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Celebrating Singapore's Silent Heroes

Opening remarks by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, And Second Minister for Law, at the Silent Heroes Award Ceremony 2022 on Saturday, 27 Aug 2022

Mr M P Sellvem, Chairman of the Singapore Silent Heroes Award and President of the Civilians Association Singapore
Mr David Gerald, Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Singapore Silent Heroes Award

Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

  1. To the award winners, my warmest congratulations to all of you. Tonight has been a thoroughly inspiring night. I think the stories here have filled me with so much joy and so much confidence in Singapore. Thank you very much for all that you have done.
  2. And thank you very much to Mr Sellvem, Mr David Gerald and team for recognising these ordinary Singaporeans for their extraordinary contributions and their uncommon kindness. 
  3. Let me join in the earlier congratulations to all the nominees both past and present, and of course, tonight’s award winners whom we have just seen in the videos. As speakers before me have said, all of you, every single one of you are winners in your own right.
    1. Thank you very much for your valued contributions to society – your spirit of care and concern for others, particularly for those who are the most vulnerable in our society.
    2. They embody the very essence of an inclusive, cohesive society, one which takes care of others who are less able to do so themselves. Singaporeans coming together, looking out for one another, supporting each other, pulling together as a united people. If we make this the heart and soul of Singapore, then I think we will truly have a very strong foundation to tackle the challenges that we might have ahead of us. 
  4. Honouring award recipients and finalists and the critical role they play in our society

  5. I am sure all of us in this room will have come across our own acts of kindness by fellow Singaporeans. Many of these acts often go unnoticed. These heroes do not practice kindness to get noticed or to get awards, but they do so because they know that when they do it, it matters to someone, and it makes a difference to other people’s lives.
    1. I am very grateful that this year marks the ninth year we are recognising these unsung heroes, and recognising them with an award occasion like this, a very special one.
    2. These are people who go about quietly to contribute to the well-being of others, without asking for anything in return.
  6. Often, the strength of our own human spirit shines through the brightest in our own darkest hours or moments. In the deepest trials and tribulations, the human sprit comes through very strongly and brightly, and you saw that in the videos earlier.
    1. The stories of all those award recipients and finalists underscore this.
    2. In the spirit of today’s occasion, bear with me as I say a little bit more about our award nominees and acknowledge as many of them as I can. 
  7. First, heroes turn challenges into opportunity.
    1. Even as we are on the road to COVID-19 recovery, the pandemic over the last few years has really put a spotlight on existing stress lines in our society – divisions and fault lines such as social inequality, mental well-being, and slowing mobility of our population.
    2. While the government has implemented various initiatives to provide additional support to those most affected, the support from within our community – amongst our own fellow Singaporeans, fellow neighbours through acts of kindness – is just as important, if not even more critical.
    3. Our silent hero, Derek Ong, saw the problem of an uneven distribution of food, accentuated by the pandemic. Some simply do not have enough on their table and very often we take for granted a hot meal or a warm shower. But not everyone has that privilege.
    4. Derek responded by mobilising a few families and friends to collect unsold food from various food outlets and distributed them to families in need. It is really a simple idea but what makes it special is that it comes from the heart, a willingness to go around looking for sources and connecting them with the people most in need.
    5. It has such a big impact. What started small has now grown into a movement of about 80 volunteers redistributing up to 20 tonnes of food weekly, which might otherwise go wasted, to those who need it the most.
    6. Other finalists here - like Rui Jie, Sarimah, Steven, and Mohammad Nazmul - similarly saw a need in their respective own communities and stepped up beyond and above their comfort zone to offer solutions, a helping hand, and more importantly being there to be a listening ear, showing not just kindness but also compassion and empathy which are so much needed in our society today.
    7. These people have turned their compassion into action. And Singapore is far better off because of their efforts.
  8. Second, heroes bridge divides, so that no one gets left behind. 
    1. As technology progresses at a supercharged pace, many seniors face the risk of falling behind, feeling worried about how to use technology and devices, feeling that they are left disconnected. This is ironic because these devices are meant to connect all of us but some seniors feel that there is a barrier. 
    2. We have youths like our silent hero Owen Tan who has dedicated himself to becoming an “expert” in befriending seniors. He engages them through his many volunteer efforts – from bringing seniors out for meals and cycling outings, to fundraising and food distribution.  
    3. He now actively shares his knowledge with other youths as well through school talks, helping them to in turn help others bridge that generational divide.
    4. Owen is just one shining example. Our other finalists here - Arun Krishnan, Toh You Xin, Poh Yah Nee, Kavitha Krishnan and Kristin Kaplan - have done extraordinary acts to bridge other divides which you might see across our multi ethnic communities in Singapore, for persons with disabilities, and children from under-resourced communities. These are all very important efforts and the outcome of their efforts goes beyond just helping the beneficiaries. Over time, their projects reach across fault lines and divisions, fostering camaraderie through daily activities and lived experiences, foster a deeper sense of trust, belonging, and cohesion, and will bind our country even closer together.
  9. Finally, heroes inspire us to look beyond our own needs, to find greater fulfilment in serving others.
    1. In an uncertain world, it is tempting for people to turn inward and guard their own interests, particularly during the pandemic.
    2. Our silent heroes Carol Chong and Sharon Khoo have shown us otherwise.
    3. Carol herself suffered injuries to her wrist and heel which brought challenges to her own mobility, she could not move as well. And this was a real problem particularly during the pandemic.
    4. But in spite of this, you would find herself leading seniors at Sree Narayana Mission in exercises early in the morning and they look forward to seeing her. In spite of the challenges, you see her happy, jovial, and looking forward every day to see the seniors that she serves, making sure that there is a mission to keep them fit and healthy.
    5. Sharon confronted challenges that many of us will probably find insurmountable. She adopted a son of a close relative who passed on, and then she lost her own husband to illness, becoming a single mother to both her biological and adopted sons. 
    6. Yet despite the many struggles and commitments of her own, she dedicated her time to help children with special needs to find joy and fulfilment. 
    7. We really applaud her strength, courage, and sacrifice, and these are all stories of true selflessness. Please join me in warmly congratulating all of them. 
  10. MCCY’s support for citizen-led initiatives and celebrating silent heroes

