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MCI (P) 051/07/2019












Putting His Stamp on

History 11



Grooming Confident Little Tamil Speakers

Being Part of a Giving Community

Back-to-School Tips for Parents and Children


Dear Friends, As we approach the end of 2019, we look back at an eventful year, filled with impactful community collaborations and outstanding achievements. Our recent Project Give (PG) fundraising campaign—which we hold to raise funds for the educational needs of students from low-income families—saw generous and gracious support from numerous organisations, grassroots groups and people from all walks of life. Every day, we hosted visitors to our PG booth at Campbell Lane and their words of encouragement gave meaning to the work we do. Such partnerships are key in enabling us to continue improving the educational performance of our Indian students. In fact, our students are steadily doing better each year and we at SINDA are proud to celebrate their accomplishments with them. In recent months, we witnessed a large cohort of students receiving accolades for their educational, arts and sports-related

achievements at the SINDA Excellence Awards and Joint Tuition Awards. This signals the depth and variety of talent within our community. We wish the recipients continued success as they aspire higher and continue to upgrade their skills in line with evolving global trends. SINDA has strategic and holistic plans to maximise opportunities for our students to attain success in their chosen paths. Earlier this year, we funded many of our STEP and TEACH tutors as they upgraded themselves by enrolling in a certificate programme, designed in collaboration with Singapore Polytechnic. This programme trained our tutors to not only deliver the curriculum, but also coach our students better and provide them with a supportive growth environment. At the recent edition of our Back To School Festival, we provided school kits and financial aid to 3,500 students from low-income families, an increase from 2,500 last year.

09–13 Event Highlights • SINDA Excellence Awards 2019

02–03 Editorial

• Helping Every Singaporean Succeed

Together with these efforts in the academic arena, we are doing more to reach out to and serve our community. Our SINDA volunteers have tirelessly visited many constituencies, working with grassroots bodies to identify heartlanders in need of assistance and provide the right support. Our Celebrate! Festive Gift Vouchers initiative also saw various volunteer organisations visit the homes of our beneficiaries and gift them with vouchers to spread festive cheer. I thank these volunteers, our partners and the many individuals who have all helped SINDA expand our reach to benefit more in the community. I am grateful for the continued support and contributions by the community and I eagerly look forward to more impactful and strategic collaborations in the new year. Happy holidays and my best wishes to everyone for a fruitful and blessed 2020.

CONTENTS 01 Looking Back

We hope these students will be well-equipped with the right resources for the coming school year. Through such initiatives, we are focusing on what we can do to support our students more effectively.

15 D.I.Y

Anbarasu Rajendran CEO, SINDA

• Lava Lamp

• The Road to Excellence • Grooming Confident Little Tamil Speakers • Teens Full of Beans

16 Quiz-O-Mania

• Being Part of a Giving Community

04 What's New

• Investing in Ground-up Ideas for the Community

• Tutors Train to be Their Best for Their Students • Celebrating Hard Work and Resilience

17 One of Us

• Sudha Gopinath

• SINDA Digital Day

05–07 Interview

• M Bala Subramanion: Putting His Stamp on History

14 Back-to-School Tips

PUBLISHER Singapore Indian Development Association EDITORIAL TEAM Corporate & Marketing Communications Division CHIEF EDITOR Ravindran Nagalingam, COO, SINDA DEPUTY EDITOR Dhanasegaran Narayanasamy PRODUCTION EDITORS Priyaa Vasudevan, Manesh Rangarajan, DESIGN & LAYOUT Green House Design + Communications PRINTER Stamford Press Pte Ltd, Licence No: L022/04/2012 TO SUBSCRIBE to SINDA Connections or inform us of a change of mailing address, send your updated home or office address to connections@sinda.org.sg. TO CONTRIBUTE towards the SINDA Fund (to start contributing or increase contributions), please contact us at 1800 295 3333, or visit www.sinda.org.sg.



SINDA-LISHA MOU SIGNING SINDA’s alliance with the Little India Shopkeepers & Heritage Association (LISHA) grew a little closer with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on 19 July. With the signing, the Indian community can look forward to more familiarity with SINDA’s programmes and services, along with more vibrant cultural activities. Both parties will continue to support each other’s work in uplifting the community, through events such as Project Give. Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister, Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Finance and Education and President, SINDA, was the Guest of Honour for the signing at the Indian Heritage Centre.

SINDA FUTSAL CHALLENGE 2019 SINDA’s annual five-a-side on 22 June drew some 257 participants this year, with the youths aged 13-25 putting their fearless skills on display. The whole-day affair at Kovan Sports Centre also hosted fringe activities like bubble soccer and combat archery, which kept things buzzing both on and off the field. This year’s champions for the following categories were: • U25 – MIB Youngsters • U21 – Knockout

• U16 – The Yard Goats • Women – Hala Girls

10TH INDIAN BUSINESS LEADERS’ ROUNDTABLE DIALOGUE SERIES Indian business leaders and captains of industry in Singapore met on 23 August to hear from Mr Shaktikantha Das, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. Mr Das shared about the developments and opportunities in the Indian financial sector at the 10th session of the dialogue series, where Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Transport & Ministry of Communications and Information, was also a special guest.

