Speech by Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Finance, at The 8th Annual Singapore Silent Heroes Awards 2021 on Saturday, 28 August 2021, at Shangri-la Hotel28 Aug 2021
Mr Sellvem, President of the Civilians Association Singapore,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Thank you for having me at this year’s Singapore Silent Heroes Awards Ceremony. You have been doing this for quite a number of years. I think in pre-COVID times, this would have (been a) more “happening gathering”. I gather you would be seated with meals. I am sure the whole ballroom would be much more buzzing with a lot more activities. Unfortunately, it is more scaled back this year because of all the COVID requirements. I hope you understand why they are necessary. But I am also glad that we can still continue to have this event tonight in a hybrid format partly in person but also with many of you joining in virtually. I want to thank the organising committee and sponsors, and everyone who has made this event possible. I think we should give all of them a round of applause. They have worked very hard for this.
a. Let me also extend my warmest congratulations to the nominees, the finalists and of course, the award recipients.
b. It is truly my pleasure to be here to celebrate this momentous occasion with all of you.
3. We value the contributions of our silent heroes, because they embody spirit of fellowship and mutual support that is so crucial in taking our nation forward. There are diverse needs in our society and the Government will continue to do its best to meet these needs. But there is a difference when some of these needs are met by volunteers, by ordinary Singaporeans doing their part to help our fellow citizens, because this helps to strengthen that ‘Gotong Royong’ spirit that Mr Sellvem talked about just now. And so, we recognise and celebrate our silent heroes, because their acts of service are an inspiration to all of us. They inspire us every year when we give out these awards but I think they are even more inspiring during this period when we are dealing with very challenging times.
4. We have been managing COVID-19 for the past 19 months. I know it has not been easy for all of you. We are shifting our approach in managing COVID. If you have read from the news, we are now starting to take controlled steps to reopen and to resume more activities, and to learn to live with the virus. The road ahead will still not be easy – it is not as though it is just continuous opening and everything will be okay because I am sure there will be some curveballs, some unpredictable events coming up along the way, and we will continue to face many challenges.
5. But I have confidence that we will be able to get through this pandemic safely and emerge stronger together because throughout this period, I have seen countless examples of Singaporeans on the frontlines, and many more all over the island contributing and serving selflessly.
a. They include people who clean our high-risk locations to keep us safe,
b. Our healthcare workers who care for our patients,
c. And many volunteers who befriend isolated seniors and help needy families, and show care for one another.
Building a Caring and Inclusive Society
7. This sense of solidarity and togetherness is so important because COVID-19 has reinforced the point that no man is an island.
8. In times like these, we reflect on our collective mortality and we think about what is important in life. And it is certainly not about going for a vacation although I know many of you would like to do so. I think it is very often about family, it is about friendships and the people we love and care about and it’s about our community. So COVID-19 has reminded us that we are most fulfilled when we look beyond our own needs, to serve others around us. Even small gestures like helping out a neighbour or friend, can go a long way in building a more caring, gracious and inclusive society.
9. If we look around the neighbourhood, we may not realise there are silent heroes walking amongst us.
a. They can be our neighbours, colleagues, family and friends,
b. and they are people who have sacrificed for us, and showed us kindness.
c. We often overlook these everyday silent heroes and heroines, and so tonight we are very privileged to have many of them gathered together in this room.
10. I would just like to highlight a few. I know you have seen the video just now but let me just highlight our award recipients once again.
a. Mr Gareth Chua, our special needs ambassador for the YMCA. You saw how he did the virtual summit of Mt Fuji – 3,700m but he went well beyond that. And he was the first to complete the challenge. He hiked and jogged around Singapore, sometimes even climbing his HDB block 10 times in a day, and he is living proof that we can go beyond our physical boundaries and constraints, to achieve unimaginable heights.
b. Mr Cyril Ong – who is a passionate road cycling athlete and community instructor, even at the age of 70. He provides free cycling lessons to children, youth and senior members of the community, to help reduce avoidable cycling incidents, and has created a cycling interest group to help individuals on their self-confidence and self-esteem restoration journey. And, of course, apart from cycling, as you saw from the video, he is also an avid gardener, and has helped to build community gardens for many senior residents with similar interests.
c. Ms Priscilla Ong, who has started the ‘Project Love Lunch’ project in 2016, despite sustaining a physical disability in her hand. Since then, she has provided meals and groceries to residents of Marsiling and Yishun, and is now leading a team of volunteers, serving close to more than 200 families.
d. Mr Anson Ng, who founded Hao Ren Hao Shi (好人好事 meaning Good Man Good Deed) with his friends to promote the spirit of volunteerism and to build a strong community of volunteers. He has been volunteering since 2001, as you heard just now, providing care and attention to needy families, elderly and terminally ill patients. He also works with schools and students to organise volunteer programmes, instilling the spirit of volunteerism in our students. During this COVID period, he has been distributing necessities and providing moral support to our migrant workers in the dormitories too.
e. And then, Mr Siddharth Pisharody who has been volunteering with the Singapore International Foundation as a business mentor for young entrepreneurs. His extensive background and work experience have allowed him to provide valuable insights and networking opportunities to young social entrepreneurs, across a wide range of sectors, both locally and regionally. And he has helped these youth grow their start-ups, which in turn benefit the communities they contribute to.
a. Of course we should also commend our finalists tonight for their incredible contributions. We are unable to showcase all their stories but each one of them has done wonderful things and they all have amazing stories to tell about their many contributions to the community. I understand we have close to 50 nominees, and from these nominees, we have 16 finalists – all of whom are here today. And I should highlight the nominees themselves. They are Mr Tan Bingxian, Jen Goh, Teow Junhao, Kannigadevi, Ken Yeo, Li Woon, Maurice Tan, Nazmul Khan, Nizar Shariff, Peter Yang, Shaun Tan. Let’s give a big round of applause to all our finalists.
b. To all our award recipients and finalists, and even the nominees, thank you for dedicating your lives to causes that are greater than yourselves.
13. And, your stories, I am sure will inspire all of us to use our time and skills to support the vulnerable and less fortunate amongst us. We can all give back to the community in our own ways because at the end of the day, whatever our experience or backgrounds, all of us can volunteer, all of us can do something for the community and offer a hand to others in need.
14. There are many other shining examples of silent heroes everywhere in Singapore, quietly doing their part to help one another. And I think this is a very good platform to showcase these daily silent heroes and hopefully we will get many more nominees next year and in the years to come. These everyday silent heroes are the reason why I believe that despite the challenges on the road ahead, we have what it takes in Singapore to succeed, and to prevail against all odds. We can continue to support one another and emerge stronger together.
15. Big changes do not have to come from grand gestures. Even small acts of kindness can make a big difference to one another and to making Singapore a better place.
16. We can all be silent heroes in our own ways, and together we can build a more caring, gracious and inclusive society. Thank you very much.