“The community service project reminds us that each and every one of us has a role to play to promote goodwill in the world. There is a well-known saying that evil flourishes when good men do nothing. I am extremely delighted that a group of young Singaporeans will be embarking on a journey to bring more light to this world.”

With these words of encouragement from Mr Inderjit Singh, Member of Parliament for Ang Mo Kio GRC, 15 young Singaporeans embarked on a journey of selfless and charitable service on 10 December 2014 to aid underprivileged and needy school children in Punjab, India. They will return to Singapore on 29 December 2014.

Mr Inderjit was speaking at the send-off ceremony for participants of Project Khwaish XIV at the Central Sikh Temple on 8 December 2014. Project Khwaish or Project Hope is part of Young Sikh Association (Singapore)’s (YSA) community service projects which were started in 2003. The event was attended by about 80 guests, including the parents and family members of the participants, and community leaders.

Mr Inderjit also lauded the youths for sacrificing much of their holidays to help the under privileged in India. “Much has been said about how our young are seen as apathetic and myopic in their world view. Such community-based efforts, particularly initiated by our youths, reflect that our youths are far from that. My own experience in engaging our youths has convinced me that our youths are passionate and committed to what they do. They want to contribute. They want to be seen. They want to be heard”, he said.

Mr Malminderjit Singh, President of YSA, said, “Such projects also help to prepare the participants to be world-ready. As we often have said, Singaporeans need to go out and see the world and understand what’s happening around us. We cannot live in a cocoon and be able to contribute. Singapore is a small country. It is so important for us to interact and network with the world.”

The expedition has a very Singaporean flavour, with participants from all the racial and religious groups in Singapore – Sikhs, Chinese, Malay/Muslims and Indians. This is in line with YSA’s effort to be inclusive and to reach out to young Singaporeans from all walks and backgrounds.

Sixteen-year Kenny Tay, one of the youngest participants, stated that, “On the one hand, there is some trepidation and this will be my first trip to Punjab. I am not sure what to expect. However, on the other hand, I am looking forward to the experience. I am going with an open mind. I strongly believe that it will be a real eye-opener for me.”

Another participant, Muhammad Azhar Bin Haj Mohamed, 20 years old, added that, “It is a great opportunity for me to experience another country and culture while doing community service to help needy school children. I think it is important for young Singaporeans to gain exposure of the external world – it certainly helps to better shape our world view.”

Parvitar Singh, a 17-year old participant, shared the view that the multi-ethnic composition is important. “The project provides a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase the strong multi-cultural and multi-racial fabric that we have developed in Singapore. I am sure that, for many of the locals in Punjab, this will be the first interaction with a Singapore group. I am so proud of the cohesion amongst the participants of this project. It is indeed reflective of the larger Singapore society.”

The team will spend its time developing a library of more than 2,000 books in the school. At the same time, it will clean up, refurbish and paint the whole school. It will also purchase chairs and furniture for the classrooms in the school. The participants will also conduct teacher training workshops for the teachers and personal hygiene classes and interaction sessions with the children. They will also distribute toys and clothes to the children and needy in the local community. In addition, the team will spend time interacting with the local community.

The project is supported by the Youth Expedition Project at the National Youth Council, Lee Foundation, TriStar Electronics, Thakral Group, Modern Montessori International, Singapore Indian Development Association, and individual donors and well-wishers. Air India is the Official Airline for the project.

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