme in which 20 students from Singapore are hosted by 20 students from her school for two weeks.

She said: “This is a wonderful experience for the students. I hope that when they become leaders in the future, they will continue to be connected to each other, just like Singapore and Indonesia.”

To celebrate Singapore-Indonesia ties, SIF Connects! Bandung also hosted an exhibition that showcased SIF’s volunteer initiatives in Indonesia, such as the Water for Life project in Lamongan in East Java, which aims to provide access to clean drinking water through the installation of 150 membrane water filters in the regency, and the Words on Wheels project in Bandung, which aims to nurture a culture of learning among the city’s schoolchildren.


SIF Connects! events are organised by the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) to reconnect with alumni and friends overseas and share insights that promote understanding and collaborations. This year, to involve international friends in Singaporeʼs Golden Jubilee celebrations, the SIF has arranged a series of dialogues around the theme of “Whatʼs Next, Singapore?”.

Starting with Bandung, Indonesia, SIF will continue the conversations with Friends of Singapore (FOS) at upcoming dialogues in Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington DC over the next few months before the series culminates in the biennial reunion of SIF programme alumni at SIF Connects! Singapore in December this year.

SIFʼs new book, Singapore: Insights from the Inside – Volume II, provides the backdrop to the dialogues. This second volume of insights comprises 50 stories written by members of the international community who have visited, worked or studied in Singapore sharing their unique perspectives on “What is Singapore?”.

Together, the book and the ongoing series of SG50 dialogues with FOS seek to nurture and spark many more big ideas for partnerships and collaborations between Singapore and world communities.















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