EMBRACING PARENTHOOD TOGETHER This year, SINDA partnered with the People’s Association (PA) in encouraging parents to celebrate parenthood, through PA’s Embracing Parenthood programme. Our own Hello Baby Gift Hamper was distributed at these Embracing Parenthood sessions, as we engaged young parents on the importance of stimulating their children’s learning and development. SINDA’s booths also shared how common household items can facilitate creative learning through play at home. The programme was held in various constituencies all around Singapore. 1


Helping Every Singaporean Succeed, Regardless of Background By Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister, Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Finance and Education and President, SINDA

In his National Day Rally, the Prime Minister covered many important topics. One of these was the government’s commitment to helping every Singaporean succeed, irrespective of background. All Singaporean children can get a good education in our national schools. Over the years, we have enhanced our education system: we have introduced specialised schools, applied learning, different CCAs and sports, done away with streaming and introduced subject-based banding. We have put a greater focus on skills, which are highly valued by employers, and re-balanced the emphasis on academic outcomes. Through ITE, our polytechnics, universities and SkillsFuture, we are creating multiple pathways for our children to achieve success.

We are now doing much more in the pre-school space. Research shows that the pre-school years have a great impact on how well a child does later in life. Unlike primary school where the focus is more on cognitive development, what is important in the pre-school years is the social and emotional development of the child. A pre-school child who is emotionally secure, who learns how to play and interact with peers and adults and is encouraged to explore and be curious tends to fare better in life than one who does not have these advantages. The learning of languages is also far more easily acquired and retained when learnt in the early years. Pre-school education which focuses on social and emotional development and language learning is therefore important. Recognising this, the government has made moves in recent years to improve the accessibility, quality and affordability of pre-school education. We have doubled full-day preschool capacity and upgraded pre-schools. We also set up kindergartens by the Ministry of Education (MOE) which


offer all three Mother Tongue languages. We set up the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) to upgrade the training of our pre-school teachers. Recognising that the cost of pre-school education can be an issue for young parents, we took initial steps to lower the costs of pre-school through the anchor operator, partner operator schemes and by establishing MOE kindergartens. This has helped young families. However, we know that for middle-income families with very young children, pre-school fees still take up a substantial part of their budgets. Hence, as announced at the National Day Rally, the government is enhancing pre-school subsidies to make it more affordable for young families— • We have raised the qualifying household income ceiling from $7,500 to $12,000 per month. This will immediately extend the subsidies to 30,000 more households; • In addition, the government will also increase the amount of pre-school subsidy across the board.

As mentioned by our Prime Minister, we aim to bring down full-day pre-school expenses to around the level of that for primary schools, if you include after-school student care. To complement the government-led pre-school initiatives, SINDA has a Literacy and Numeracy (LYNN) programme for Indian pre-schoolers and a pre-school Tamil enrichment programme, which are also heavily subsidised. I would encourage Indian families to take advantage of these programmes.

In addition to government bursaries, Indian students in need of financial assistance for tertiary studies can also apply to the Singapore Indian Education Trust (SIET) for bursaries, scholarships and loans. We hope that these moves by MOE and the complementary programmes by SINDA and SIET will ease the financial outlay of lower and middle-income families and help put our children on the path to success.

At the other end of the education pipeline, we have also done a review of tertiary fees and bursaries. To ensure that students from less well-off families are not prevented from pursuing further studies, MOE is significantly enhancing government bursaries. • For university students, government bursaries will be increased from 50% of general fees to 75%. • In addition, we will increase the bursary for those studying medicine so that lower-income students need only pay $5,000 at most. • For polytechnic diploma programmes, we will increase the bursaries from the current 80% of fees to 95%.




Ever had a flash of inspiration about what our community needs? Share your project ideas with us and see them become reality. This is your chance to shape the future of the Singaporean Indian community and play an active role in its progress. Make a meaningful and sustainable difference! Get in touch! We want to hear from you! The SINDA Community Impact Fund (SCIF) supports individuals and organisations with innovative concepts that help key groups in the Indian community—preschoolers, students, youth, parents, families and the elderly. The SCIF offers up to $25,000 of seed funding and also connects you to relevant partner organisations and fosters networks and collaboration. More details can be found at https://www.sinda-grants.org/grant-details Proposals go through an evaluation and selection process. We’ve seen fresh perspectives emerge—read on to learn more about SCIF’s first two projects.

AUTISM – PARTNERING PARENTS IN THEIR JOURNEY This brand new initiative to help lower-income Indian families of autistic children is due to launch in January 2020.

CLUB2CARE MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAMME Raising awareness of mental health issues and filling the gaps in mental health services for the Indian community is a key intent of Club2Care. It also aims to teach members and volunteers of other organisations to identify those in our community who may need help. Ms Lalitha Subramony, Club2Care’s Vice-President, shares that she was motivated “as someone who has seen the debilitating effects mental illness can have on one’s life”. Describing Club2Care as “a movement which aims to foster a supportive, encouraging and non-judgemental society which is compassionate towards mental distress”, Ms Subramony hopes that by destigmatising mental illness, more people will come forward to seek timely help. The grant award from SCIF will go towards mental health screening and educational outreach. Club2Care will also use it to develop and roll out unique mental health first programmes catering to the needs of the Indian community.

