DPM Heng Swee Keat at the 90th Board Installation of the Rotary Club of Singapore

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 22 June 2024

Remarks by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat at the 90th Board Installation of the Rotary Club of Singapore on 22 June 2024.

Mr Tom Wolf, President, Rotary Club of Singapore
Ladies and gentlemen,

A very good evening to all. I am very pleased to join you today to witness the installation of the 90th Board of the Rotary Club of Singapore.

I congratulate Tom Wolf and his team for assuming office, and also express my appreciation for Dr Chan Siew Luen and the 89th Board for the good work they have done!

I look forward to the new Board building on, and taking forward, the Rotary Club’s legacy of impactful community service here in Singapore.

The Rotary Club of Singapore has been around since the 1930s. As an organisation, you have seen our country grow and evolve since even before our independence.

Back when you were first established, Singapore’s population was around 600,000. Today, we are close to 6 million.

It is not just that we have more people living in this island city-state today.

With Singapore’s growth and development, our society has also become more diverse and complex, with a wider range of needs to be met and aspirations to be supported.

Around the world, we are seeing how diversity can give rise to growing divisions – on the basis of race, religion, age, gender, and socio-economic inequalities.

These divisions erode trust and confidence, not only in institutions but also among different groups in society.

For all countries, and especially small countries like Singapore, this trust among our people, and between them and the government, is precious and fundamental to our continued cohesion, stability and success, especially in an increasingly uncertain and volatile world.

Singapore’s founding leaders knew this well. And successive generations of leaders have continued to uphold this as a key priority of good governance.

As we evolve as a country, and amid rapid and sweeping global transformations, preserving a strong social compact remains a paramount concern.

And that is why Prime Minister Lawrence Wong has put in place our Forward Singapore agenda.

This is a national movement to refresh our shared values and aspirations, better understand our roles and responsibilities towards one another, and strengthen the bonds that hold our society together.

Making Forward Singapore a success will take more than just the efforts of the Government. Partnerships are critical – between Government and people, as well as with and among community-based organisations like the Rotary Club.

Key to fostering these partnerships is a sense of civic-mindedness – of coming together with a common cause and finding ways to improve the lives of others.

The motto of the Rotary Club of Singapore – “Service Above Self” – is therefore a powerful one.

It resonates with what we have been doing, and continue to do, here in Singapore – to encourage people and groups to take action and create a caring, inclusive and united society.

It also resonates with societies around the world, to promote a sense of our common humanity so that we can tackle shared global challenges together. 

Through your different initiatives, the Rotary Club of Singapore has helped build civic networks that channel time, energy and resources towards good causes.

These include supporting vulnerable children and elderly, at-risk youth, and ex-offenders.

By partnering with government agencies, you have also amplified our collective efforts to uplift vulnerable segments of our society.

Since 2022, for example, Rotarians have worked with the Social Service Offices in Woodlands, Kreta Ayer, and Bukit Merah to defray educational expenses for more than 250 children and organise programmes like photography workshops to cultivate their interests and develop useful skills.

Rotarians, as we heard earlier, have also recently started volunteering as ComLink+ befrienders with Social Service Offices in Jalan Besar and Toa Payoh, supporting low-income families to meet their needs and aspirations.

Lower-income families face multiple, complex challenges everyday which make it harder for them to plan for the future.

Volunteer befrienders complement ComLink+ family coaches in journeying alongside lower-income families. Working together, they provide these families with encouragement and support as they work towards stability, self-reliance, and eventually social mobility.

As Rotarians and individuals of good standing in society, your efforts also carry a demonstrative effect.

By putting service above self, you lead by example to inspire others in society to do likewise and contribute to a better, more cohesive Singapore, today and in the future.

I was, as you heard earlier, a member of Interact Club during my schooling days. Joining us this evening are a number of former Interact Club members, many of whom benefit from the support of Rotarians.

By empowering and encouraging our young minds, you can help nurture the next generation of civic-minded community leaders to shape a better future for Singapore and our region.

So let me commend the Rotary Club of Singapore for your contributions over the years to helping others and strengthening our social fabric here in Singapore.

In the same vein, let me encourage you to do more going forward, on your own as well as in partnership with the Government and others, as we work to uplift even more groups in society in Singapore, in the region, and around the world.

One such example, as I mentioned earlier, is lower-income families.

You could partner us to support lower-income families by providing programmes and services relevant to ComLink+ families, including financial literacy programmes, enrichment activities, sports, and others.

For those of you who wish to go beyond this, you can also offer internship or job opportunities to ComLink+ families.

I encourage you to reach out to the Ministry of Social and Family Development, or your local Social Service Offices, to learn more about how you can partner them.

Another group that we are focusing on is our youth.

Today’s youth have many more opportunities to explore, and avenues to pursue, than those of previous generations.

But at the same time, there are also more stressors on them than in the past, including from social media and peers.

To enable our youth to realise their full potential, we must build up their emotional resilience and mental well-being.

Mental well-being is a national priority, and we want to create a society where no one struggles alone.

Last October, the Government launched a National Mental Health and Well-being Strategy, outlining how we can build an effective mental health ecosystem and a supportive community.

By working with partners, we can go upstream to build resilience, including among our youths.

Family, peers, and other caring adults are important sources of support to youths in times of distress.

If youth have mental health needs, they can seek help from those around them early, without stigma, and be readily supported for their recovery.

And at the same time, we must build up our youths’ mental and emotional resilience.

I therefore encourage Rotarians to support our national efforts on mental well-being, such as the SG Mental Well-Being Network.

You can be a peer supporter in your school or company, to befriend those around you, and to help look out for them.

Or be a mentor to younger youths, and share your experiences, so that they can better tackle challenges that they face.

As we seek to shape a better future for all segments of society, we are also working to build a caring and inclusive Singapore where persons with disabilities can pursue their aspirations, achieve their potential, and participate in society.

For all of this, we need a whole-of-society effort to ensure persons with disabilities not just work, live, and play alongside everyone, but are truly included and valued in society.

Rotarians can contribute by organising events and activities that are inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities, so that persons with disabilities and the community can participate in activities together.

You are welcome to explore volunteering opportunities with SG Cares and SG Enable.

I invite President Wolf and the 90th Board to consider some of the areas I have just mentioned, as you chart out your plans for the Rotary Club for the next year.

Let me conclude. Keeping a society cohesive, and uplifting those who need support, is a constant work-in-progress, here in Singapore and around the world. It is an issue that is not just about Singapore but also about the world.

Organisations like the Rotary Club of Singapore, and all the Rotary Clubs around the region, with your dynamic energy, ideas and resources, are well-positioned to move nimbly and create innovative structures that have real-world impact.

And with your global network, you can learn from the experiences of your counterparts, in the region and beyond, on how to better serve and uplift communities at scale.

As Siew Luen earlier mentioned, just last month, Singapore welcomed thousands of Rotarians from around the world for the annual Rotary International Convention.

I understand that there was a very good exchange of ideas and perspectives on how to empower and enable communities to tackle shared future challenges, and forge more cohesive societies.

For many years, the efforts of the Rotary Club of Singapore and other community-based organisations have complemented those of the Government in strengthening our social compact here in Singapore.

I encourage you to continue coming together, among yourselves and with other partners, to keep up and expand your good work.

Let me congratulate the 90th Board once again on your installation, and I wish the Rotary Club of Singapore much success in the years ahead.

Thank you very much.