Singapore Government Media Release
Media Division, Ministry of Information and The Arts,
140 Hill Street, #02-02 MITA Building, Singapore 179369
Tel: 837-9666


SPEECH BY ASSOC PROF HO PENG KEE, MINISTER OF STATE FOR LAW & HOME AFFAIRS AND MP FOR SEMBANWANG GRC AT THE LAUNCH OF CHARITY FIESTA 2000, 17 JULY 2000, 11.30AM

Good morning distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Today marks the launch of Charity Fiesta 2000, the eighth in the series. Charity Fiesta is NUSSU’s Volunteer Action Committee or NVAC’s annual major project. This year’s event is especially meaningful because it is also NVAC’s 10th anniversary. So let me first send warmest congratulations.

2 NVAC was formed in 1990 to raise awareness and participation of NUS undergraduates in community service. Its initial efforts targeted NUS undergraduates. Over time, you have reached out - to the public, as well as junior college and polytechnic students. Over the years, NVAC has grown from strength to strength. From its humble beginnings as a small committee formed by a group of enthusiastic students in NUSSU, NVAC expanded steadily. Subsequent years saw the extension of the direct service program to more homes, as well as increase in volunteer strength. In 1992, Charity Fiesta was conceived, inaugurating an excellent tradition of fundraising for worthy causes.

3 NVAC initially focussed its energies on providing direct services to welfare agencies under its wing. But I am pleased to note you have been more creative in your projects, mounting several challenging ad-hoc projects over the years. These range from volunteer drives, participation in Red Nose Day, food and clothes collections, sales of New Year cards for charity, Community Service Week and the Megawatt project to the latest and most trendy event, the organisation of a charity bash at Club Samsara.

4 A major challenge for Singapore in this new millennium is to get Singaporeans and residents living here to care for one another, to appreciate one another. There must be a strong sense of common destiny. Regardless of our social backgrounds, academic qualifications, status in life, size of bank accounts, we are part of a larger family. Because everyone is made differently, imbued with different talents and skills, everyone can contribute to making Singapore a better society. Those who are able, and have made it to the top of the academic ladder, must take the lead.

5 That is why I am especially pleased to grace this event. Your enthusiasm is obvious. But you must pass the spirit on to your classmates. Students in our tertiary institutions such as the Universities and Polytechnics must be the first to give back to society. An effective way to accomplish this is by signing up as a volunteer.

6 Everyone can be a volunteer. Just share yourselves with others. Whether it is your time, your skills, your insights, your hobbies, you can make a difference. The key point is to make a start. Once one begins on the journey, most will enjoy it and wish to continue. Sometimes, the avenue chosen may not be quite right. Then, it is a matter of getting it right. The choice is limitless.

7 Indeed, there are many avenues of voluntary work – aside from visiting old folks’ homes and flag-selling, volunteers can help in organizing charity and community events. Volunteers can also use their skills or training - whether these are legal, medical, nursing, teaching, accounting or speaking – for good causes. Hence, NVAC’s move to promote volunteerism as fun as well as a way of life, is a timely one, coming as it is on the heels of Prime Minister Goh’s launch of the National Volunteer Centre. The volunteer movement in Singapore has been injected with a new fuse of life with the launching of this new initiative. I urge all Community Development Councils and Voluntary Welfare Organisations to step up efforts to recruit more volunteers and get everyone involved.

8 Let me end by encouraging you to continue doing community service after you graduate. Indeed, with formal studies behind you, at least for the time being, you may wish to take your involvement in community service to a higher plane. This is what happened to a group of NUS Halls of Residence student leaders in the early 90’s. As hostelites in the late 80’s, they were involved in organising Camp Rainbow in the hostels. This was an annual camp for children stricken with leukemia. This fired up their passion. When they graduated, they formalised their involvement by forming WALK or Working in Aid of Leukemic Kids, the predecessor of today’s established Children’s Cancer Foundation. Over the past 10 years, this organisation, started by undergraduates upon graduation, have touched the lives of several hundred children stricken by cancer and their families. Another outstanding example is the True Hearts Connection, a mentoring group started by former students leaders, this time from the NTU. As undergraduates, they were actively involved in NTU’s mentoring outreaches to school children. They carried over their passion and enthusiasm into working life and indeed, extended their outreach.

9 My appeal to all undergraduates is two-fold. First, that they should channel their youthful idealism and energies into worthwhile projects that touch the lives of others, here in Singapore and overseas. And secondly, that the transition from studies to work should not be the death knell to active involvement in community service, sports, the arts or other meaningful pursuits in life.

10 I wish the NVAC many more good years.

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