Project Leader Mr Rajendran K Sethuraj understands how having a child with autism can drain the family physically, emotionally and financially, because he has faced those same challenges with his autistic son. With the Autism – Partnering Your Journey endeavour, he hopes to provide parents with a deeper understanding of autism issues, including cultural myths, and to offer practical strategies that they can use in the interval after diagnosis before therapy begins. When a child is diagnosed with autism, Mr Sethuraj explains, most parents are clueless as to how to help their child until the first follow-up sessions. “There are many everyday opportunities in the home environment that parents can tap on,” he says. He wants to share how parents can identify or create such teachable moments to help their child learn, communicate and socialise. To that end, he has put together a professionallytrained and experienced team who have crafted such a training package. “We hope this blend of theoretical knowledge, practical approaches and parental perspective creates an enriching and balanced training session,” he imparts. Mr Sethuraj is optimistic that SCIF’s grant will make a difference for families with autistic children.




Centenarian M Bala Subramanion has played no small part in Singapore’s history. Coming through the second World War and the journey to independence, he has seen much and learnt much, and now has much to share. Besides being Singapore’s first Asian Postmaster General, his contributions to the local Indian community run the gamut from his instrumental work in the Singapore Indian Education Trust, Singapore Indian Association, Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society and Hindu Endowments Board, to refurbishments of the Sri Sivan Temple and Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple. Mr Bala was also involved in SINDA from its beginnings, as part of its pioneer group of members.

Please tell us a little about your early years. Mr B: I was born in 1917 in Kampong Potong Pasir. My father, an itinerant salesman, was a migrant from Tamil Nadu, and my mother was from Malaysia. I have two younger sisters. My education was spread across Seremban, Malacca and Singapore. Jobs were scarce and difficult to secure, but I managed to obtain employment with the Postal and Telegraph department with the help of a friend. You started work as a clerk in the sorting room of the General Post Office at age 19, during the colonial years. What was it like? Mr B: It was not a bed of roses. I was posted to the Fullerton Building (now Fullerton Hotel) where I had to stand continuously sorting out letters. On days when heavy mail arrived from the United Kingdom, we worked overtime without pay. I worked at the General Post Office, or GPO, for 36 years. Even during the Japanese Occupation I was employed by the Japanese in the postal service.

(Mr Bala was recognised for his hard work when he became one of the pioneer recipients of the Singapore Government Departmental Scholarship Scheme to train in the United Kingdom, in 1948.) Your appointment as Singapore’s first Asian Postmaster General was an important milestone in your profession. How did you go about it? Mr B: I inherited a fine postal system established by the British. I strove to ensure the high standards of counter service and postal deliveries were


maintained. We had three deliveries in the municipal area and two deliveries for the rest of the island. One of the British slogans was Rain or shine, the mail goes, and I tried to keep to it. What were some challenges that you faced? Mr B: The biggest challenge came in 1965 when Singapore separated from Malaysia. We had to relocate all Singapore-related work from the postal headquarters in Kuala Lumpur to Singapore overnight, including all records, the whole finance department and the entire set-up of the Post Office Savings Bank. I had a very good team, very dedicated officers with me. With a budget of $1 million and a lot of planning and teamwork among the different departments, we successfully brought it all back and were ready for business by morning! You were very devoted to your profession. What motivated you to keep going? Mr B: I was inspired by the dedication and determination of great statesmen like Jawaharlal Nehru, Abraham Lincoln, Garibaldi and others. Even with your hectic work schedule, your community activities were extensive. You were President of the Singapore Indian Association from 1964 to 1968 and were a founding member of the Singapore Indian Education Trust in 1967. How did you manage all that? Mr B: Remaining a bachelor until I was 49 enabled me to devote my services to the uplifting of the Indian community! I had no family responsibilities in those years before my children were born. I would participate in these organisations’

activities after work on weekdays, and on weekends I assisted in the Sunday tuition projects conducted by the Tamils Representative Council. What are some of your observations on the Indian community in Singapore? Mr B: It gives me great satisfaction to see the early labour class of Indian migrants slowly but steadily reaching technical and professional levels on par with those of recently-arrived professionals from India. What do you see the community doing well in, and which are areas for improvement? Mr B: Local Indians seem to be doing well in the fields of journalism and law, and are also flourishing in commercial ventures. However, the community should endeavour to instil in the younger generation the will to strive continuously to achieve their aspirations. Any tips on motivating our youth to reach greater heights? Mr B: We should facilitate the knowledge of local and global eminent leaders, to encourage and motivate our Indian youth in their pursuits. You are a pioneer SINDA member. What are your thoughts about SINDA’s work for the community? Mr B: SINDA is doing an excellent job. Our students’ grades are going up but we should compare how we are faring against other races, so we have a better idea of what needs to be done. We also need to understand our community’s opinions and feedback, which will be very helpful in enhancing our work.

