Monday, 25 February 2013

CDCs to create platforms to integrate existing and new citizens

By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia, 23 Feb 2013

Singapore's Community Development Councils (CDCs) plan to create platforms for new and existing citizens to come together to forge friendships.

The aim is also for them to have a better appreciation and understanding of one another.

In an interview with Channel NewsAsia, Dr Amy Khor, who is the Coordinating Mayor of the five CDCs, said one way will be to create interest groups that all would be keen to take part in.

The topic of integration has been in the air recently, especially during the debate on the White Paper on Population.

Sharing some of his experiences, North West CDC Mayor, Dr Teo Ho Pin said interest groups have been a successful way to integrate existing and new citizens.

Dr Teo said: "A very good example is brisk walking. The spin-off from there is once you provide a platform, a sustainable platform, where people can come together on a regular basis they will develop friendships and there will be bonding."

Central Singapore CDC Mayor Sam Tan added that Singaporeans have been forthcoming in welcoming their new friends. 

Mr Tan said: "Singaporeans actually are very generous and warm at heart, although some of us may not be expressive in expressing our warmth toward new comers and foreigners. But if you have time and when people work together on a certain meaningful project, you actually discover a lot of Singaporeans are actually kind hearted and they can be quite warm to other people."

But Dr Khor, who is also the mayor of Southwest CDC Mayor emphasised that integration is a "work-in-progress" and something which cannot be taken for granted.

"Many grassroots leaders in fact most of them do welcome the new citizens because they are a step forward to volunteer to help out in the grassroots organisations so I think many of them are accepting and are open to getting new citizens in their midst and working with them," explained Dr Khor.

She added: "But new citizens also must make effort to want to reach out and integrate with the community, to want to get to know to the locals better and forge friendships with them. So I think it is mutual. We hope that existing local Singaporeans will continue to be open and accepting of new citizens, new citizens must also put in effort to get to know Singaporeans."

Dr Khor added that constituencies can tap on funds such as the National Integration Fund to organise the programmes.

The CDCs said they are prepared to chip in with funding for programmes if needed.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the People's Association said the CDCs have no plans to tap on funding for this year.

One CDC that had tapped on the fund was North West CDC in 2010 for the 'Culture & Food Appreciation @ North West' programme.

The CDC received some S$8,000 from the National Integration Fund for the programme.

The programme aimed to integrate new citizens into Singapore's local culture by introducing them to a local culture and religion.

Held at the Jurong Bird Park, the programme attracted over 800 North West District residents.

Participants enriched their understanding of the rich unique cultures through traditional Malay dance performances, tried on the baju kurung and sarong kebaya, enjoyed Malay culinary delights and learnt how to make ketupat through hands-on sessions.

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