Speech by Mr David T E Lim, Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts at the SKM Seminar on Saturday, 26 January 2001, Raffles the Plaza Hotel Ballroom, 9am

26/01/2001

Mr Noel Hon, Chairman of the Singapore Kindness Movement Council,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and gentlemen.

Good Morning.

I am happy to be with you at the Singapore Kindness Movement Seminar.

The Singapore Kindness Movement was launched in 1997 in response to the Prime Minister's call to make Singapore a kinder, gentler society. In his 1996 New Year message, he had urged Singaporeans to upgrade not just their homes but their social behaviour as well. He had asked that we show greater care and consideration to one another so that together with our economic achievements, we may build the best homes for ourselves.

Over the past five years, the SKM has grown into a nation-wide movement and brought its messages of care, kindness and graciousness into our homes, schools and communities. SKM has a simple objective. It encourages all Singaporeans to make a positive commitment to gracious living through simple acts of kindness in their daily activities. Everyone has the capacity to be kind. You do not need to be highly intelligent or fabulously rich. Neither do you need to perform feats of heroism or great acts of charity. All it takes is a simple act of care and concern, or a kind word, and you would have made someone's day.

Examples of such acts include holding the lift door open for your neighbour, helping a child or an elderly person cross the road, or giving up your seat in a crowded bus. While the acts are by themselves insignificant and unspectacular, they reveal the heart of the doer. They show that we are kind, caring and considerate. These acts require no special skill, only a capacity for love and care.

Right now, we are going through tough times. But it is not just our economy that is under severe test. Our credentials as a caring society are also being examined. When times get tough, will we still have time to be kind?

In particular, some people have expressed fears that our society is headed for decline because they think that a younger generation of Singaporeans is growing up selfish and uncaring. This is a danger that we must be watchful of. Year by year, we must inculcate in our youth the importance of graciousness and kindness in our lives. These are essential qualities of life that go beyond material achievements.

But this is a danger that I think for now is well under control. I am happy to see that there are many examples of young Singaporeans who have come forward to show their concern for others in society in tangible ways. One example is the Boy’s Brigade Sharity Gift Box project. I mention this project specially because the young volunteers, who had worked hard to collect, sort and distribute the gifts, were roundly criticised by a number of people when they threw away some gifts by mistake. The unhappy words that were spoken about them, perhaps without knowledge of the full facts, contrasted with the kind deeds that they did. I urge the Boys’ Brigade to put this incident behind them, and to continue steadfast in their worthwhile cause.

I am glad that many young people are willing to do their part for the community. This is quite encouraging, and shows that our efforts to pass on important core values from one generation to the next have succeeded. However, our youth sometimes lack the financial means to carry out their projects. The NYAA-SKM Kindness Project Grant launched today will help to address this problem. Through this grant, youth groups who want to undertake community projects, be it starting a garden at an orphanage or bringing residents from homes on outings, will be helped financially. I hope that this will encourage more youth to come forward with new ideas to serve the community.

Before I conclude, let me take this opportunity to commend the many schools that have established mentorship and peer programmes, where students are trained to befriend their schoolmates and help them cope with their studies and teenage blues. These mentors are ideal role models because they belong to the same age group and speak the idiom of youth. The success of these programs reflects the good role models that teachers have set for their students. Thanks to their dedication, many have been inspired to perform community work and volunteer their time.

I also appreciate the Singapore media's role in the kindness cause. Their coverage of SKM activities has done much to generate public awareness of the movement and its message of kindness. ‘Streats’ the free commuter paper deserves special mention for its regular column, 'One Kind Act', which features acts of kindness by Singaporeans.

Today, we will also present the ‘Friends of SKM’ Awards for the first time. The seven organisations that will receive the award have been staunch supporters of SKM. They deserve special mention because of their wholehearted and sustained support for the SKM. For example, the Ministry of Education has worked closely with SKM since its inception, today, 195 schools are members of the Movement.

Finally, let me once again thank all the volunteers behind the Singapore Kindness Movement for your untiring and gracious efforts. I am very glad to note that SKM is now taking its kindness message to the housing estates. This is a step in the right direction, as you continually work to reach more Singaporeans with your message.

It is now my pleasure to launch the NYAA-SKM Kindness Programme for Students and declare the Seminar open. I wish you many hours of fruitful discussions. Thank you.

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