Is there anything more you are planning to set out to do? Mr B: What little I have achieved is due largely to fortuitous circumstances and the unseen loving hand of my dear wife Sumitra. I am now content to sit in my rocking chair and watch the panorama of world events unfold around me. How do you spend your time these days? Mr B: Reading novels and reciting poetry, doing Sudoku number games, routine exercises, watching sports on television and socialising when possible. My favourite is going to the Singapore Indian Association for their curry lunch! What is the secret to your longevity? Mr B: All I can say is that our life is in the hands of the Divine. As Omar Khayyám, one of my favourite poets wrote:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

What among all your achievements are you most proud of? Mr B: It is probably the publication of my biography Singapore, My Country – Biography of M Bala Subramanion, by Nilanjana Sengupta in 2016. It was suggested by Mr K Kesavapany, thenPresident of the Indian Association, who surprised me by later arranging for the biographer. The book was launched by then-Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at the Fullerton Hotel, my former workplace, and was attended by many. It was a touching moment for me and validation of my years of service.



SINDA EXCELLENCE AWARDS 2019 In school, in sports and in the arts, more and more Indian students are proving their mettle. We saw 517 of them at the SINDA Excellence Awards (SEA) on 28 September, where they received certificates and vouchers in recognition of their outstanding performances in their respective fields. The SEA was introduced in 1992 to celebrate our students’ achievements as well as spirit of excellence, and 2019 represents the largest cohort in the ceremony’s history. In fact, some 13% are second-time SEA recipients and about a quarter have taken part in SINDA’s programmes. SINDA CEO Mr Anbarasu Rajendran noted that these programmes had in the last year expanded their reach by 38% to impact over 22,000 individuals. In inviting the award recipients to partner SINDA in such outreach, he urged, “Service to your fellowmen strengthens your sense of belonging to the community and the nation; it also ensures a spirit of continued progress for self and others, so that every individual can realise his or her aspirations.” “YOU, TOO, CAN DO WELL” That more are finding success is cheering news. SINDA’s President, Minister Indranee Rajah shared, “The signal we want to send others is to work hard because you, too, can do well. We are proud of those who have done well and we want to encourage others to continue to do well.” Guest of Honour Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Mr Heng Swee Keat also addressed the 1,200 guests comprising award recipients, family members and educators, as well as community and grassroots leaders. Senior Minister Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam was present as well at the event, held at the Singapore Polytechnic Convention Centre. DPM Heng was warm in his congratulations, affirming the award winners’ “perseverance, diligence and passion for excellence”, and applauding the families, friends, teachers and coaches who supported them. He took the chance to highlight two of the award recipients—21-year-old Tiru Kumarran, who made Nanyang Polytechnic’s Director’s List five times despite difficult family circumstances, and Suraendher Kumarr (see accompanying story). DPM Heng used their stories to demonstrate the power of education to transform lives.

“Individually, (education) empowers people to rise above difficult circumstances, and secure a better future for themselves and their loved ones,” he said, “(while) collectively, it ensures that our society remains open, and where people succeed based on their hard work and talent, not because of their family background.” DEVELOPING EACH STUDENT’S FULL POTENTIAL Even as he warned against allowing the social compact that holds our society together to fray, DPM Heng assured the audience that every Singaporean son and daughter will have the opportunity to receive a good education and start well in life, regardless of family background. He went on to explain some of the ways the government is invested in this—from increasing preschool subsidies and capacity, to making higher education more affordable and accessible to students of different strengths and encouraging lifelong learning with SkillsFuture. DPM Heng also introduced UPLIFT, the ‘Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce’ led by Ms Indranee to support disadvantaged students and families. He also lauded SINDA’s Peer Leadership Programme (nurturing youth leaders) and Door Knocking Programme (befriending and supporting low-income households). A COMMON DESTINY As he concluded his speech, DPM Heng reminded attendees of the legacy of our pioneers, who forged a cohesive and prosperous nation out of a group of immigrants. Evoking Mr Naraina Pillai, Mr S Rajaratnam and Mr J Y Pillay, DPM Heng noted that they were from different backgrounds and served at different times, but shared a “a strong commitment to the pursuit of excellence as individuals, and a great sense of duty to their community and country.” Likewise, we look forward to our SEA winners continuing to show others the way forward, so that we can progress together.

THE ROAD TO EXCELLENCE Rice, egg and soy sauce may have been all the food his family could afford on most days, but a steady diet of extensive reading sustained Suraendher Kumarr and helped lift him from dire circumstances. Today, Suraendher, a Research Analyst, is able to look back on the hurdles he has faced and encourage other young Indians to have hope as a community standing together. Here are the highlights of the speech he made as Valedictorian at this year’s SINDA Excellence Awards. •

Congratulations to my fellow awardees here this morning. My name is Suraendher Kumarr and I recently graduated from the National University of Singapore with First Class Honours in Political Science. I thank SINDA for this honour of being the Valedictorian at this year’s SINDA Excellence Awards.

In writing this speech, I took time to reflect on some of the hurdles I faced in life. I will first explain some of these struggles and subsequently how I overcame them by seeking inspiration from an Italian, an American and 20 South Asians.

