Giving back

Giving back

Their children, they sink their roots here. Caregivers and homemakers like her seek fulfilling ways to give back to their adopted land. Says Ms Ramya Nageswaran, 43, writer, counsellor, social entrepreneur and mother of two: "A lot of us have made Singapore a very comfortable home for ourselves. It only seems logical that we understand the culture and people more, by engaging with the local community."

A decade ago, Ms Nageswaran set up Focus India Forum, an informal giving circle. The forum now works for local causes with organisations like Project Dignity Kitchen, Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) and the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME). But for a few years after its inception, as its name suggests, the forum directed its attention solely to causes in India.

Ms Nageswaran, a new citizen, explains: "It was a small group, with less money. Initially, we started giving back in India. We then decided to give back locally, whenever a suitable occasion arose, for example, during Diwali."

This is a prioritisation process many expatriate Indian women in Singapore deal with. Given their limited time and resources - and their homeland's pressing issues - how do they balance their involvement in the two countries?

One approach, suggests Ms Gupta, is to offer time and skills here, while contributing in kind to Indian efforts.

Besides her sessions at the Wesley Seniors Activity Centre, Ms Gupta also volunteers as a board member at the Women's Initiative for Ageing Successfully (WINGS). As a past chairperson of CARE, the community service chapter of the Indian Women's Association (IWA), she oversaw efforts with TWC2, which included fund raising, pain management talks and computer classes for migrant workers. Clearly, Ms Gupta has found her volunteering niche in Singapore. But it has not been a straightforward journey.

Recalls Ms Gupta: "During an earlier stint in Singapore in the '90s, I was an expat with young kids. There was little mental or physical energy to devote to volunteering activities in the local community. So, volunteering was limited to my children's school and their activities."

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