From 9 to 13 January, 30 arts practitioners and social sector professionals from 12 countries, including Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Singapore and the United Kingdom, convened in Singapore for the Singapore International Foundation’s (SIF) A4G Fellowship 2022.
The Fellowship started virtually in October with a series of online discussions and a virtual arts performance. Then, for the first time after two years of being conducted online, the programme had an in-person component.
The Fellows met in Singapore to gain a better understanding of the country’s arts scene and to bond with each other through various activities. These included cultural exchange sessions at which Fellows engaged with key players in the Singapore arts and social service sectors. They visited social service organisations such as:
- Enabling Village by SG Enable, an inclusive community space for people with disabilities
- Club Rainbow, a non-profit organisation that supports and empowers children with chronic illnesses, and their families by providing relevant compassionate services
- The Rice Company Limited (TRCL), a non-profit organisation that seeks to harness the potential of the arts to benefit under-served children and youths in the community
The Fellows then brainstormed arts-based solutions for the challenges and problem statements given by these organisations. For instance, Club Rainbow hopes to make its arts programme more accessible to the different beneficiary profiles. Some Fellows proposed to create customised art kits and regular activities that use these kits, to allow both parents and children to participate.
At the Enabling Village, the Fellows came up with suggestions for how SG Enable can engage visitors through art programming. They suggested putting together a disability-led Arts Festival to raise awareness about social inclusion and integration of differently abled individuals.
Mr Mark Beau De Silva, Malaysian Fellow and Programme Director at Taylor’s University in Selangor, said that he was inspired by the great work and positive impact produced by these Singapore organisations and the Fellows he met.
He added: “All the organisations and people I met during the A4G Fellowship have inspired me to not just work better for the community but understand the need to build stronger networks.”
“For example, the top-notch facilities within the Enabling Village ecosystem (by SG Enable) have motivated me to dream and design more holistic working spaces. It has illustrated the possibility to cater and care for differently abled individuals, even to introduce and assimilate them into the workforce.”
Indonesian Fellow Dani is a Consultant at the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development. He said: “The Fellowship provided valuable insights and case studies to show how dulce et utile can be applied in the real world to address social challenges. For example, the playback theatre sessions reminded me of the Theatre of the Oppressed used for communal reconciliation in conflict-torn areas."
Fellows also visited several art exhibitions and programmes as part of the Singapore Art Week (SAW) 2023 held in the city centre and heartlands. One of the SAW activities that the Fellows experienced was Insect Inventorium, an art-meets-science interdisciplinary project that discovers and studies insects in Singapore’s Bukit Gombak neighbourhood.
Mr Nghia Nguyen Hoang is a Vietnamese Fellow and a hip-hop dance teacher at the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, a charity that helps street kids and rescues victims from slavery and human trafficking in Vietnam. He said that the Fellowship provided a valuable platform for him to connect and exchange ideas with artists around the world.
He added: “We will apply the ideas and knowledge that we have learnt through the programme to serve our community.”
The SIF’s A4G Fellowship aims to bring together a diverse community of professionals committed to creating positive social change through the arts. Upon completion of the programme, Fellows join a 260-strong global alumni network in which they continue to connect, support, and collaborate with one another.