I was raised in poverty for most of my life. My parents divorced when I was five years old. My mother—one of the strongest women I know—together with the support of her brothers, managed to raise five children. We moved every few months because we couldn’t afford rent. It was a very insecure and precarious position to be in, not knowing where you would be sleeping the next day. Thankfully, my uncles helped us out, giving us a place to stay whenever we needed one.

• It was common for my family to ration supplies of processed food. Our taste buds were accustomed to a routine of rice, egg and soy sauce for a quick and cheap meal. •

Within the family, we all had our own ambitions and strategies of making ends meet. My older brothers and sisters preferred to work after school. I was fortunate enough to find joy and purpose in reading widely and building my general knowledge. When I got my first bursary, I thought I would just keep doing this to reduce the financial burden on my mother.

Let me introduce the Italian who I mentioned earlier: he taught me how to view my struggles in a constructive way. Scholar Antonio Gramsci talked about “Pessimism of the intellect; Optimism of the will”. By pessimism of the intellect, Gramsci meant that we should be honest with ourselves about the nature of our struggles. We cannot seek to improve our condition without first being truthful about why these struggles exist in the first place.

By optimism of the will, I believe Gramsci meant that we ought to have the hope and courage to overcome these struggles. Finding the will power was not easy, and I could not have done it without the support of my family, friends, partner, teachers, mentors and more. At every step of my life, they helped mitigate the effects of poverty by financially, emotionally and socially empowering me.

The will-power within me was also not possible without a sense of direction in life. This is where the American I was talking about helped to put things in perspective. According to linguist Noam Chomsky (and I’m paraphrasing here), privilege confers responsibility. The more I learned about the world, the more I realised how fortunate I am to be born in Singapore— a highly developed country that is also one of the safest in the world. I realised that I was relatively privileged when compared to people in poorer countries, who may not have these basic securities.

While my direction in life in my early education was to improve my family’s financial situation, by the time I was in university, I realised that I have a responsibility as a global citizen. This was one reason why I started researching South Asian migrant workers in Singapore.

As much as I sought to cast a light on migrant workers and hopefully improve their circumstances, I actually learned a great deal from them, from 20 Indians and Bangladeshis in particular. First, I realised that it is not always true that one can achieve anything one wants if one simply puts one’s mind to it and works hard.

Most workers are mired in debt and cannot realistically aspire to be affluent through sheer hard work and a positive mindset alone. The same can be said about others facing significant hurdles to achieving their dreams. However, I learnt that there are other ways to overcome such struggles.

Instead of individually seeking to solve their problems, these workers sought support from their friends and fellow workers. This included financial assistance, showing solidarity through poetry and music and, when problems got dire, collectively negotiating with their employers. Working together as a community empowered them to stand a greater chance at overcoming their struggles and achieving their dreams.

I urge you to learn from the Italian, the American and the South Asians. Be honest about your struggles and study them well. Then, devise clear-cut strategies with the support of your communities. If we are privileged compared to others, we have a responsibility to lend our support. The moment we realise that we are not alone in our struggles and that we can support one another, the more empowered we become to withstand and eventually overcome our pain.

• As for me, I would not be here today if not for the support and love from my community. • Thank you.


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Take charge of your career with Workforce Singapore’s suite of programmes and services. Three individuals share their testimonials.

“WSG’s Career Matching Services helped me secure my next job role”

“Thanks to Career Trial, I found my dream job”

- Ajoy Dasgupta

After two years in Supply Chain, Jeyaragini d/o Davindran realised that it wasn’t what she wanted. “Children have always held a special place in my heart,” shares the degree holder in Bachelor of Mathematics and Economics, who was fascinated with the development of young children while watching her baby nephew grow up. She decided to make the switch into the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) sector, with the help of WSG’s Career Trial programme to ease into the industry. “I signed up for a two-week trial with Mulberry Learning Centre as an Assistant Teacher Trainee, where I got to observe, learn and engage with pre-schoolers,” she says. “I loved every minute of it.” Since then, Ms Jeyaragini completed a part-time WSQ professional diploma in ECCE and is now a full-time teacher. “Making the leap was scary but I’m glad I made the career change.”

Ajoy Dasgupta was at a loss when he was out of work for the first time, in over 40 years. The 62-year-old felt that age was a barrier to being re-hired. “I was worried my professional experience was being overlooked and would go to waste as employers focused on my age,” he shares. He was recommended to connect with Ingeus, a Career Matching Service provider of WSG, where he met with a Career Coach regularly and attended career workshops. “Having my Coach as a sounding board, guiding me, helped me realise I wasn’t alone and to keep going.” Shortly, he was offered a Business Development role at Gaintech Engineering. “It feels great to be at work, using my past experience while learning new skills too.”

- Jeyaragini d/o Davindran

“I was able to hire an experienced PMET with the Career Support Programme” - A S Sundaram CEO of Pisces Technologies, A S Sundaram, found it challenging to hire the right talents. When Thiyagarajan Renganathan came along, Mr Sundaram found his background in mechanical design and project management, and overall knowledge of industry and systems useful to the company. “We were fortunate to find Thiyagarajan and shortlisted him as we felt that he displayed strong potential, he shares. “I knew PMETs like him bring a wealth of experience and transferable skills.” With the help of Career Support Programme, Mr Sundaram was able to defray salary costs that helped with the company’s hiring needs. “We were able to set aside time to train him for the job before evaluating his performance.”


