Speech by: Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Ag Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports at the Indian Community Bursary Awards Ceremony 2005

Indian Community Bursary Awards Ceremony 2005
Speech by: Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Ag Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports

DATE OF ISSUE: 08/01/2005

and Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry


Partners of the Indian Community Bursary Awards

SINDA Trustees

Parents and Students

Distinguished Guests

Good afternoon

It is the start of a new year. As we count our blessings and look forward to a fruitful 2005, we cannot ignore horrendous tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean just two weeks ago.

Singaporeans responded swiftly and we are witnessing an unprecedented outpouring of donations and relief assistance through agencies like the Red Cross Society, voluntary organisations and religious institutions. The Indian community is no exception. MediaCorp Oli 96.8 FM and MediaCorp Vasantham Central supported by Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association (LISHA), Indian Restaurant Association of Singapore, People's Association Indian Activity Executive Committees (PAIAECs), Hindu Endowment Board (HEB) and Ravindran Drama Group have raised $426,000 through a special donation tent set up at Serangoon Road from 30th December 2004 to 2nd January 2005. Hindu Endowment Board with support from NUS students has also collected $9,000 through a garage sale. Collection boxes are now being placed in 24 Hindu temples around Singapore and in about 200 shops and restaurants with the assistance of LISHA and the Indian Restaurants Association of Singapore. The funds raised will be channelled to the Singapore Red Cross Society.

Singaporeans from all walks of life want to do something for the victims of the tsunami tragedy. Besides donating cash, many Singaporeans have also come forward to help sort and pack donations given in kind ? blankets, canned food, milk powder and so on. Tamil- and Singhalese-speaking volunteers have likewise stepped forward as translators to help the immigrant workers in Singapore whose families back home have been so grievously affected by the tragedy. It is heartwarming to see the spirit of volunteerism very much alive in Singapore, and Singaporeans rising collectively to the occasion as a nation.

Indian Community Bursary Awards

Today's event is another good example of a collective effort among people sector organisations. The Indian Community Bursary Awards is an affirmation of the importance our community places on education. It emphasises the community's commitment that no child will be denied a good education because of financial constraints.

The bursary award was initiated in 2002 by SINDA, the Singapore Indian Education Trust (SIET) and the Tamil Representative Council (TRC). Within three years, this collective partnership has expanded to 10 organisations. The pooling of resources by Indian organisations is both practical and beneficial to the community. It optimises resources, allows each organisation to leverage on the strengths of one another, and brings more benefits to those who need the extra help. Over the last three years, the Indian Community Organisations have given out $1.8 million of bursaries to more than 5,000 students from Kindergarten to Tertiary Levels.

You are united in cause today in helping children from low-income families meet their school expenses such as school fees, transportation costs and pocket money. On behalf of the community, I thank all 10 organisations for your contributions to improving the academic opportunities of needy students in the community. You have provided hope for their future.

Volunteers and community support - Project Life Volunteers

The bursary award programme is just one avenue to reach out to low-income families and offer them assistance. I read with interest a report in Today newspaper (17 Sep 04), on how SINDA's Project Life volunteer Mr Parathy Thillaikannu had advised a family on the benefits of Baby Bonus. Mr Parathy had advised the couple to deposit the the Government's $500 cash grant for the second child with the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, and SINDA added $500 to the account, which the Government matched to make it a total of $2000. The family was encouraged by SINDA to invest the money in child care or kindergarten.

Project Life volunteers like Mr Parathy are trained family mentors. They provide advice and assist families on matters ranging from new policies like the enhanced Baby Bonus, to creating a conducive home environment for children to do well academically. I understand that Project Life is a relatively new programme and SINDA are looking to recruit more volunteers as family mentors to render holistic assistance to families.

Financial help for education, in various forms, is available from SINDA, the Community, CDCs, schools and the Government. But parents too need to play an important role in providing a supportive and nurturing home environment to guide and motivate their children.

Today, about $570,000 in bursaries will be awarded to some 1,500 students from preschool to tertiary levels. To the students receiving these bursaries, I wish you every success. Focus on your studies, develop your individual talents and potential to the fullest, and remember that each one of you can play your part in giving back to the community one day, even as you receive from it today. The many community organisations, volunteers and your families' hopes rest upon you. We wish you all every success for the future.

Thank you.