The leader of the project, Mr Satwant Singh, had often times told the 20 participants in the lead up to the expedition that they were not going to Punjab to be “champions” and to change the world, but if they could make a difference to the life of just one person, they would have achieved something in life.

To Mr Muhammad Hameem Bin Sheik Alaudin, a participant in Project Khwaish XV, these words took a whole new meaning at the end of the project. Organised by YSA, the community service project took place in December last year. There have been 15 such projects since 2003.

Speaking at the certificate presentation ceremony held on 29 March 2016 to recognise the voluntary work of the 21 participants, Mr Hameem stated, “I am not sure how much of a difference I made to the children at the village school though I hope the work we did will go a long way in benefitting them. However, I can say with certainty that the project has made a difference to one life – and that is mine!”

The three-week project saw the participants developing a library of 3,000 books from Singapore as well as sprucing up and re-painting the whole school. They helped level the ground so that it would not flood and prevent the students for attending classes and they bought fans and lights to make the classrooms conducive for the students. They also bought a water filtration system and water cooler, for the school. At the same time, they distributed 100 boxes of clothing and blankets to needy members of the community.

During the ceremony held at the Central Sikh Temple, the Guest-of-Honour, Dr Janil Puthucheary, Minister of State for Education and Communications & Information, shared, “While making a difference to a community, the participants have acquired or honed personal and group skills such as confidence, teamwork and leadership. Through it all, I hope they have discovered, in themselves, the ability to contribute to society, making them active citizens, whether in Singapore or abroad.”

In complimenting the Sikh community on its significant contributions to Singapore, Dr Puthucheary added, “In this context, the efforts by YSA to enhance understanding between different ethnic groups through a variety of platforms, including community service, are highly commendable. With this series of projects, you have done the Sikh community a great service by increasing the visibility and understanding of your own culture among others in Singapore.”

Dr Puthucheary was also impressed with the multicultural composition of the expedition, “The kind of exposure that this team had, living, working and eating side by side, helps Singaporeans get to know one another’s culture better and to break down barriers. It is this kind of deeper understanding that will allow our society to withstand any stresses caused by racial and religious differences and further strengthen the social landscape.” He added that this was important in ensuring cultural and racial integration in a year that has seen an increase in “angry rhetoric” around the world where racial backgrounds have been used to forward political agendas and to discriminate.

Ms Japnam Kaur, who also spoke at the event, aptly described the feeling of the participants, “The people we met – from the host to the teachers and the children in the school – never failed to make us feel appreciated 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 project was supported by the Youth Expedition Project at the National Youth Council, the Lee Foundation, TriStar Electronics, Thakral Group, Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA), SINDA Youth Club, and individual donors and well-wishers. Jetspeed Travel was the official travel partner for the project.

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