Speech by Mr S Iswaran, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Education, at the Boys’ Brigade Awards Presentation Ceremony on Saturday, 24 April 2010, at 4.45pm at Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School (Secondary)
Mr Tan Kok Heng,
Brigade President of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore
Officers and members of The Boys’ Brigade,
I am pleased to join you at this awards presentation ceremony. Today, 100 Boys’ Brigade Companies have received honours for demonstrating excellence in their respective Company programmes and administration and I would like to first congratulate all of you on this commendable performance. I understand the number of award recipients has increased from the previous year, and I am sure this was due, in no small way, to the BB units’ dedication and drive.
Empowering Youths of the Future
Since its founding in 1930 by Mr James Milner Fraser, the Boys’ Brigade has welcomed thousands of young men into its wings and has subsequently groomed many to be capable leaders in society. Dr Robert Loh, the former President of the National Council of Social Services (NCSS); Mr Lim Siong Guan, the former Head of Civil Service; and Lieutenant-General (Ret) Winston Choo, count as some of the BB boys who have gone on to become prominent figures serving society.
In keeping with the mission of the Boys’ Brigade to nurture youths into responsible persons ready to serve and lead, the theme “Destined to Change the World” was chosen to commemorate the Group’s 80th year of service in Singapore. I find the theme apt, as it calls for both boys and officers to act as a positive force within the local community as well as in communities beyond our shores. More importantly, it serves to reinforce BB’s aim of developing dynamic, driven and world-ready individuals. I am told that BB has even gone a step further to translate this theme into action by organising a youth leadership conference based on the same theme in June this year. This conference aims to unite BB members worldwide to champion various social causes via new media avenues, and I believe this meeting of young minds is a positive step towards empowering our youths in charting their own future.
Serving the Global Community
The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore has been exemplary in their desire to make a difference in society. In particular, they have succeeded in reaching out to various segments of the local community through the BB Sharity Gift Box, a long-term initiative conducted for the past 22 years. Each year, around Christmas, BB members would take some time off to visit and fulfil the wishes of beneficiaries under the Public Assistance Scheme and Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs). Last year, the BB Sharity Gift Box brought the festive cheer to close to 29,000 beneficiaries and broke new ground by helping an additional group of 2,000 households receiving assistance from the Community Care Transition scheme. I am also happy to note that the staff of MOE had contributed to this project by fulfilling over 400 specific beneficiary wishes.
Apart from lending a helping hand to the local community as one BB family, individual BB Companies have also gone overseas to places such as Batam in Indonesia; Khon Kaen in Thailand, and Kunming in China, for service learning projects. A good example is the 33rd Junior Company, who initiated a service learning trip to Kunming as part of their annual programme to expose the boys to the needs of the international community, while giving them the opportunity to serve these needs. As part of the programme’s focus on improving the learning environment for the poorer students in Kunming, I understand the boys have set up various equipment and facilities — such as a computer and music corner — to enhance the children’s learning experience at minimal cost. The 33rd Junior Company have demonstrated that primary school students, too, can ably serve the wider global community.
Character Development Opportunities
While the programmes aim to bring out the best in the boys, the officers and volunteers of the Boys’ Brigade also have an important role to play in ensuring these boys maximise their learning during their stint. I was told of Joel Liew Kuang Chen’s experience. He was a quiet and shy boy. Recognising the potential in Joel, his Company Captain, Mr Joe Chow, and a fellow BB officer, Mr Kevin Chia, took it upon themselves to mentor Joel so as to build up his confidence. Seeing that his Captain and Officer were willing to sacrifice time for his personal development, Joel assumed several leadership positions which were meant to test and train him. As a result, Joel emerged a more confident leader and left the ranks of BB in his secondary school as an Operations Sergeant, before returning to continue his service as a Primer or post-secondary school member.
Such inspiring accounts are not uncommon among the Uniformed Groups but they highlight the real opportunities that are available for character development and holistic education to take place beyond the classroom. The J M Fraser Niche Awards, which we have conferred today for the first time, signals that BB Companies have excelled not only in the area of character development, but also in other niche areas such as community service, performing arts, and innovation in sports and adventure. I urge members to take inspiration from today’s awardees and endeavour to bring the Boys’ Brigade to greater heights.
I congratulate all the award recipients again for your worthy efforts and achievements. I hope that all of you here today, BB officers, teachers, and other stakeholders, persevere in this task of moulding and nurturing these young boys into leaders and citizens of tomorrow.