Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Appreciation Night for Pioneer Generation Ambassadors on 27 July 2015.
Pioneer Generation Ambassadors, Pioneers, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Very happy to be here this evening at the Meadows at the Gardens by the Bay to have this Pioneer Generation (PG) Ambassadors Appreciation Night – for us to say thank you very much for all the good work you have been doing. We owe a lot to our Pioneers who worked tirelessly, selflessly, and purposefully to build Singapore to a home we are so proud of today. In February, I attended the Pioneer Generation Tribute and many other events over the past year to honour Pioneers in different fields. I have met many smiling, happy members of the pioneer generation. I think that it is good that this year SG50, we honour the Pioneers, show them our appreciation for all that they have done.
The Pioneer Generation Package has helped to assure, reassure, protect, and honour our Pioneers in their golden years. It is a good package, but however well designed the Package is, we must make the effort for pioneers to understand it so that they can take full advantage of it.
Tonight, we celebrate the dedication and work of a very special group of people – the Pioneer Generation Ambassadors, that means all of you. Give yourselves a big hand! You have a difficult job, first to master the content of the Package. There are lots of details to work out and policies to understand - MediShield Life, Medisave, outpatient treatment at hospitals and so on. You have to talk to the Pioneers and communicate with them simply and clearly, and explaining to Pioneers what they need to know, in terms which make sense to them and which they can relate to. You have been reaching out widely to pioneers. There are just 3,000 of you and you have been doing it for less than a year but you have already reached 120,000 people altogether.
Collectively, every day we are reaching 400 more. We are making good progress but our progress is not just about the numbers because to serve each and every Pioneer, it takes passion, patience and commitment. It also takes some time to learn how to interact with the Pioneers effectively, particularly if they are living in circumstances different from your own or speaking a different language or dialect.
You must not only “cheong” the last mile to bring Pioneer Generation Package to the Pioneers, but continue to run an extra mile to care of them. And draw them closer to the community – introduce them to fellow residents and involve them in community activities. Make sure their daily needs can be met – following up with government departments for social, financial or disability assistance. Even helping during emergencies or unforeseen circumstances – accompanying them to clinics when they are sick, returning to their homes to check on them and lending them a listening ear. It is a two way benefit. The Pioneers benefit from the Ambassadors; Ambassadors often also learn something from Pioneers. Because it is more blessed to give than to receive. Many Ambassadors got out of your comfort zones such as picking up a new language or overcoming your shy personalities to engage more Pioneers. One of your youngest Ambassadors, Nick Low, only 18 years old. Where is he? I think he is somewhere at the back, I can hear a cheer there. Having gone through this, he better appreciates our system for keeping healthcare affordable works. Pioneers shared with him, in the old days medicine was expensive and the elderly who could not afford proper treatment would suffer and pass on. Today, good medical services are affordable and readily available. Nick remembers one incident in particular because on a house visit, he learnt that a Pioneer was bleeding and needed medical care, he persuaded him and accompanied him to go to the hospital. Then he visited him at the hospital. The Pioneer strongly resisted at first, just like in the video when the Pioneer resisted the family encouraging her to go. But eventually he went, got treated, got better and was grateful. Such experiences also helped Nick to understand better our healthcare system, and the needs of his own family, his own grandparents.
You as PG Ambassadors doing this very difficult job, embody the Pioneer Spirit - kindness, respect and a sense of shared responsibility. Coming from different walks of life, some are students, housewives, working professionals, retirees and some are also already pioneers. But all united by one common purpose to reach out and serve the elderly.
We are launching a PG commemorative book tonight: “Their past: A Present for the Future”. It compiles 50 stories of our Pioneers, stories that were collected when our PG Ambassadors talked to the Pioneers and many are ordinary Singaporeans making extraordinary contributions. They remind us how far we have come and they are an important part of our history. Hope these stories will inspire the younger Singaporeans to build on the legacies of our Pioneers. To the pioneers featured in this book and to the PG Ambassadors who collected the stories, may I say thank you very much for bringing them to us.
In less than a fortnight’s time, we will be celebrating National Day. A very special SG50 National Day. So it is a good time for us to reflect on what kind of society we want to build. Our pioneers made sacrifices for one another and for the nation. We need this spirit to continue in this generation and in future generations. Through your service and selfless dedication, the PG Ambassadors embody these values and spirit that Pioneers had to make this a better home for all of us. You have shown that the spirit of volunteerism and service is very much alive among Singaporeans. You have done well and I hope more Singaporeans can be encouraged to join you to become Pioneer Generation Ambassadors and keep the Singapore Spirit alive
Keep up the good work and thank you very much.
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