Your Say: Going overseas doesn't mean not helping here

Your Say: Going overseas doesn't mean not helping here

SINGAPORE - I appreciate Mr Melvin Singh for his interest in my speech delivered in Parliament on May 29 and for his article, "Gratitude begins at home" (The New Paper, May 31).

In my speech (available at, I first mentioned that Singapore has been ranked favourably by many international agencies.

For example, The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Singapore sixth in the where-to-be-born index scoring eight on a 10-point scale.

We were also ranked third in terms of City of Opportunity by PricewaterhouseCoopers after London and New York.

These favourable rankings do not mean that Singapore has already arrived and we should be contented. Singapore cannot be perfect when we score only eight out of the possible 10 points on the where-to-be-born index. We need to improve continuously. I have spoken fervently on many areas that need improvement in the past and I will continue to do so.

Nevertheless, no city is perfect. Even London, which led by a clear margin to clinch the top City of Opportunity, does not have perfect scores. At some point, we need to take stock of and cherish what we already have, and not lament about what we cannot have. It is in this context that I mentioned that many young students may not appreciate what we have achieved and gave a couple of examples in my speech. So I suggested sending more students to our neighbouring countries to do community work.

As our students are well read and always connected to the Internet, they certainly know many of our neighbouring countries have not progressed as much as Singapore. However, knowing is one thing and visiting the neighbouring countries to experience the cultures and issues concerning these countries could be quite different.

I agree with Mr Singh that our students need to be exposed to needy families in Singapore. In Jurong Central alone, as many as 200 students help us to distribute food hampers to 750 needy households before Chinese New Year every year. Many students also assist in our Project Hand-in-Hand, providing more than 400 rental flat residents with up to $240 worth of food and basic household items per family per month.

In addition, Loving Heart Multi-Service Centre (Jurong), where I am one of the advisers, has engaged close to 300 students between 2011 and 2013 to assist in various projects as mentioned by Mr Singh. They include mentoring and providing tuition for at-risk students, helping needy families clean and paint their flats and so on.

Many other grassroots and volunteer welfare organisations are also engaging students for similar activities as part of their Community Involvement Programme (CIP).

Sending students overseas for community work allows them to go through a unique experience that benefits them in a different way, as reported in The Straits Times ('Lucky' to be born here and keen to give back, May 31).

Having CIP locally and overseas need not be mutually exclusive. Of the 100,000 students who go on overseas trips organised by various schools yearly, some do so on trips related to CIP.

What I am advocating is to send more.

While many agree with the benefits of doing CIP overseas, there are also some who disagree. What is important is to find ways to reduce the sense of entitlement among the students.

Certainly, I agree with Mr Singh that one of the ways is to help our residents to "understand how things here work". If my speech in Parliament could spur more ideas to reduce the sense of entitlement among us, I would have achieved the objective.

The "wind of humility" and the "wind of gratitude" work hand-in-hand.

From Ang Wei Neng, MP for Jurong GRC

This article was first published on June 3, 2014.
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