A group of 14 young Singaporeans spent three weeks of their December vacations building a library out of an old rundown room for use by needy children in a village school in Punjab, India. The volunteers, made up of multi-racial Singaporeans, were part of a community service expedition organised by Young Sikh Association (Singapore). Participating in the 13th edition of the project, the participants also cleaned and painted the whole school building and its compound, and built a walkway in the school. They also set up the hardware and software for the library and distributed toys and clothes to the needy in the local community.

Singapore’s Minister of State for National Development, Mr Desmond Lee, presented certificates of participation to the 14 participants at a ceremony at Singapore Management University on 19 February 2014. The event was attended by more than 60 people, including family members and friends of the participants.

In his address, Mr Lee applauded the team for completing the project ahead of schedule and for fulfilling their role as community service ambassadors for Singapore. He congratulated the team for flying the Singapore flag high by completing this project. He added that, “These expeditions play an important role in providing our youth with ample opportunities to having a holistic experience. Such platforms will allow you to develop soft skills such as compassion and leadership while building your resilience and organisational ability. There are few such opportunities which present you with a memorable experience as well as an invaluable lesson not learnt in classrooms and lecture theatres. By embarking upon the project, you have made full use of one such opportunity. I am certain you will find that the memories and take-away from this project will stay with you for a long time to come.”

The expedition showed the drive, determination and dedication of these young Singaporeans to venture out of their comfort zones and spend three weeks in a less-than-developed village. They had basic living conditions, ate simple meals with the villagers, worked in harsh and cold conditions, and travelled in less than comfortable transportation. The young Singaporeans showed the qualities that are essential in doing well and succeeding in life, regardless of the challenges.

The expedition was also an excellent opportunity to propagate a selfless voluntary spirit and service learning among young Singaporeans, while encouraging them to develop an international outlook as global citizens. Through the use of international service-learning principles, the Singaporean youth learnt more about India’s socio-economic development issues while serving the community. By developing and implementing an international project, the young team developed important life and professional skills including leadership.

The diverse make-up of the project team added to its strength in diversity, as it comprised participants from various racial and religious groups, including Sikhs, Indians, Chinese and Malay/Muslims.

One of the participants, Mr Santhiran S/O Ezhavarasan, who spoke at the presentation ceremony, shared that, “The expedition showed that relationships go beyond race, religion, language and ethnicity. My fellow participants were all from different walks and backgrounds but they treated me as one. This was an important lesson that I learnt on the expedition. The physical work was important but more important was the bonds that we formed amongst ourselves and with the people at the school and village. The expedition really did transform me personally! It was real eye opener for me. I am really glad to be part of the project.”

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