GROOMING CONFIDENT LITTLE TAMIL SPEAKERS Parents like Ms Sree Vithiyah Krishnan, 37, whose five-year-old Devesh Kumar used to be unwilling to speak Tamil at home, have had something to smile about lately. Having put Devesh into SINDA’s brand new Pre-school Tamil Enrichment Programme, Ms Krishnan has noticed her son already picking up new words. It is confirmation that the 250 youngsters enrolled are finding the confidence to express themselves in their mother tongue. With interesting lessons and fun activities, the five and six-year-olds are getting comfortable with the language. Ms Krishnan shares, “I believe being around children his age has helped, and as everyone in class is speaking in Tamil, he understands that he has to converse in the language in order to fully participate.” Parents say these classes are timely—almost 40% of the kindergartners registered do not learn Tamil in their day schools—and will give their children a head start going into primary school. SINDA CEO Mr Anbarasu Rajendran explains that the programme, launched on 1 July, was initiated because of this gap in early childhood education. SINDA is offering the course for free to children from families with a per capita income of up to $1,000, while those from families with an income above that pay only $10. For now, the 20-week programme is held at 11 locations islandwide, including SINDA and community centres and there are plans to bring it to more sites to reach more Indian children. The one-and-a-half hour sessions are held over weekdays or weekends. They are designed for families like Ms Krishnan’s, who says hopefully, “I want him to enjoy the language.”

TEENS FULL OF BEANS Find out what our teens have been up to lately in SINDA’s youth programmes! Hub Engagement: Dabbling in Design and Dashing Around in Daytonas In an early National Day celebration on 3 August, 13 of our youths put their artistic talents to work, designing their own T-shirts to commemorate the event. They picked up new skills too, with an introduction to airbrush graffiti. A larger group of 30 participants opted for the adrenaline rush of racing in Daytona car racing simulators during the school semester break from 11-13 September. The three sessions climaxed with a heart-thumping tournament on the final day, with the top three racers winning a trophy each. GAME: Splash, Smash and Mash 27 youths had a splashing day out in two dragon-boating sessions on 10 and 11 September. While the highlight was the races at the end, participants also managed to imbibe some built-in lessons on long-term goals, sympathy and compassion. Meanwhile, 14 of their peers were honing the art of smashing floorballs into goal nets. The four stimulating sessions during the September holidays also lent themselves to lessons on relating feelings and thoughts to behaviour and managing emotions. The programme culminated in a match to remember for the players. Music mash-ups made magic for the 30 teens in the GAME Music programme held from 13 July to 7 September. The highlight was undoubtedly performing with Akshara Concepts and Damaru Singapore at the UTSAV Street Parade. Playing a variety of instruments, our youngsters helped provide much Deepavali cheer! 11


BEING PART OF A GIVING COMMUNITY “There is meaning in both giving and receiving and the most important thing is we do it together as a community,” says Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister, Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Finance and Education and President, SINDA.


Ms Indranee was speaking at the Indian Heritage Centre on 5 October, where many of SINDA’s community partners, donors and volunteers were gathered for the presenting of cheques to Project Give. The fundraising platform is now in its 19th edition, and has been helping to support the educational and financial needs of Singaporean Indian students. One of our generous donors this year was Optimum Solutions. CEO Mr Balwant Jain’s daughter, Ms Rachita Jain voiced her support: “Project Give is especially close to our hearts because it looks after students from lower income families and education is a very important pillar of Optimum Solutions’ corporate social responsibility.” Also pitching in to ensure everybody enjoys themselves this festive period was volunteer Ms Sudha Gopinath and her family. There to help kick off the distribution of Celebrate! Festive Gift Vouchers, earmarked for 750 low-income families during Deepavali, Ms Gopinath shared, “I believe it is important to have the commitment and passion to volunteer and that is also why I have introduced my daughters to this at a young age.” “It’s a festive time,” Ms Jain reminds us. “It is truly a privilege to be able to contribute and be a part of the larger community.”

Just how dedicated are SINDA tutors? Committed enough to go back to school for their students! 34 SINDA tutors and staff went through a programme designed in concert with Singapore Polytechnic (SP), to enhance their teaching skills and optimise their pupils’ learning experience. These non-NIE trained STEP and Teach programme tutors and staff graduated from the course on 29 July with a Certificate in Performance for Coaching (Mathematics). Awarding them their certificates were SINDA CEO Mr Anbarasu Rajendran, SP Director of the School of Communication and Life Skills Ms Lim Lee Yee and Guest of Honour Dr N Varaprasad, a SINDA Life Trustee. Teach Programme tutor, Ms T Priyadharshini, the course Valedictorian, was among those who picked up some effective interpersonal skills from the programme. She shares, “Sometimes we encounter students who can be a little difficult. This course taught me how I can help them without disrupting my lesson plan, and more importantly, how to involve them so that no student is left out.” Indeed, managing and engaging the students was a key part of the exercise which took place through a mix of theory and practical training. Another tutor, Ms Christina Shirley, learnt, “It is important to understand that every child is different and we need to analyse the child. We were also taught how to spot mistakes and go about correcting them in an interactive and fun manner.” SINDA is proud of our tutors who are making every effort to upgrade their skills, all so our students get the best possible learning experience!


