Speech by Mr Keith Koh, SIF Volunteer Co-operation Asst Director, at Words on Wheels (Bandung) Closing Ceremony

Bapak Iwa Karniwa, Regional Secretary, West Java Provincial Government,
Ibu Tati Iriyani, Head, West Java Board of Library and Archives,
Distinguished Guests,

Selamat Pagi (Good Morning)!

Thank you for joining us today to celebrate the successful partnership between people and organisations from Singapore and Bandung, bringing together both communities to collaborate for a better world.

The Singapore International Foundation or SIF began its first foray into direct-service programmes in Indonesia with Words on Wheels or WOW in Bandung, a mobile library project. This is where the SIF engaged with Singaporeans from all walks of life as Singapore International Volunteers (SIVs) or Citizen Ambassadors, to meet a community’s needs in a direct and tangible manner. Over the past three years, our citizen ambassadors travelled with the mobile library van equipped with books and internet facilities to 15 schools across Bandung, conducting educational activities such as story-telling and English language workshops. Professional librarians from Singapore also played an integral part, sharing their expertise in library management with 35 of their peers at the West Java Library Board (BAPUSIPDA).

When we first brought the WOW programme to Indonesia, we had envisioned it to be a vehicle of friendship between the people of Singapore and Indonesia, promoting greater understanding across cultures and strengthening people-to-people ties. I am heartened to share that together with our host partner BAPUSIPDA and project funder global bank UBS, we have bridged communities by bringing the joy of learning and reading right into the schools and libraries of West Java. Close to 13,000 Bandung students were able to access new knowledge and people outside of their immediate environment as a result of 489 mobile library trips WOW has made. The students’ enthusiasm touched us greatly - over 5,400 books were on loan from the mobile library van and more than 3,800 participated in workshops filled with cultural exchange activities led by Singaporean volunteers.

All these impact would not have been possible without the passion of more than 200 SIVs who have participated in this project, including a team of specialist volunteers from the National Library Board, Singapore. Our Indonesian friends have shared with us that you have inspired them to become agents of change. Bandung librarians are enhancing library management practices in their respective workplaces so that the larger West Java community could be actively drawn into libraries here. As we commemorate what has been a meaningful Singapore-Indonesia collaboration, we take this occasion to thank you for your contributions towards international understanding and development.

The SIF has enjoyed 23 years of enduring friendship with the people of Indonesia, aptly described by a proverb that says “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. Over the past two decades, through participation in many projects, Singaporeans and Indonesians have come together to share ideas, skills and resources with each other in areas as diverse as health, education, arts and governance. The commitment by both Singaporeans and Indonesians to work together to improve lives is testament to the spirit of ‘’gotong royong’’ between Singaporeans and Indonesians.

By bringing together such like-minded individuals from both countries through WOW Bandung, we are hopeful that this project will equip the children with important knowledge and a spirit of lifelong learning so as to build a better life for themselves in today’s fast moving world. We are also confident that the bonds of friendship, especially between the librarians, will not stop at the project’s conclusion as the Singaporean volunteers have certainly gained so much more through their experience.

Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to Ibu Tati Iriani, Ibu Dinny Resmiati and your team at BAPUSIPDA, as well as principals of the 15 schools across Bandung, for the privilege of working with you. SIF’s warmest appreciation also goes out to Mrs Fatimah Sulaiman, an expert in the field of library management from Singapore, and her team of Singapore International Volunteers for continuing an important tradition of friendship underpinned by a spirit of “mutual concern and cooperation”. Finally, we want to thank Bapak Iwa Karniwa from the West Java Provincial Government for gracing this special occasion.

Thank you and I wish you all a very pleasant day ahead.



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