Federation reaches out to smaller Chinese clans

Federation reaches out to smaller Chinese clans
About 260 clan leaders gathered at the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA) headquarters for its annual general meeting (AGM) on 3 October 2010. The umbrella group for Chinese clans underwent a change of leadership this year for the first time in nearly 25 years.

Chinese clan association Pak Seng Hong - set up by construction workers, carpenters and renovation contractors from China's Guangdong province 157 years ago - has just 60 members now and the numbers are dwindling.

That is also the story over at Hoi Chow Wui Koon, another Cantonese group, formed in 1937 to care for those who came from Haizhou village in Guangzhou to work in Singapore. Many were majie, the "black and white" amahs who came to work as maids in colonial days and wore the distinctive uniform of white blouse with loose black pants.

Neither group is part of the 30-year-old Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA), the umbrella body for 210 clan associations.

There are more than 300 clans in Singapore, and most of those not in the federation are small, with fewer than 100 members.

Now, the federation wants them within its fold, and has begun meeting the groups to explain the benefits of joining.

Membership affairs committee chairman Chua Seng Chong, 71, told The Sunday Times that the federation held its first recruitment talk last month with Kwangtung Hui Kuan, the main body for clans from Guangdong.

Leaders from 21 Cantonese groups attended, including those from Pak Seng Hong and Hoi Chow Wui Koon.

"Eighteen of them have yet to join us, and they sounded positive after hearing about the benefits of becoming a member," said Mr Chua.

He is planning meetings with Hainanese, Hakka and Teochew groups next, and hopes to bring at least 50 more clans into the federation.

The federation started with just 70 members in 1985, after having been initiated by seven major clan groups.

"We want more members because, after years of recruitment, at least 100 of the estimated 300-plus clan associations are still not with us, and I am often asked at our annual general meetings why they have not been recruited yet," he explained.

He said the federation will waive the annual membership fee of $200 for three years, as an incentive for smaller clans with fewer than 100 members.

Executive director Mark Mah, 57, said members can apply for grants to fund activities and scholarships for their children, and attend regular talks on governance, and activities during Chinese festivals and other events.

"They also get to rent facilities at the federation's premises such as our auditorium, meeting rooms and classrooms at special rates," he added.

The president of the 167-year-old Chan Si Wui Kun clan, Mr Chan Teh Kok, 76, said: "We didn't join the federation before because we found it unnecessary. But after attending last month's talk, I am so impressed by the work it does and its activities that we want to join now."

This article was first published on June 14, 2015.
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