31 October 2023

Forging New Friendships and Cross-Cultural Understanding

The Singapore International Foundation (SIF) hosted nine international journalists, offering a snapshot of Singapore’s efforts in social innovation, sustainability, and inclusivity.

JVP participants cooking local dishes
Photo Gallery

In Singapore, efforts are made to be inclusive and reduce wastage. This was the observation of Ms Le Dieu Thuy, Deputy Head of Current Affairs at the online newspaper Vietnamnet, after visiting a few social enterprises in Singapore including MoNo SG, Soul Food, and The Social Kitchen.

MoNo SG is a sustainability-driven retail space that redistributes goods past their best-before dates but is safe for consumption. Soul Food and The Social Kitchen are restaurants that train and employ persons with disabilities.

Ms Le was part of the SIF’s Multilateral Journalist Visit Programme (JVP) 2023 which ran from 9 to 12 October in Singapore. She was joined by eight other journalists from India, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

Themed “Heart and Soul of Singapore”, the programme provided opportunities for the journalists to engage with representatives from the public, private, and people sectors and SIF’s Citizen Ambassadors. Over four days, they exchanged insights and learned about Singapore’s efforts in social innovation, sustainability, and inclusivity.

Mr Narayan Lakshman, Senior Associate Editor at The Hindu, said: “The JVP created an open space for journalists to ask questions, which led to greater cross-cultural understanding, connections, and friendships. This is a journalistic learning for me and will inform my writing in the days ahead, as much as it has helped me forge a deeper understanding of the Singapore society and potential learnings for India.”

These sentiments were echoed by Mr Tatang Mulyana Sinaga, a senior journalist from the Indonesian national newspaper Harian Kompas.

He said: “We were able to build a network of fellow journalists, which allowed us to learn more about each other’s cultures and countries. We were also able to discuss the problems that our respective countries face, and the solutions that have been implemented.”

The JVP included visits to the Sustainable Singapore Gallery and the Smart Nation CityScape exhibition, which showcased Singapore’s efforts in urban planning, sustainable development, and digital inclusion. The journalists also participated in a ceramics ornament workshop led by persons with disabilities at ART:DIS, a non-profit organisation that empowers persons with disabilities through art.

Mr Sinaga added: “The JVP has broadened our perspective on Singapore's strategic steps in overcoming issues such as inclusive development and better consumption patterns for sustainability.”

On her learnings from the visits, Ms Nguyen Hong Hanh, English News Editor from Vietnamese publication Bao Tin Tuc said: “I was impressed by Singapore’s long-term vision for sustainable development even though the country does not have many natural resources.”

She added: “I was also impressed by the awareness of the local community to work together towards the same goal.”

The JVP also provided journalists with opportunities to build regional friendships. Conversations throughout the four days were telling of the ties that the journalists had quickly formed and would keep for a long time to come.

Ms Quynh Duong, an international affairs journalist from Vietnamese newspaper Hanoimoi said: “Our group of journalists is like a miniature Singapore, one of the most harmonious multicultural and multi-ethnic countries on the planet. The trip helped me make more friends in Indonesia, India, and Singapore, and these relationships will help me at work and in life in future.”

Rounding off her experience, Ms Aparajita Ajay Saxena, Senior Associate Editor from Indian online news site YourStory said: “A good barometer for any good, well-received programme is when people go back feeling like they are leaving something behind. The JVP felt like that. The SIF team made all of us feel incredibly welcome, as if we were in the company of old friends rather than new acquaintances.”

To date, some of the journalists have published articles on the insights that they have gained through the JVP. For instance:

  • Mr Sinaga from Indonesia wrote about Singapore’s efforts to meaningfully engage, empower, and employ persons with disabilities. He observed that a master plan such as Singapore’s Enabling Masterplan 2030, which envisions Singapore as an inclusive society in 2030, is a step worth following in other countries. The article was published online in Harian Kompas.
  • Ms Nguyen from Vietnam shared about MoNo SG’s efforts to divert food headed for the bins or incinerators and redistribute them to a community that believes in reducing food waste, while supporting vulnerable groups. The article was published online in Bao Tin Tuc.