CELEBRATING HARD WORK AND RESILIENCE Many of the students who come through SINDA’s STEP and Teach tuition programmes have gone on to excel. Some, under difficult family circumstances, even do so against all odds through sheer grit and determination. On 17 August, these students were among 454 across the four Self-Help Groups (SHGs)—the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC), the Eurasian Association, Yayasan MENDAKI and SINDA—receiving the Joint Tuition Awards at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent). The awards, instituted in 2004, recognise the academic achievements of students receiving tuition from these groups. It is testament to the success of the Collaborative Tuition Programme that their grades at the major national examinations (PSLE, GCE N and O Level) have shown great improvement. Today, these affordable and accessible tuition classes run by the SHGs for students are held in 134 centres islandwide. Among the outstanding students being honoured that day was Steven Muthukumar, 17, a STEP student who received the Best Overall Student (NT Level category) award. Steven, who has been with SINDA since Primary 5, progressed notably in English and Mathematics, which he attributes to both his supportive family and his SINDA tutors.

One of Steven’s sisters, Diviya Angeline Muthukumar, was also a JTA recipient in the PSLE category. Guest of Honour Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education cheered the success of all the award winners, and also urged all parents to play an active role supporting their children’s holistic development.

Steven is currently giving his best in his Aerospace Technology course at ITE College Central. “I aim to keep working harder,” he avows.


As for the 8-15 year-olds who had recently completed their 10 weekly sessions of the Code in the Community programme, a test of their new skills awaited. Competing in teams, they applied their knowledge to code Sphero BOLT robots to navigate a maze. The parents weren’t side-lined, either. At workshops, they learnt how to engage their tech-savvy kids, especially the teens, in their IT-filled worlds—not least in handling emotional responses to parental intervention! They also learnt to help their children utilise technology in the right way, and the importance of keeping up with tech advances and getting more aware and more involved.

We’re going to be a Smart Nation, and SINDA’s not leaving anyone behind! SINDA held its first Digital Day on 15 September, engaging entire families, from pre-schoolers to parents, to boost digital literacy. The little ones put their hands to Strawbees kits and had fun building their own designs with the straw-like components, even getting a taste of electronics and programming with the sets.

With a strong digital influence affecting every aspect of our lives, SINDA is doing what it can to provide platforms for our children to pick up essential skills for the future economy. SINDA makes IT enrichment programmes more accessible than ever, so that social or financial background is no hindrance to self-development. Every child should embrace coding as a way to develop information processing, problem solving, logic and innovation. The best part? Discovering a new outlet for their creativity, which promises lots of fun!





• Discuss opportunities, expectations, new subjects, new friends and share the excitement by counting down the days or planning a routine together. • Boost your children’s confidence by listening to their concerns and encouraging them.




• Replenish school supplies like books and stationery, in time.


• A good night’s sleep—at least eight hours—is critical for growing kids.

• Create a dedicated study area, even if it’s just a corner of a room.

• A nourishing breakfast helps your child stay alert and focused in class. Help them choose healthy options for recess, too.

• Regulate screen time (mobile devices, computers or television) and keep distractions away during study periods.

• Set aside time for play! Kids need to destress, too. Better still, join in and keep the whole family in a great mood!

• 7 to 10 year-olds generally need a 3-5 minute break to recharge after every 10 or 15 minutes of work. Older children might be able to study for 20 or 30 minutes before they require one.


• Help them look smart for school—uniforms and shoes ready and hair well cut. If they look good, they’ll feel good!




• Check out SINDA’s afterschool programmes, tuition and homework assistance schemes to see how they can help. Visit www.sinda. org.sg to find out more!”

Tips for CHILDREN • Review what you learned last year. • Look through your textbooks for the coming year. • Set goals which you want to achieve. • Get a comfortable study space ready. • Put devices away and ask your family to cooperate by reducing distractions. • Set up a regular bedtime and morning routine.




Watch blobs of colour rise and fall in your own home-made lava lamp!


A clean, transparent plastic bottle


Vegetable oil, or baby oil

Fizzing tablets, like Alka Seltzer

Food colouring




Fill a quarter (1/4) of the bottle with water.

Top up the bottle (to about ¾ level or more) with the oil. You may need to use a funnel if you don’t want to make a mess!

Wait for the oil and water to separate, then add a few drops of your favourite food colouring. Watch the colouring sink through the oil. Did the drops mix with the water immediately or float for a while?



Break your fizzy tablet in half and drop one piece into the bottle… here come the bubbly blobs!

For the next round with the other fizzy tablet half, try turning the room lights off and using a flashlight to shine at your lava lamp!

EXTRA, EXTRA! More to experiment with: • What happens if you put the bottle cap on after dropping the fizzy tablet in? • What if you drop a whole tablet in?

Things to think about: (answers below)

a) Why does the oil stay on top of the water? b) Why does the food colouring sink through the oil and mix with the water?

