Certificate Presentation Ceremony
for Project Khwaish XVI

9 February 2017

Recognition for community service in India

Mr Melvin Leong was delighted when his parents readily agreed to let him to travel on a community service trip to India and were even willing to pay for his travel. On the other hand, Mr Gurshant Singh had to convince his parents who had reservations about him going on the trip as he was taking his GCE ‘A’ Levels this year. At the end of the day, the boys were thankful that their parents allowed them to participate in Young Sikh Association (Singapore)’s community service project in Punjab from 9 to 28 December 2016 – it left a deep, positive and lasting impression on both of them.

Speaking at the certificate presentation ceremony held on 9 February 2017 to recognise the voluntary work of the participants of Project Khwaish XVI, Mr Leong stated, “I am glad that I had the opportunity to go to India. The project proved to be much more than just a new experience. I was happy that I was able to do something meaningful during the year-end holidays. Among others, the experience made me reflect on my life in Singapore. This was one stark observation of how what we perceive as difficulties in Singapore are considered blessings in Punjab. Having access to clean water to drink, bathe and cook is always on the minds and the daily reality of many in the community in Punjab. Yet, there were no signs that our hosts and village community were depressed, sad and had given up. In fact, they were very much alive, arguably more so than some of us in Singapore because not only did they count their blessings, but they were also hopeful and determined to improve their lot. With the little that they had, not only were they selfless, but they also dared to dream and have aspirations.”

Mr Gurshant, who also spoke at the event, aptly described the feeling of the participants when he said, “The project will remain a lasting memory for all the participants. The people we met – from the host to the teachers and the children in the school – never failed to make us feel love in every way possible. The warmth and hospitality we received from the people of Punjab won every one of our hearts. We went there with a one thing in mind – to give. However, in truth, we received so much more in return. We left the school, its students and teachers that became more like family, with truly heavy hearts, yet a feeling and sense of accomplishment.”

The three-week project witnessed the participants developing a full-fledged library in the school. The participants also refurbished and painted the school as well as oversaw the necessary electrical, plumbing and infrastructure repairs during the project. Equally importantly, the team donated a generator and a water purifier so that the school would have regular electricity and clean water supply for the children. Beyond the school, the participants distributed clothes and rations to the needy in the local community. At the same time, they had a socio-cultural experience of Punjab, spending time at the Golden Temple and the Wagah Border, as well as a day in New Delhi.

During the ceremony held at the Central Sikh Temple, the Guest-of-Honour, Mr Chee Hong Tat, Minister of State for Communications & Information, and Health, stated, “The expedition team was made up of participants from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. By working together, we build stronger bonds and a better understanding of one another’s cultures. These common experiences shape our shared identity and forge a stronger sense of what it means to be a Singaporean, and why we must stand united in defending our way of life as a multi-racial society in Southeast Asia.”

Mr Chee further stated, “Other societies may turn inward and focus on a ‘me first’ mentality, often pitting one group against another. Singapore must never allow such developments to affect the racial and religious harmony that we have worked so hard to achieve over the years. We must continue to adhere to our key principles of promoting equality; embracing diversity; and keeping our common spaces.” He lauded the Association for playing an important role in this regards, stating, “I commend the efforts by the YSA to enhance understanding between different ethnic groups through a variety of platforms, including community service. These are useful opportunities to strengthen the social fabric of our nation, and bring our young people together to co-create the future. We must continue to support more of such projects.”

Mr Satwant Singh, the leader of the project, said, “These YSA Khwaish projects are not just about community service; they are much more than that. The direct contact and living with the host community for three weeks allow the participants to become aware of their strengths and limitations, and find an important purpose in life. When they see the warmth of the people in Punjab who wear smiles on their faces despite their challenging circumstances, the participants go through an important introspection of their own lives and the comforts of Singapore. They become more accepting and less critical of what they have. These projects have a life-changing impact on the participants.” Mr Satwant has led 13 of the 16 projects since 2003.

The 16th project was supported by the Youth Expedition Project which is powered by Youth Corps Singapore, Lee Foundation, TriStar Electronics, Thakral Group, Mohar Shipping, the family of the Late Surjeet Singhj Bajaj, Singapore Indian Development Association, and individual donors and well-wishers. Jetspeed Travel was the Travel Partner for the project.

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