SIF celebrates 25 years of sharing and caring overseas

Top: Mr Justin Lee, 25, a citizen ambassador representing the alumni of the Young Social Entrepreneurs Programme 2010, presenting a copy of SIF's commemorative book to President Tan. Above: Dr Ramaswamy led a team of volunteers on SIF's Palliative Ca
Mr Justin Lee, 25, a citizen ambassador representing the alumni of the Young Social Entrepreneurs Programme 2010, presenting a copy of SIF's commemorative book to President Tan.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Top: Mr Justin Lee, 25, a citizen ambassador representing the alumni of the Young Social Entrepreneurs Programme 2010, presenting a copy of SIF's commemorative book to President Tan. Above: Dr Ramaswamy led a team of volunteers on SIF's Palliative Ca
Dr Ramaswamy led a team of volunteers on SIF's Palliative Care for Children project in Indonesia.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

A group of Singapore doctors and nurses has been going to Indonesia to volunteer to train medical professionals in treating and caring for terminally ill children and adults.

In 2012, they left an impression on President Tony Tan Keng Yam while he was in the country for an official visit.

"This is testament to the spirit of enduring relationships between the peoples of two countries and how friendships can be harnessed for the greater good," he said last night at the Singapore International Foundation's (SIF) 25th anniversary dinner, where he launched a commemorative book.

Dr Tan is a patron of SIF, which works with global communities to share skills, ideas and experiences in areas such as arts and culture, business, education, healthcare and the environment.

The book , titled Building A Better World, features the stories of 25 citizen ambassadors who have stepped out of their comfort zone to connect, collaborate and effect change in global communities.

One of the ambassadors profiled in the book is Dr Ramaswamy Akileswaran, a consultant in geriatric medicine at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. He led a team of Singapore volunteers on the SIF's Palliative Care for Children project in Indonesia.

SIF and its specialist volunteers have embarked on another three- year project to train medical professionals from 15 healthcare institutions in Jakarta in caring for patients with end-stage illnesses.

"In the past seven years, I have been reminded so many times that I am not going overseas with more knowledge and skills than our Indonesian counterparts," said Dr Ramaswamy, 57. "It has always been a mutual learning experience, with many valuable friendships formed over the years."

In his speech at the dinner yesterday, Dr Tan said Singapore was fortunate to have friends from the global community who supported her in her formative years.

"We needed help and many developed countries responded to our call. They were generous with their assistance and goodwill, and were forthcoming with funding, technical and skills training," said Dr Tan.

He added that agencies such as SIF "facilitate deep and active involvement of Singaporeans and others in addressing global challenges through dialogue, capacity-building programmes and humanitarian activities, contributing to greater international understanding and development".

More than 4,000 Singaporeans have taken part in SIF projects in 17 countries since the foundation was set up in 1991.

These projects range from cultural exchanges to volunteer work and nurturing social entrepreneurs.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2016, with the headline 'SIF celebrates 25 years of sharing and caring overseas'. Print Edition | Subscribe