Thank you for inviting me to speak with all of you today at the 89th birthday celebration of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba has said, “Hands that serve are holier than lips that pray.” In the course of fulfilling its objectives, SINDA is one of many hands that serve the community. We run a wide array of programmes with dedicated partners and volunteers to uplift the educational performance of Indian students, promote family harmony and better the lives of Singaporean Indians.
SINDA’s mission is to build a well-educated, resilient and confident community of Indians that contributes towards the progress of our multi-racial Singapore. My view is that resilience should be defined as the capacity to deal with and adapt to change and thus I am intensifying our focus on 4 key strategic thrusts:
MAXIMISING EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL STUDENTS
Education is the most important investment parents can make towards their children’s future.
Through our STEP and Project Teach tuition programmes and other modular workshops, SINDA is able to reach out to many underperforming students and their families of students to render them the support and assistance they need.
We are constantly reviewing and enhancing our tuition programmes, especially the STEP programme, to ensure that we continue to provide our students with optimal educational support and complement the Ministry of Education’s work. We want to ensure that no student falls through the cracks or is deprived of a good education due to financial constraints of the family. We also actively seek out and reach families of our students who need additional help, be it financial, emotional or the need for resources.
INSPIRING YOUTHS TOWARDS GREATER ACHIEVEMENTS
Beyond academics, I personally believe that our youths are highly capable and full of potential. We want to ensure that they realize their full potential. The SINDA Youth Club and Youth Division organise several activities and programmes to engage, motivate and groom our youths to ensure that they aspire higher and achieve greater things.
We intend to continue with our current youth engagement programmes. We will also introduce new and more innovative platforms for youths to contribute towards the nation and attain upward social mobility.
ENGAGING PARENTS TO PLAY AN ACTIVE ROLE IN THEIR CHILDREN’S LIVES
Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s words: “The first lesson of service has to be learned in the family circle itself” is very much aligned to SINDA’s key strategic thrust to engage parents to play an active role in their children’s lives.
A positive family and a nurturing home environment are the bedrock of a child’s success in life. As such, parents play a very crucial role in the development of a child and his/her performance in school. While SINDA’s tuition and educational programmes can provide the child with the necessary academic support, the family’s care and support goes a long way in ensuring the holistic well being of the child.
SINDA also houses our own Family Service Centre, which looks into the financial needs of individuals and families. Through this, we serve over 1,500 clients each year.
Let me share with you on clients we have helped:
Mdm Vanaja, a housewife, was unable to work due to medical reasons. She depended on her husband, who was also medically unfit, but forced to be the sole breadwinner. The family income was just over $1,000 and they had 3 school-going children to support. The family struggled to meet even basic needs, such as food, transport, shoes and stationery.
SINDA has been helping her cope with these costs. SINDA’s Back to School Festival also provided the children with supplies for school and bursaries. The children were also enrolled in SINDA’s STEP tuition centres, where they began to attain good grades. We helped them in whatever way they can, including fully sponsoring their tuition costs and examination fees.
Today the three children are doing their parents proud. The eldest daughter completed a degree in Chemistry from NUS, while their twin sons are serving national service. They will go on to pursue their degrees in NUS and NTU in the near future.
Our help is not limitied to financial assistance alone. Mdm Fatimah is a divorcee staying with her three teenage children in a HDB flat. She did not receive any maintenance from her ex-spouse, but still managed with family expenses. But what she really needed was emotional support as her divorce had broken her. She was filled with anguish and despair, and lacked the will to face her challenges. She then began to seek comfort through Project Athena, SINDA FSC’s single mothers’ programme. Our counsellors were always there to lend a listening ear and offer guidance through therapy and counselling. Slowly her self-esteem picked up and she regained the will to fend for her children and herself. Today, she runs a business on her own, her children are doing well in school, and the family brins with happiness.
These two families are amongst the thousands that have come through our doors for help. I am heartened that our support, assistance and care have allowed these families to lead normal lives and continue to face the world with pride.
FORGING A STRONGER RELATIONSHIP WITH COMMUNITY PARTNERS
Each and every one of us has a part to play in shaping a caring community. A concerned and caring community needs to work together to find new ways of helping the less fortunate. As such, community engagement is one of SINDA’s key thrusts and it will continue to be an area for enhancement.
We are constantly finding new and better ways to engage with the larger Indian community. Given our range of programmes and issues we address, one of SINDA’s continuing challenge is limited resources.
SINDA would like to do more – to reach more and help more. But we are a small organization with a large portfolio and an even larger community to serve. In order to fully accomplish our mission and realize our vision for the community, we need to forge successful partnerships with community leaders and community organizations.
With great partnerships in place, I believe that we can uplift the Indian community.
SERVICE BEFORE SELF
As Singapore’s future, your children play an important part in this. I urge you to recognize the importance of preparing them to be responsible citizens of the world.
You can be a role model for them through your demonstration of leadership and integrity within the communities you live and work. Seva or service to the community is the foundation to making a lifelong commitment to community engagement and social responsibility.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba said, “Service is the highest spiritual discipline. Prayer and meditation, or knowledge of scripture and Vedanta, cannot help you reach the goal as quickly as service can. Service has a double effect; it extinguishes the ego and gives bliss.”
Volunteering is the perfect vehicle to connect with your community. No man or woman is an island. Volunteering helps strengthen your ties to the community and broadens your own support network. It exposes you to neighbors and others with common interests.
Seva is all about caring and giving to the underprivileged. I hope that those of us who are more fortunate will reach out to share our resources with the needy, the vulnerable, and the disadvantaged. This is integral to the community’s satisfaction and happiness.
At SINDA, we work with countless individuals and organisations that offer their time, energy and expertise towards serving the community. They are our many hands that work towards bettering our future. One such example is Ravi Suppiah, a young adult who came from a very humble background. Finances were always very tight for his family, but they never forgot their duty as parents. They saved up enough to send their son to SINDA’s STEP tuition back in the 90’s. Through the programme and with the help of his dedicated tutors, Ravi began to excel in school. He then went on to graduate from NUS with a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Ravi never forgot the help he received at the time when he most needed it. As a successful working adult, he became a STEP tutor, and inspired countless students, just as his tutors inspired him. Now, he tutors polytechnic students for free on the weekends at SINDA, helping them understand advanced Mathematics concepts. He even responds to their homework questions at 3am!
It is heartening to see that SINDA’s small efforts have had a large impact on people like Ravi. We are further encouraged when such individuals then come back to partner us in giving back to our community.
I believe we can contribute towards being a kinder and more charitable society. To do this, we should not only be volunteering when we have the time; instead let us make the time and meaningfully contribute to better the lives of the needy among us. We must remember that the act of volunteering is in itself a reward and one can derive immense satisfaction from contributing to the cause of those in need.
As per Sri Sathya Sai Baba‘s directions, let us render dedicated selfless Seva to our fellow human beings. I hope you and your children will support SINDA in its journey forward and I invite you to join me in working towards a brighter future for each one in the community. Together, we will move forward.