Aside from being one of the most popular tourist destinations in South-East Asia, Singapore has made many headlines over the last few decades for its unprecedented development. While tourists from all over the world continue to frequent Sentosa or Merlion Park everyday, a little sidestepped from the limelight, a non-profit organisation is working towards a better world for all. Founded in 1991, the Singapore International Foundation has committed itself to establishing a close, cooperative relationships between Singaporeans and the world communities. The SIF’s impressive list of programmes to enrich and transform lives around the world. The numbers bear evidence. So far, the organisation has positively impacted nearly 15 million lives globally. “In short, we Connect communities to Collaborate and effect Change,” reveals team SIF.
“Making Friends for a Better World”
The latest statistics shared by the foundation give a fair idea about the mammoth extent of their impact. Over 4,000 volunteers from Singapore have volunteered overseas with local communities, actively effecting sustainable development in 17 countries. To foster international cultural exchange, the SIF has supported more than 300 artists from Singapore to collaborate with their counterparts in more than 60 nations. Perhaps one of the most notable successes by the non-profit has been its signature Young Social Entrepreneurs programme which has catalysed ideas from over 900 social entrepreneurs of 29 nationalities into functional businesses. “The SIF, together with our teams of direct service (generalists) and specialist Singapore International Volunteers, collaborate with our overseas counterparts to share expertise and effect change, while fostering greater intercultural understanding,” shares a representative from the SIF team.
Education, Healthcare & Environment
The Singapore International Foundation has accomplished remarkable success in the areas of education, healthcare and environment. These sectors reign as the top three among their five focus areas, followed by Arts & Culture and Business & Livelihood. The SIF’s work and impact has been aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals 2030.
Several healthcare projects carried out by the SIF have addressed key healthcare issues in several countries around the world, including India. Reducing maternal and child mortality, increasing life expectancy as well as ensuring a dignified death to all feature as their prime agendas. Enhancing Maternal and Child Health Services (EMCH) Programme is one such example. Implemented in India in 2015 in Tamil Nadu,the collaborative effort between Singapore and Tamil Nadu has benefitted over 1,00,000 mothers and babies in three years. A similar programme is currently ongoing in Karnataka.
Education to all – a noble goal indeed. But only a handful of governments or public initiatives have achieved it to a sizeable percentage. SIF is a pioneer among them. Their signature Words on Wheels mobile library programme has provided tens of thousands of youngsters with easy access to learning and IT training in remote, developing areas of Asia. In Indonesia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, SIF volunteers have spread the joy of learning to more than 40,000 children from less privileged communities, training them in reading, basic English and computer skills.
In our rapidly altering planet plagued by climate change, the SIF views the issue of environment with extreme seriousness. They started working on their sustainability goals at the root levels, by providing safe drinking water and basic sanitation to deprived communities. Since 2010, the Water for Life programme has benefitted more than 1,12,000 people in Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar through installation of water filters and spreading awareness about environment and basic hygiene.
Arts For Good
Launched in 2016, the Arts For Good initiative seeks to connect Singaporeans with the world, while creating socio-environmental awareness through cultural gateways. The SIF’s annual Arts For Good fellowship anchors this initiative by to recognising and connecting artistes from varied genres who are making notable social impact through their respective fortes. The latest cohort of the Fellowship which comprised 32 fellows from 10 countries kickstarted in November 2018 in Singapore, and will find its way to Chennai in February 2019 where these artistes will learn more about the growing arts for good scene in Chennai.
“The SIF has contributed by supporting Singaporean artists and arts groups in presenting a slice of Singapore culture overseas, while partnering the international community to bring their culture to Singapore,” shares the SIF team.
The impact of the arts for good movement has also manifested itself in projects such as the ‘Empowering Communities through Arts Education’ project which saw 25 social workers in Tamil Nadu devoting their time to train a particular community on how to incorporate artistic skills in caregiving for the HIV-affected. More than 100 HIV+ patients, who were otherwise stigmatised and isolated, received utmost care and empathy from the community.
Our Better World
Today, while a large number of platforms are solely dedicated towards positive storytelling, it must be mentioned that SIF happens to be one of the pioneers to start this trend through their exclusive storytelling platform – Our Better World – which is now a globally recognised forum.
Young Social Entrepreneurs
Armed with a iron determination, many spirited youth entrepreneurs from across the world are striving hard to bring a change in their society. Yet, many a time, lack of proper guidance and finances become a major roadblock for them. The SIF has taken up the responsibility to provide them the support they need at their initial stage. Looking across multi-sectoral networks, the SIF identifies potential changemakers and provides them with mentorship by industry experts over eight months, exposure to social enterprise landscapes in other countries, as well as a chance to get seed funding of up to SGD$20,000.
By empowering the young social entrepreneurs, SIF has effected overwhelming changes in many developing countries including India.
This path breaking project by SIF can be mentioned again and again, and yet it will fall short to do justice to its huge social impact. This was started in 2010, and at present, as the team says, “The YSE programme has nurtured an international alumni network of 909 young changemakers representing 29 nationalities, who are creating impact in 13 countries including India, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam. Since 2016, the YSE Overseas Workshop – a satellite version of the larger programme aimed at bringing the core elements to the social entrepreneurs in various countries – has been carried out in Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, and Jakarta. The second edition of the YSE Overseas Workshop recently concluded in Mumbai which brought together 39 young Indian changemakers.
The achievements of Singapore International Foundation over nearly three decades cannot be summed up in a few words. Each day they are growing stronger and better as a network, to catalyse much-needed social changes in the world. To know more about their work, visit their website www.sif.org.sg.