Fifteen young Singaporeans set off on a journey of selfless and charitable service in aid of underprivileged and needy children in Punjab, India, on 2 December 2005. They are part of Young Sikh Association (Singapore)’s community service project teams to Patiala (Project Khwaish V). The word Khwaish means hope or aspiration in Punjabi

For the next two weeks, the participants will be hard at work developing a library in the school for orphans in a village school-cum-orphanage. They will also catalogue the books and conduct briefing sessions to help the teacher manage the library. The participants collected more than 1,000 books over a two-month period from First Toa Payoh Secondary School and West Spring Secondary School, as well as from Singaporeans from all walks of life. They also collected more than 100kg of toys and clothes for the project.

In addition to developing the library, the participants will paint and draw murals in the classrooms, put up education posters, conduct workshops with the teachers and hold interaction sessions with the children. The team will also work with the host agency to distribute the toys and clothing to the orphans and needy in the local community.

Through the use of international service-learning principles, the Singaporean youths will learn more about Sikh culture and Punjab’s socio-economic development issues while serving the community, which will in turn bring them closer to understanding Singapore’s development issues. Also, while making a difference to a community, they will acquire personal and group skills such as confidence, teamwork and leadership. Through it all, they will discover in themselves their ability to contribute to society, making them active citizens, whether in Singapore or abroad.

The team leader, Sumita Kunalingam, a teacher, said: “Having been on a similar project last year, I am geared up for this trip. It is great to have a multiracial mix of participants. In addition to learning about Punjab and India, we will also be able share our own diverse cultures with the Sikhs. Also, in the service to others, I am sure we will gain personally, socially, emotionally from the expedition.”

Zheng Mingling, a 21-year student, said: “This is my first trip to India and I am excited by the prospect. I am looking forward to helping the less fortunate and, at the time, gaining a better understanding of the Sikh culture and way of life. I know that I will be immensely enriched by the whole experience.”

The project is supported by the Youth Expedition Project Alumni, National Youth Council, Lee Foundation, TriStar Electronics, and individual donors and well-wishers

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