Speech by DPM and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat at Sree Narayana Mission (Singapore) Chathayam Celebrations on 15 September 2019.
Mr Jayadev Unnithan, President Sree Narayana Mission (Singapore);
Members of Sree Narayana Mission Executive Committee and Trustees;
HE Mr Jawed Ashraf, High Commissioner of India;
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my pleasure to be with you today, to celebrate Sree Narayana Guru’s 165th Birthday, and to be a part of your Chathayam celebrations. Thank you for welcoming me so warmly, and thank you for the lovely dance performance by the residents, staff and volunteers.
The story of the Sree Narayana Mission is an important reflection of how our forefathers came together to build Singapore – how the different communities forged a common identity, and adopted the same spirit of giving back and reaching out to one another.
The Mission has a long and rich history. It was founded by a group of Malayalees in 1948, at a time when Singapore was picking up the pieces after the Second World War. By the 1960s, the Mission had put in place a host of welfare initiatives, such as meals-on-wheels programmes, tuition classes and bursaries for less-privileged students.
Over the years, the Mission has grown and continued to care for those in need. As the needs of Singapore society evolved, so too did the Mission. It has kept pace and shaped its programmes to suit the needs of our society.
Today, the Sree Narayana Mission’s facilities include: This nursing home, which provides long-term residential care; Two senior care centres, one here and another in Woodlands; and a Welfare Home, Meranti Home @ Pelangi Village, that provides reception, care and rehabilitation to destitute persons.
Earlier today, I had the chance to tour the facilities here. I am impressed by what I saw. This nursing home houses a 24/7 Dementia-Friendly Go-To Point, which serves as a resource centre for the general public, persons with dementia, and caregivers. Today we also opened a new rehabilitation room with state-of-the-art equipment. I had the opportunity to speak to several of the residents who were using the facilities there, and one common story that they told me, was that although they have been on these machines for just a few months, and for some - a few weeks, they have seen an improvement in their strengths. They were able to walk better and they felt happier. With Singaporeans living longer and an ageing population, such initiatives are a crucial source of support for the community.
Creating a Caring and Cohesive Society
The Sree Narayana Mission embodies values that are important in making our society more caring and cohesive. Values that mirror what Singapore holds dear, such as a spirit of community that embraces multiracialism, and a spirit of partnership which takes a many helping hands approach to serving those in need.
First, is the spirit of community. Multiculturalism is enshrined in your mission, “to serve with care and compassion, regardless of race, religion and language”. From its very beginning, Sree Narayana Mission has served Singaporeans of all races and religions. Its facilities remain open to all. Its bursaries have benefited not just Indian students, but also those from the Chinese and Malay communities.
I am heartened that the Sree Narayana Mission continues to uphold multiracialism, and continues to reach out to communities of all races and religions. One very important cheerful fact is that you serve people of all races and religions. I also see many volunteers and donors from all races and religions here today.
The second key value that the Sree Narayana Mission embodies is the spirit of partnership. The Mission does not work alone. It believes in collaborating with others, government agencies, companies and other community groups, to achieve better outcomes for your beneficiaries. The Mission has been a steadfast partner of the National Council of Social Service since the 1960s, and has been appointed a Social Service Agency by the Ministry of Social and Family Development to run Meranti Home @ Pelangi Village. The Mission has also undertaken several collaborative projects with other groups, including: “Heartwarmers 100=50”, a collaboration with grocery retailer Sheng Siong and volunteer group Heartwarmers to provide subsidised groceries to the less privileged; and “Share-A-Pot”, a collaboration with Khoo Teck Puat Hospital aiming to improve nutrition and fitness among senior citizens.
Earlier on, Mr Jayadev also outlined some of these, together with many other collaborations with many volunteer groups. Sree Narayana has set a very good example. I hope that more Singaporeans can also adopt this spirit of partnership, and work more closely with one another, be it through the community or with the government, to pursue common goals. Because by working together, we can pool our knowledge, resources and skills together to create more robust and comprehensive solutions. And by working together, we build a project, a community, a home, a nation, and a future that we can call our own.
Building Our Future Singapore Together
The Sree Narayana celebrations coincide with our commemoration of the Singapore Bicentennial. It is timely that we take this opportunity to look back at what our forefathers have achieved, and also look ahead at what else we need to do to build our future Singapore.
Looking back, we see that many who had come before us had contributed selflessly to the community. It was through their acts of generosity, many of which transcended racial and religious lines, that a Singapore identity emerged. The Sree Narayana Mission is part of this story. This is a community that believes in the virtues of giving back and making a difference. The Sree Narayana Mission also holds a significant place in our modern history – it is at your Chathayam celebrations in 1965 that our founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew told Singaporeans to “never fear”, and we would transform Singapore from mudflats to a metropolis. More than half a century later, Sree Narayana Mission not only stood the test of time, but also stood witness to the dramatic development of Singapore. We were surrounded by mudflats then. Today, we stand alongside skyscrapers and modern public housing.
The Government did not achieve this alone. It was only possible through the grit and resilience of Singaporeans, and the steadfast commitment of partners like Sree Narayana Mission, who came together to build our home. We are not done building Singapore. We will never be.
The Government is committed to working not only for you, but also with you, to build our shared future. Therefore, I hope that more Singaporeans will embody the spirit of community and partnership of Sree Narayana Mission. Come forward with your ideas and views; Have an open heart and an open mind; Work together to put our ideas into action.
Together, we can build a better community and a better Singapore for ourselves and for future generations. Thank you.
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