Speech by Ms Jean Tan, SIF Executive Director, at the SIF SG50 Dialogue with Friends of Singapore and Minister Tan Chuan-Jin

Minister Tan Chuan-Jin,

Welcome to SIF and our SG50 Dialogue with Friends of Singapore (FOS).

We started this series of dialogues in March this year, to involve our international friends in celebrating Singapore’s golden jubilee. Having lived, worked or studied in Singapore, we asked you for your insights on what is Singapore; what next Singapore, including how we might work together for a better world. We kicked off the conversation in Singapore, took it to Bandung, Kuala Lumpur, Washington DC, London and now, here we are – enriched with valuable insights and advice for a future-ready Singapore. As friends, and loving critics, you have generously provided counsel to Singapore and SIF, on strengths to leverage and weaknesses to address. And how we might collaborate on common concerns to drive change as responsible global citizens.

Some of you might wonder what this initiative has to do with the SIF. Well, our work is powered by friendships. We harness the power of networks, fostered between Singaporeans and world communities through our programmes, to open a world of possibilities to enrich lives and effect positive change.

Here’s how, together, we’ve made a difference.

  • It all started with an email from Lynna (Chandra) who, inspired by the loss of her friend Rachel to cancer and desiring to start the first paediatric hospice in Indonesia, looked to SIF for help in building palliative care capabilities. In 2009, a group of Singapore doctors and nurses worked with Yayasan Rumah Rachel (Rachel House) to develop palliative care for children living with terminal illness in Jakarta. Then, formal care in this field was relatively new in Indonesia, as with most of South-east Asia. Over three years, the Singapore volunteers and Indonesian medical professionals worked hard to develop a holistic programme that included pain management and, integrated emotional support of family and caregivers into the plan of care. Three years on (2012) the Rachel House homecare model was recognised by the Indonesia National Association of Nurses as the model to replicate for Indonesia; in 2013 their training model acknowledged and accredited. This has enabled palliative care knowledge to be spread widely among the medical community and help build new standards of paediatric palliative care in Jakarta. I’m pleased to share with you that this successful partnership with Rachel House spawned a new partnership with the Jakarta Cancer Foundation this year. Over the next three years, palliative care specialists from Singapore will work with 10 public hospitals in Jakarta to train more palliative doctors and over time aid efforts to transform the palliative care ecosystem in Indonesia.
  • From 1993 to 2004, SIF provided close to 500 scholarships to ASEAN students to study in Singapore. The SIF-ASEAN Fellowship sought to forge friendships among ASEAN youth through the shared experience of learning and living in Singapore. Fast forward, 12 years later, the Indonesian Fellows who have embraced the importance of education set up the Indonesia Bright Foundation (IBF) in 2006. Their aim: to help promising but financially disadvantaged Indonesian students fulfil their academic potential by sponsoring their education. To date, the IBF has supported 82 students from Jakarta, Semarang, Solo and Pati. Last year, SIF brought together the IBF and Indonesia Professionals’ Association (in Singapore) in a 3-way collaboration to bring IBF scholars on an overseas study visit. Four students are here this week. It’s the first time they’re travelling overseas and the study visit has been carefully curated to meet their interests and for a meaningful experience that will broaden their horizons and build useful networks. Next on the cards, we’re activating the network of Singapore businesses in Jakarta to consider funding and raising the pool of beneficiaries from the current 82 to 300 in various Indonesian cities.

So, this is what can happen when communities connect and collaborate for change. We can contribute to a better world when we form and mobilise networks towards a shared objective. My examples featured Indonesia but our network of international friends and Singaporeans also involves neighbouring Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, to China and India, and as far as the UK and the US.

Indeed, we are delighted that many of our ‘’collaborators’’ from afar have flown in today to join us at our biennial reunion. We call them SIF Representatives – they are alumni of SIF programmes or friends of Singapore who have stepped up to partner us in bridging communities for a better world. They are Kavita Choudhry from Delhi, Chris Davies from London, Matthew Herrmann from Washington DC, Mohd Souffi from Kuala Lumpur and Kanlaya Kampan from Bangkok. Iwan, our tireless representative from Jakarta, is unfortunately nursing a leg injury, and we wish him a speedy recovery.

Our Reps helped us greatly with our SG50 dialogues in their countries. I’d like to share with you some of the advice we have received from our international friends for a future-ready Singapore. First, be more creative and innovative, and focus on value-creating instead of just value-adding. The Singapore of tomorrow needs to become an innovative society to be future-ready to seize opportunities. And there is no better way to foster creativity and innovation than through our education system, to nurture a spirit of adventure, passion and risk-taking among our youth. Briton John Elkington, Chairman of Volans, urged us to be more playful, playfulness being a critical piece to innovation.

Second, reach out to the world more to engage other communities – within and beyond ASEAN – through cultural exchanges and collaborations in humanitarian projects as well as in social entrepreneurship. And together, we can address common challenges of sustainable urbanisation and development. Malaysian Grace Sai, Founder of The Hub Singapore, urged us to be more responsible to the region. Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil said, “We should forget about political boundaries, but [focus] more on humanity.” He wants to see more collaborations on education, poverty-elevation, and environmental projects. And we are responding to his call.

And lastly, we should ride the rise of networks and build on people-to-people ties to strengthen relationships between world communities. American Matt Herrmann, Chief of Staff of Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo, spoke of ways in which we better coordinate NGOs or leverage public-private partnerships - have NGOs like SIF and ones in the US partner and focus their energies to address challenging we face.

In a short while, we’ll share a video that lets you hear directly from some of our FOS. At this point, I’d like to express my heartfelt thanks to Minister Tan (also Co-chair of SG50 Economic and International Committee) for taking the time to converse with our FOS, this afternoon. His presence underscores the importance placed on international networks and the power of connections to effect good. I wish all a good discussion. May ideas inspire action.



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