Singapore Polytechnic wins inaugural Asean People's Award

SINGAPORE - Two weeks ago, 300 students from across Southeast Asia took on the roles of diplomats at the Singapore Polytechnic's annual Youth Model Asean Conference.

Together, they discussed challenges in their different homelands and regional issues like the gaps between the needs of their respective economies and the training received by the workers.

"The conference brought people together because these were issues that didn't affect just one country but the whole region. We looked at how we could solve problems together," said the polytechnic's student and organiser Laura Lau, 19.

For organising the conference and its other efforts at regional community building over the years, Singapore Polytechnic was named the national winner of the inaugural Asean People's Award on Thursday.

Through its programmes, the polytechnic "has fostered a greater sense of community and connectivity among students in Asean and in doing so, helped build an Asean identity", said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement.

Each Asean member state will confer the award on an individual or organisation in its own country.

The award comes with a US$10,000 (S$14,000) cash grant.

All 10 recipients will receive the award in a ceremony next month at the 27th Asean Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Seven organisations and 15 individuals were nominated for the award during a public nomination exercise in Singapore from Aug 25 to Sept 6.

Singapore Polytechnic was picked the winner by a panel of four judges: Ambassaors-at-Large Chan Heng Chee, Tommy Koh and Ong Keng Yong, as well as former Community Chest chairman Jennie Chua. Mr Ong is a former secretary-general of Asean.

Singapore Polytechnic has done 84 community service projects overseas since 2010 and 1,885 students took part in them.

The projects include building infrastructure works, providing healthcare and teaching the English language to people of the other Asean countries.

Since 2013, 900 students have also spent a fortnight living in another Asean country and brainstorming solutions to the community's problems, under the poly's Learning Express programme.

Deepening ties among the people in the region has been a recent key aim of the 10-member grouping, which is set to declare an Asean Community at the end of 2015.

For Ms Lau, meeting her peers from the other countries was the best part of the youth conference.

She said: "I've never been to Brunei , but through my new friends, I got to know more about the daily life there. After I graduate, I'd like to travel there and see them again."