11 June 2012

Singapore, 11 June 2012 ... Fifty Asian youths of eight nationalities – Burmese, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Filipino, Malaysian, Singaporean and Thai – will participate in the Singapore International Foundation’s (SIF) new Friendship Express programme for bridging communities from 11 to 23 June. They will gain insights and a better appreciation of different cultures, strengthen camaraderie and make friends with communities in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, through learning, collaborating on community projects, as well as living and travelling together.

Ms Jean Tan, SIF Executive Director elaborates, “The work of the Singapore International Foundation is about bridging Singaporeans and world communities, and harnessing the power of friendships to enrich lives and effect positive change. This is embodied in the Friendship Express, which the SIF is partnering organisations of three countries to run. Together, we build people-to-people relationships and nurture social responsibility among Asian youth leaders, enabling collaborations between communities for a better world.”

40 of the 50 participants are from Singapore’s five polytechnics[1]. The remaining 10 comprise five Malaysian students from the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and five Thai students from the King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok. Led by the Singapore Polytechnic faculty, participants will apply the concept of design-thinking[2] to community projects, tapping on their schooling in various fields, such as engineering, business and social enterprise, food science and accountancy, to propose innovative solutions to address the needs identified by developing communities.

The Friendship Express kicks off in Singapore on 11 June where participants will dialogue with ambassadors of the three countries, namely Singapore’s Ambassador-at-large Professor Tommy Koh, Malaysia’s High Commissioner Dato’ Hussin Nayan and Thai Ambassador Mr Marut Jitpatima. The session, moderated by SIF Governor Ambassador K. Kesavapany, will provide participants with unique insights into Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. This follows with a visit to local social enterprise, Food from the Heart, where the youths will learn about and participate in this Singapore community project.

Participants head to Kuala Lumpur on 12 June by train, participating in activities for strengthening understanding and camaraderie during the six-hour journey. The Malaysian Youth Council and the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, together with Malaysian youths will host the Friendship Express in Malaysia. Participants will be engaged in community projects in the areas of livelihood and water quality in Klang and Pahang, and home stay with local families for greater cultural appreciation. The Malaysian leg will conclude with a reception on 15 June hosted by Singapore’s High Commissioner to Malaysia, Mr Ong Keng Yong at his official residence, Rumah Temasek.

The Friendship Express heads to the Thai province of Buriram on 16 June where participants will spend five days at the Mechai Pattana Bamboo School of the Mechai Viravaidya Foundation, working on social innovation projects in nearby villages to meet the water quality, livelihood and nutrition needs identified by the community. Thereafter, the King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok will host participants to cultural exchange activities, fostering better understanding between communities.

The Friendship Express culminates in a closing ceremony on 22 June, SIF Connects! Bangkok. Singapore’s Ambassador to Thailand Mrs Chua Siew San would host the event that will also see the appointment of SIF’s first alumni representative in Bangkok who will partner SIF in connecting with the Thai Friends of Singapore (FOS) community – SIF programme alumni, including participants of the inaugural Friendship Express, and former residents of Singapore.

Follow the youths' journey of discovery on the Friendship Express blog and 'Like' the Youths4Good Facebook page to be part of the youth community for good.

[1] Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic.

[2] A discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.