SIF’s special SG50 edition of SIF Connects! Singapore on 3rd and 4th December was truly a triple celebration of friendships.

We were delighted and deeply honoured to host more than 100 programme alumni and Friends of Singapore (FOS) representing 20 nationalities – this being the largest number of FOS participants and nationalities since the launch of our biennial reunion in 2011. Our FOS returned and regrouped in Singapore to reconnect with fellow programme alumni and members of the Singapore community, and to update themselves on the latest developments in Singapore.

SIF Connects! Singapore also celebrated the blossoming of deep and enduring relationships between FOS and the Singapore community. We were heartened to host SIF programme alumni from the early 1990s, who had returned to rekindle their ties with their Singaporean programme peers and also their local host families from their exchange and immersion in Singapore – some of whom had kept in contact for the past 20 years!

Several of our FOS brought with them young undergraduates for the experience, seeding the next generation of FOS. We also had with us several programme alumni from India, Malaysia, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States, all of whom now volunteer as SIF representatives to grow FOS communities in their home countries. Above all, our FOS were in Singapore as loving critics and critical lovers, to share their insights and advice at the SIF SG50 Dialogue with FOS finale on what’s next for Singapore in the years ahead. Alongside Singaporeans, our FOS freely shared their views and ideas on how we could collectively shape the next chapters of the Singapore story.  

The third celebration of friendships was in the collaborations between Singaporeans and FOS in effecting positive change, enriching lives and building a better world together – from SIF’s Singapore International Volunteer (SIV) corps, to the SIF-Indonesia Bright Foundation (IBF)-Indonesian Professionals’ Association (IPA) collaboration in education, which jointly organised the inaugural study visit for IBF scholars in conjunction with SIF Connects! Singapore. Further, there was the gathering of citizen ambassadors and FOS collaborating in the arts and culture, social innovation and entrepreneurship space to bring about arts and businesses for good, respectively.

It is our pleasure to share with you the highlights of SIF Connects! Singapore.


(Left) SIF Executive Director Jean Tan reconnecting with Thai SIF-ASEAN Fellow Naphat Chaiwongrote and FOS Tithaphong Phongsphetrarat. (Centre) Indonesian SIF-ASEAN Fellow and IBF Chairman Ibrahim Senen introducing participants of the inaugural SIF-IBF-IPA study visit to Singapore. (Right) Thai SIF-ASEAN Fellow Taweesak Kritjaroen expressing the interest of his 26-member delegation from King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) to get to know Singapore and the Singapore community.

(Left) The Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Colin Lauw sharing with participants Singapore’s holistic and long-term approach to sustainable urban planning, by optimising limited land to make Singapore future-ready. (Centre) Participants learning about Singapore’s water story and journey towards water sustainability at the NEWater plant. (Right) Comcrop founder Allan Lim sharing with participants his “out-of-the-box” ideas and innovative solutions to sustainable living and urbanisation, including rooftop farming at the heart of Singapore’s main shopping belt, Orchard Road. 

(Left) Participants were amongst the first to catch a glimpse into Singapore of the future – how the Singapore communities would live, learn, work and play in 2030 and beyond, at the Future of Us exhibition. (Right) Thai FOS Taweesak Kritjaroen and his delegation from KMUTT exchanging views on the innovative solutions and lifestyle concepts for Singapore’s future city planning.

SIF Connects! Singapore reunited as well as enabled new friendships to be made between Singaporeans and world communities, including (Left: from left to right) SIF representative in Washington D.C. Matthew Herrmann, British FOS Jonathan McClory, SIF representative in Mumbai Kavita Choudhry, and SIF representative in Bangkok Kanlaya Kampan, and (Right: far left) SIF representative in Kuala Lumpur Mohd Souffi.

A major highlight of this edition of SIF Connects! Singapore was the SIF SG50 Dialogue with FOS featuring the SG50 Economic and International Committee Co-chairman, and Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin. Themed “What is Singapore; What’s next, Singapore?”, the dialogue was held against the backdrop of the second edition of Singapore: Insights from the Inside, and continued from SIF’s series of overseas SG50 dialogues with FOS earlier this year in Bandung (June), Kuala Lumpur (September), Washington D.C. (October) and London (November).

Our FOS encouraged Singapore to be more creative and innovative to create value (and not merely value-add), and to leverage our cultural vibrancy and diversity to connect with communities – east and west of Singapore, as well as to build on the current good people-to-people ties to deepen relationships with world communities. Minister Tan built on the well-meaning advice from our FOS with the suggestion to build a “gateless community” – one where there would be frequent conversations and exchanges to promote learning, foster greater cross-cultural understanding and build “a sense of us”.

(Top) Minister Tan fielding questions from the audience, including (from left to right) SIF representatives Mohd Souffi, Matthew Herrmann and SIF representative in London Christopher Davies. The SIF representatives also shared with Minister Tan the insights and advice gathered from the SIF SG50 Dialogues with FOS held in their respective cities earlier this year.

FOS offering advice and posing questions to Minister Tan including (Left) American Association of Singapore President Glenn van Zutphen; (Centre) British Council Singapore Director Roland Davies; (Right) British and Canadian High Commissioners Scott Wightman and Heather Alison Grant.

(Left) Minister Tan with the delegates from International Youth Centre Malaysia. (Right) Minister Tan interacting with the IBF scholars who were led by Indonesian SIF-ASEAN Fellows Ibrahim Senen and Ubaidillah Nugraha.

Minister Tan discussing the insights and advice from FOS at the SIF SG50 Dialogue, together with SIF Chairman Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Jean Tan and American FOS and visualiser Tim Hamons.

The visualisation summarising the insights and advice from FOS on What’s next, Singapore?

(Left) SIF recognised the longstanding service of seven of its Singapore International Volunteers (SIVs) and their contributions towards connecting with world communities and collaborating to effect positive changes, including (from left to right) John Ang, Dr Shephali Tagore, Low Siew Hong and A/Prof Lim Swee Hia. Not in the picture are SIVs Dr Ramaswamy Akhileswaran, Dr Chin Pak Lin and Dr Ng Kee Chong. (Right) Our Thai FOS sharing their culture through dance with guests at ShiOK! Nite.

ShiOK! smiles and the thumbs up from FOS and Singaporeans alike at the close of SIF Connects! Singapore.

We look forward to reconnecting with you at the next SIF Connects! Singapore in 2017.

Season's greetings and best new year wishes to you!



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