Young volunteers lauded for helping school in Punjab

The YSA community service team and teachers of the Punjab school in the newly built library. About two dozen volunteers went to the Ludhiana district in December to install a power generator and build a school library.
The YSA community service team and teachers of the Punjab school in the newly built library. About two dozen volunteers went to the Ludhiana district in December to install a power generator and build a school library.PHOTO: NADYA NASSER

A group of young people went to a village in Punjab, India last October to see how they could help the people there. What they saw shocked them: Some children could not go to school because the uneven ground meant frequent flooding.

Others who managed to go to school studied in dark, dusty and stuffy rooms because the lights and fans went on and off because of intermittent electricity supply.

"We knew that we really needed to do something because these would affect the children's health and education outcomes in the long run," said Ms Nadya Nasser, 25.

The kindergarten teacher returned to the Ludhiana district in December with 20 other young Singaporean volunteers to help level the ground, install a power generator and build a school library.

The young people were a part of Project Khwaish XV, a community service project organised by the Young Sikh Association (YSA) that took place over three weeks last year. There have been 15 such projects since 2003.

Yesterday, they were given certificates for their efforts by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Minister of State for Education and Communications and Information.

He said the Sikh community's contributions to Singapore have been significant and its efforts have enabled cultural and racial integration in a year that has seen an increase in "angry rhetoric" worldwide.

"The efforts by YSA to enhance understanding between different ethnic groups through a variety of platforms, including community service, are highly commendable," said Dr Puthucheary at the event held at the Central Sikh Temple in Towner Road.

The team stocked the library with 3,500 books and used the $60,000 that they raised from donations to buy a water filtration system, water cooler, fans and lights. They also distributed 100 boxes of clothing and blankets to needy members of the community.

"It was a humbling experience for us because the people there were so generous with the little that they have, from the fruits to the chapati," said Ms Nadya. "I have learnt that there is so much more to be done, whether it is within one's community or elsewhere."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2016, with the headline 'Young volunteers lauded for helping school in Punjab'. Print Edition | Subscribe