Three elements – Young Sikh Association (Singapore) [YSA], the team members and their families – are crucial to the successful organisation of YSA’s community service expeditions to Punjab each year. Mr Hernaikh Singh, founding President of YSA, made this point at the sending-off ceremony for Project Khwaish XVII, YSA’s community service project to India, on 8 December 2017.

On 9 December 2017, 22 Singaporeans, including two leaders, from different social, racial and religious backgrounds left Singapore to spend three weeks in Ratokke, a village in Punjab’s Sangrur district.

Mr Singh stated that, just as YSA is the brainchild of several Sikh professionals who saw the need for young Sikhs to be plugged into the national and international landscapes, Project Khwaish was also collectively conceptualised by YSA’s Executive Committee, with the belief that it would provide young Singaporeans with a life-changing experience while making meaningful and selfless contributions to the less fortunate in the global society.

“YSA is the back-end of the project! Unknown to many people, including some of the participants, it carries out a significant number of functions behind the scenes. These include managing the publicity and recruitment; working with leader to select the project site; and raising the S$60,000-odd funding, among others”, Mr Singh said.

In addition to YSA, the team members are important to the success of the project. Mr Singh stated that, “The project will only be successful if the team members come together and pull in the same direction. Each and every member brings value to the project.” Similarly, the encouragement and support from the families help to ensure that the participants are able to confidently participate in the expedition.

In his opening address, YSA’s President, Mr Malminderjit Singh, emphasised the value of leadership, an important learning aspect of the project. He said, “The project will offer opportunities to you to hone your leadership skills. You must remember that community service is always about the cause; not the leader. Also, the leader must feel secured and confident about his ability, and his focus must be on empowering others rather than showcasing himself. An equally important trait is humility for only then can a leader learn from others.” He added that the project is just as much about discovering oneself as contributing to the community.

Comprising young working professionals and undergraduates, the expedition team will spruce up and repaint the government primary school in Ratokke. In addition, it will develop a library with some 3,000 books brought from Singapore, build toilets and install a water purifier system.

Beyond their efforts to revamp the school, the participants will also have an opportunity to experience Punjab’s socio-cultural richness as they interact with the villagers and visit the Golden Temple and the Wagah Border.

Altogether, more than 300 Singaporeans have participated in YSA’s Project Khwaish since it started in 2003.

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