  11. As I have said earlier, I am sure many of you will know you own stories where everyday people display acts of extraordinary, uncommon kindness. The government will continue to encourage and work with the many citizen-led initiatives to support them. At MCCY, we have programmes to support these movements without stifling their creativity, interest or investment in the beneficiaries that they serve to allow them to continue to feel vested in their outcomes. Let me talk about a few of these initiatives.
    1. We have the SG Cares Volunteer Centres and they are now available in all 24 towns across Singapore, to grow and coordinate town-based volunteerism and facilitate sustained partnerships across each SG Cares Community Network. The Volunteer Centres will support but not replace existing volunteer networks which will continue to function to ensure that volunteers, social workers, and other similar everyday heroes will continue be close to those that they serve, while at the same time receiving some structured government support for the work that they do.
    2. We also encourage more free freeform initiatives to rise up. Since its launch in 2016, the Our Singapore Fund has supported more than 260 ground-up projects that strengthen social cohesion and address specific needs in our community. We look forward to supporting another 400 new projects over the next three years.
    3. Finally for our young people, the Youth Action Challenge (YAC) provides youths a platform to ideate, think out of the box, and develop solutions for real world problems. We have had 3 seasons of the YAC, with over 700 youths forming more than 170 teams pitching innovative ideas on topics like mental well-being, sustainability, and support for vulnerable groups in our society. The young people indeed see things from a different perspective, different but not any less valuable. Some of them have thrown up some truly out of the box innovations, suggestions, and ideas. We provide mentoring support and financial grants to help them with their innovation so that they can scale up, roll out, and more people can benefit from these ideas. Season 4 will start soon this October. 
  12. Affirming the work of the Civilians Association Singapore

  13. Finally, let me just say that occasions like tonight are special – they are not only just for celebrating and cherishing the good work, but these occasions should also serve as springboards and multipliers for many more such acts in the community.
    1. In sharing our heroes’ stories tonight, I hope more will be inspired to support and look out for one another. Often times, like Mr Sellvem said, we have it in us – we might not yet know how we can trigger that unsung hero spirit but it is within all of us, that human spirit.
    2. May we also aspire to be heroes in our own spheres of influence. We all come from different communities and a diverse background, and if we can be that unsung hero in our community, it will make a world of a difference.
  14. With that, let me say a special thank you to the silent heroes who are the Civilians Association Singapore (CAS). Thank you very much for working so hard to put this event together every year.
    1. Thank you for your steadfast work and belief in the value of the human spirit and what it can do for us as a society and as a country.
    2. Today, besides organising these ceremonies, CAS also runs programmes in areas such as youth development, family bonding, supporting single parents, and befriending seniors. All of these are areas that Singapore needs, and I am very grateful to CAS for taking the step forward proactively to look at these areas and to be the aggregator of volunteer spirit so that more in the community can be served.
  15. Conclusion

  16. Indeed, not all heroes wear capes. Nor do they wear flashy costumes or have superhero powers.
  17. Our heroes come in the form of ordinary Singaporeans from different walks of life, upholding values that unite us – of selflessness, courage, justice, equality and inclusion.
  18. It is so important that we celebrate all of you and all that you do for the people around you. And so tonight, we celebrate them, we cheer and cherish what you have done, and we look forward to working together as a community.
  19. Together, I believe we can really make a difference. When we say that we want to leave Singapore in a better state for future generations, the next step starts now for us to think about the contributions that we can make and the difference that we can make to the people around us as that next unsung hero.
  20. Thank you.
Last updated on 30 August 2022