One of the fellows’ comments from last night’s reunion was “Thanks for this unique and beautiful friendship”
When I think about it, it is indeed unique and beautiful.
34 of us, who were students from 5 Asean countries, were selected and offered a scholarship for a semester study in two prestigious Singapore’s university: National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
The scholarship was provided by Government of Singapore through its Singapore International Foundation (SIF).
It was only a semester. More or less 5 months. But little we knew back then, we are still very much connected through out these 25 years.
When Ying was “lost” in London, Rima who worked in Indonesian Embassy there gave her a shelter. When I visited Manila for business trip, the Pinoys gathered to have dinner with me. When Sheila family was relocated to Beijing and Jakarta, Heng Peng and Indonesian fellows were among the firsts to be contacted and helped her settled in new country.
It’s our unwritten rule that “whenever you go visit neighboring countries (or any other country), you’ll look for time to meet and reconnect with your SIF fellows there”. That keeps our bonding remain strong.
And last night was a special night for us. We celebrated our 25th Anniversary of friendship with a theme “Rekindle to Rise”. Renee and Sheila brought up this idea to celebrate our reunion, and asked few representatives from each country to join the Core Group. 11 of us periodically met for the past 4 months to discuss and prepare for the reunion. We wanted our reunion to be more than just reminiscing our great memory of the past, but also to commemorate the special occasion in meaningful way.
For the past three months, fellows from each country held a charity movement “Hugs for ASEAN Children”. A charity to help COVID-19 impacted children.
Indonesia fellows together with other SIF Alumni from different batch held Charity Bike and Run. The Thais raised funds to buy tablets and 6 months internet package to help kids from Chiang Mai school for their online learning. In Singapore, we donated laptop for disadvantaged children for their home based learning. And finally, the Pinoys held Christmas Raffle to help orphaned teenagers in one of the church so they can continue their education. In total more than USD14,000 was raised for this charity.
In the virtual “Gala Night” for reunion, we shared this initiative to the fellows and guests. We invited host families who were our foster parents during our stay in Singapore. We were also honored to have Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Chairman of SIF and Reuben Kwan from SIF, who joined us at the event. And we were so delighted to have our “Mother Hens” – Yahti and Hwee Lian coming to the reunion. They are former SIF Staff, who 25 years ago managed the program and took care all of us there.
All of them were so impressed with the strong connection among the fellows of our batch. And the impact of the program to our lives. Which goes far beyond the short period of time we spent in Singapore. And far stronger than just an acquaintance among old friends.
One of SIF mission is “changing lives”. The program changed our lives forever. It opened our mind for international networking. Broaden our views for global society. And enabled us to have this unique, beautiful friendship.
Here to another 25 years of our connection. For a greater cause, love and peace to the world.