I am delighted to join you this evening for the certificate presentation ceremony for the participants of Project Khwaish 14, the latest in the Khwaish series of annual community service expeditions, organised by the Young Sikh Association (Singapore).

I understand that 15 young Singaporeans spent the better part of your December holidays last year in Mehma village in Punjab, in service of the local community.

During the expedition, your team converted two bare rooms into libraries for the village primary and secondary school, installed bookshelves, and shelved and catalogued the 2,000 books you had spent months collecting while in Singapore. You also put in place key processes like a library card system for students to borrow books and trained the teachers on the system.

Along with village craftsmen, you worked on the school compound. I was told you cleaned, refurbished and painted the compound, and with the help of local contractors, evened out the assembly ground. Further, with help, you built a walkway for rainy seasons by laying tiles on the ground so that the students and teachers would not have to worry about muddied shoes. The team also helped to lay underground pipes so as to prevent flooding and clogging of the sewage and water borne diseases. You also helped install two new gates, a signboard, fans and lights in the school.

Beyond looking after the physical needs of the school, you spent time bonding with the children and the local community, and distributed clothes to the needy. You were ambassadors of goodwill for Singapore.

And I am confident that even as you served others, you would also have benefited from the experience. You would have learnt about the different challenges faced by other communities, experienced living in an unfamiliar environment, and developed empathy, confidence, teamwork and leadership.

I note also that the team comprised a multicultural Singaporean team with seven Sikhs, six Indians, a Chinese and a Malay/Muslim. In addition, the team comprised students from different institutions. There is a National Serviceman, as well as working adults, and our youngest participant is 16 years old! I commend the efforts by YSA to enhance understanding and teamwork between groups of young people drawn from diverse backgrounds.

Conclusion

As you all know, this year marks a milestone for Singapore and Singaporeans. Our country turns 50! It is time for reflection on our journey as one people. And it is fitting that YSA will publish a book on the contributions of Sikhs in Singapore’s nation-building over the last 50 years, supported by MCCY and the SG50 Celebration Fund. This book will give the community and the nation an opportunity to recognise the contributions of an important group in our community. And I personally am looking forward to reading the book.

Once again, congratulations to the participants, your families and YSA on a successful trip, and I wish you all the best in your future endeavours.

Thank you.