• When the bubbles stop, try sprinkling some salt into the lamp. What happens?

c) Why do the coloured blobs go up and down? Answers to how your lava lamp works: c) As the fizzy tablet dissolves, it gives off a gas, carbon dioxide, which is lighter than water. The gas forms bubbles which float to the top, bringing some of the coloured water with them. However, the gas doesn’t stay in the bubble for long, and the water gets heavy again and sinks. b) The food colouring has the same density as water, so it sinks through the oil and mixes with the water. a) The oil floats on top of the water because it is less dense, or lighter, than water.

Adapted from www.sciencefun.org/kidszone/experiments/lava-lamp/



Read this issue through? Then circle the answers to the questions below, fill up the form and send it in to SINDA Connections Contest c/o SINDA Corporate & Marketing Communications Division, No 1 Beatty Road, Singapore 209943 by 31 January 2020. Three correct entries will win $50 worth of vouchers each. This contest is open only to primary and secondary school students who are Singaporeans or Permanent Residents. Winning entries will be picked in a draw and the judges’ decision is final.


IC/BC No.: (Please fill in the last four alphanumeric details)

School Level:


Contact No.: Email:

Address: Select one answer for each question: (You can find the answers in the articles in this magazine) Question 1

Question 2

Question 3

What did Mr Bala work as when he first joined the General Post Office when he was 19 years old?

What course did non-NIE trained STEP and Teach programme tutors graduate from?

When was SINDA’s Digital Day held this year?

a) Engineer b) Clerk c) Postman

a) Mathematics b) Science c) Geography

a) 3 July b) 1 September c) 15 September

Congratulations to the winners of the previous contest! 1) Thivaashini Santhiramani Woodgrove Primary School

Join us for a meaningful career VISION To build a strong and vibrant Singaporean Indian community together MISSION To build a well-educated, resilient and confident community of Indians that stands together with the other communities in contributing to the progress of multi-racial Singapore VALUES Respect, our culture Integrity, our foundation Service, our promise Excellence, our pursuit


2) Sandhya Lakshmanan Canberra Primary School

Empower the Community

Inclusive environment

professional development

Be part of the social service sector and give back through meaningful and engaging initiatives.

Work in an inclusive and positive work environment, which recognises diversity and encourages people to share different perspectives.

We take pride in offering support and opportunities for our people to enhance their skillsets and capabilities with self-directed and continous learning.

view our career opportunities at www.sinda.org.sg/careers BOARD OF TRUSTEES

Term Trustees Ms Indranee Rajah Patron Mr Ravi Menon Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Mr R Jayachandran Mr Girija Pande Chairman Mr Gautam Banerjee Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam Mr Ravinder Singh Justice Judith Prakash Life Trustees Mr K Kesavapany Prof S Jayakumar Mr Viswa Sadasivan Mr S Dhanabalan Mr Shabbir Hassanbhai Mr S Chandra Das Mr Timothy Chia Mr J Y Pillay Mr Piyush Gupta Mr Sat Pal Khattar Dr Sudha Nair Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam Mr Harjit Singh Bhatia Mr K Shanmugam Dr N Varaprasad Advisors Dr Vivian Balakrishnan Mr S Iswaran Mr Vikram Nair Mr Murali Pillai

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE President Ms Indranee Rajah Vice Presidents Mr Shekaran Krishnan ​Mr K V Rao Secretary Mr Sarjit Singh Treasurer Mr R Subramaniam Iyer Members Dr Joshua V M Kuma Mr R Chandra Mohan Mr K Ramamoorthy Mr Sarbjit Singh Mr Thambyrajah T Mr Darryl David Mrs Rathi Parimalan Mr Mohamed Nasim Prof Vineeta Sinha Mr Siraj Omar


What is one piece of advice you have received that you would like to pass on to others?



A “strong intuition” led Sudha Gopinath to join SINDA’s Door Knocking Exercise two years ago. Not only has she not looked back, she has even roped in her family as volunteers.

SINDA volunteer Sudha Gopinath recalls a childhood with little cash to spare and her mother being the sole breadwinner for the family. “It had a big impact on me,” she reveals. For one thing, Sudha became determined to help those less well-off, a desire that grew stronger with every step up in life she climbed. Today, being able to contribute to society is like a dream come true for her and it’s one she is encouraging her family to share. For two weekends recently, her family of four took four hours out of their busy schedules to support SINDA's Celebrate! Festive Gift Vouchers distribution to low-income Indian families. On how she persuaded her husband and two schoolgoing daughters to join her, she quips,

Sudha: “Do what your heart says and never underestimate yourself.”

“When you give a carrot to the rabbit it does what you say…I always treat them to a good dinner afterwards!” Jokes aside, Sudha says that they have all developed an interest in volunteering, having experienced the warm reception from the homes they visited. The girls have also come to realise that not everyone enjoys a comfortable life. An added plus is that the family has grown closer through the activity. While Sudha reminds herself to “do more and expect less”, she feels her aspirations to help the Indian community will sustain her motivation as a volunteer. “I don’t need to keep myself energised to do the work,” she says, “It’s a passion within me to give back to society.”

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SINDA Connections | December 2019  

SINDA Connections | December 2019  

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