Remarks by Ms Jean Tan, SIF Executive Director, at The Physiotherapy Education Upgrade Project in Vientiane City, Lao PDR

Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, President of Singapore and Patron of the Singapore International Foundation,
Mrs Mary Tan, First Lady of Singapore,
Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister of Health,
Mrs Gan,
Mr Teo Ser Luck, Minister of State and Ministry of Manpower,
Mr Phuthone Muangpak, Vice-Minister of Health, Government of the Lao People's Democratic Republic,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning and thank you for joining us at the fifth workshop of “The Physiotherapy Education Upgrade Project” at the Faculty of Medical Technology, University of Health Sciences (FMT-UHS) in Vientiane. It is an honour to share with you today Singapore’s collaborative healthcare project with our Laotian friends.           

According to the Laos Census 2015, more than 160,000 Laotians have some form of disability and require rehabilitative care. The Singapore International Foundation (SIF), Singapore Health Services Pte Ltd (SingHealth) and FMT-UHS have come together in partnership to address this issue – on a project that  aims to upgrade the overall quality of physiotherapy education in Laos so that more persons with disability can enjoy a better quality of life.

In a while, SingHealth and FMT-UHS will share more on the project aim and impact, but allow me to first make three key points - to provide context to this meaningful international collaboration.

First, let me talk about the importance of friends. To succeed in this world, we need a strong network of friends. Singapore benefitted from the largesse of its friends in its early days. Today, we are in the position to share our development experience with our neighbours. We should play our part as a good friend, neighbour and responsible global citizen. 

The role of the SIF is to strengthen people-to-people ties and trust between Singaporeans and global communities.  We strive to build a strong network of friends, both in neighbouring ASEAN as well among the larger world communities. In this regard, we have worked with the people of Lao for the last 20 years, building enduring friendships through collaborations on a number of social impact projects.

Secondly, an important aspect of strong friendships is trust. At the SIF, we build trust by connecting for change. The SIF creates avenues for people-to-people collaboration, bringing people with similar interests together to make a difference.  We believe that when people from different parts of the world work together, they gain insights that bridge cultural divides. In this way, we forge a common understanding of global challenges and foster collaborative problem solving.

The SIF has worked with many like-minded partners in Laos on a range of community development and capacity building projects in areas such as education, healthcare and the arts and culture. For example, in education, this is our second foray into the field of medical rehabilitation using our train-the-trainer approach with physiotherapy and allied health professionals in Laos. Our last healthcare project in "Emergency Obstetrics and Paediatrics Project” saw more than 60 doctors and nurses successfully trained to provide better healthcare services to mother and child. Under an enabling arts grant known as “Singapore Internationale”, the SIF has supported Singaporean artists and arts groups to present their works in Laos, sharing insights and bridging communities through the arts.

Lastly, none of our work would be possible without the support and dedication of our Singaporean volunteers, whom we call our Citizen Ambassadors (CAs) - such as Professor Celia Tan and partners like SingHealth. They help share Singapore’s experience, skills and resources with their counterparts overseas. Our CAs are a diverse group of people: artists, medical professionals, educators, mentors, social entrepreneurs. They are the key to SIF’s mission of connecting communities, enabling collaborations and effecting positive social change in areas such as education, healthcare, environment, business and livelihood as well as arts and culture.

Of course, there is our local partner. Without whom, development projects such as this “Physiotherapy Education Upgrade Project” would not be sustainable. Few may know this but Dr Bouathep, Vice-Dean at the FMT-UHS, spent a year canvassing for support for this project. Many told her to give up but she persevered. Today, to have the President of Singapore visit the project, let us just say she’s beside herself! But it is precisely such people, passionate about building a better world, that enable our work. Beyond the social impact they deliver, are the connections and friendships between the peoples of two countries that last a lifetime.

I will now hand this time over to Ms Vijaya Rao, Senior Director of SingHealth, to elaborate on the project.

Thank you.

 

 

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