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A memoir written in honour of SSEAYP homestay host families
Recently the book, “The ship that spreads friendship”, was published by the SSEAYP International Singapore, and given away free to all Singapore homestay host families of the participating youths (PYs) of the Ship for Southeast Asian and Japanese Youth Programme (SSEAYP). All PYs from ASEAN and Japan too received a free copy each on board the ship, Nippon Maru, on the day they left Singapore.
The Japanese-mooted programme, SSEAYP, began its friendship mission in 1974 by ferrying its participating youths (PYs) from ASEAN and Japan for self-development activities as well as homestays for about 52 days during each annual SSEAYP trip.
This year, a total of some 330 PYs of SSEAYP were in Singapore for five days from 16 November.
At the Resort World Sentosa on Saturday 16 November 2019, during the 46th SSEAYP 2019 Welcome Ceremony for this year’s PYs. all the contingents of the 10 member ASEAN countries and Japan were warmly welcomed by the Guest-of-Honour, Mr Baey Yam Keng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth & Ministry of Transport.
After addressing the huge attendance, “The ship that spreads friendship” was launched by Mr Baey who unveiled a big poster of the book. A copy of the book was then presented to him by the author who is a SSEAYP homestay host for 30 years now, since 1989.
The following are some photos of the memorable occasion.
Author’s homestay PYs
Since 1989, the author and his wife, Khairon, have been taking two PYs each year. However, for the first time this year, due to general requests from the organisers, they took an additional two. The four are, one PY from Brunei Darussalam, one from Laos and two from Vietnam.
After the launching of “The ship that spreads friendship” and the Welcome Ceremony in Sentosa, the four excited PYs headed to the home of the author for the 3-day homestay stint.
The Deepavali Celebration, organised by the SSEAYP International Singapore (SIS), was held at the Jurong Town Hall on Sunday 17 November for invited guests, not for the international PYs as they were enjoying their homestay stint on this day. However, the author, his wife and his four homestay PYs were invited. The Guest-of-Honour of the function was Singapore’s President, Madam Halimah Yacob.
The following are some memorable photos taken at the celebration.
My PYs had a nice and enjoyable Singapore homestay experience. Other PYs would have experienced the same pleasure too with their respective host families.
One of my PYs, Nur Hamizah Mohd Ziadi (Mizah) from Brunei Darussalam, said she would come back to Singapore next year.
Mizah said: “I love my homestay family and because of that I was waiting eagerly to receive the book, and when I received it on the ship, I began reading it whenever I had the time.”
She continued: “The book truly captures the essence of SSYEAP as it shows the different experiences of the people involved – the ex-PYs, host families, the alumni association officials and many more. It made me even gladder and proud to be part of SSYEAP.
I’m sure the book would also be enjoyed by those who are not familiar with SSEAYP as it gives a wonderful insight for those interested to take the leap and be part of the ever-growing SSYEAP family.
I like this informative book and shall cherish and treasure it. However, I shall lend it to my friends for them to know more about SSEAYP and its activities in bonding friendships.”
30 November 2019
A peek at the SSEAYP homestay book
You would have read “Part 1: Wah! This year’s SSEAYP PYs will get a homestay book memento!” published in my blog on 8 September (2019). Here’s part 2.
The SSEAYP homestay book is in the final proof-reading stage. However, here are some glimpses of the book.
Some images of the book contents
Photos of some PYs over the years
Who wrote or said these?
(1) Thrill for a young teen
“I was 12 at that time. As I have always wanted an older sister, I was thrilled. We ate my mother’s home-cooked food together with my foster sisters. Then, we spent the next two days exploring Singapore with my parents…”
(2) A friendship poem
“It’s not a common ocean liner but an extraordinary ship
It is not a ship that gives extra leisure but extra friendship
Nippon Maru is the ship with a package that builds leadership
Whilst sailing across cultures and beliefs enhancing relationship
Working together with SSEAYP and SIGA for better partnership
And stopping in Singapore to provide PYs with adventureship
As well as staying with Singaporeans to foster close kinship
With this I hope this book would attract a wide readership.”
(3) He met the author 8 years ago
“I first met Shaik Kadir at the Singapore Memory Project’s “When Nations Remember II” conference on 29 November, 2011. He shared his personal stories from his book “A kite in the evening sky” about growing up in Geylang Serai while I spoke about my memories of the Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961 to a full-house attendance at the Singapore Civilisations Museum, Empress Place….(The book) would also help to promote goodwill, peace and harmony across Southeast Asia and indeed the world.”
The ship that spreads friendship is scheduled to be out in mid-November when the SSEAYP PYs arrive in Singapore. PYs and others associated with SSEAYP will get a copy.
7 October 2019
Wah! This year’s SSEAYP PYs will get a homestay book memento!
Yes. This year’s participating youths (PYs) of the Ship for Southeast Asian and Japanese Youth Programme (SSEAYP) will each receive a SSEAYP homestay book to read and keep for remembrance.
The book, which carries international friendship as its theme, will be given to a total of about 330 PYs from ASEAN and Japan during the homestay matching ceremony at the Resorts World Sentosa on 16 November 2019.
Homestay host families and SSEAYP officials will also get a copy.
I am delighted and happy to have written this special book which is published by SSEAYP International Singapore (SIS).
The responsibility of writing this book fell on me for two main reasons:
(1) I have been a SSEAYP homestay host for over 25 years and therefore have lots of experiences with SSEAYP and its PYs.
(2) I am an experienced writer in English.
Now a social blogger of “Read-and-Reap”, I’ve written 14 books and over 350 articles and short stories in various local and overseas magazines, including in Singapore’s The Straits Times and Berita Harian. Varied samples of my writings are:
Well, the idea of producing a book about SSEAYP homestay came up a year ago but it was not until late April that I was told to proceed writing it.
I immediately sprang into action with great zeal. Why so fast? Well, because the book has to be completed in a short time of four months only – the entire narration needs to be submitted to the printing company on 30 August as the company would take two months to get the book printed and delivered by end of October.
I always took between two to three years to write a book as it is not easy to write a “solid” book of over 100 pages as lots of researches and confirmations need to be done. The SSEAYP homestay book is no different. What’s more, it carries lots of interview information that needs to be written and confirmed by the interviewees. (The book carries views, comments, fond memories and experiences of others involved with SSEAYP – all were heavily edited by me for brevity and homogeneity.) I thank them all for their contributions, especially their photos.
To write the book, I faced lots of challenges and encountered sleepless nights. At one point my 4-year old ASUS laptop gave trouble or rather it gave me trouble as it might be angry at me for not giving it enough rest. The folder containing the half-completed narration of the SSEAYP homestay story suddenly disappeared and I almost fainted. Nervously I searched for it everywhere. But it has simply vanished from the computer! I collapsed.
My son came to my rescue. He too frantically searched for the folder, and after a long struggle extracted a copy from somewhere deep in the stomach of the laptop!
He advised me to get a new laptop, and I immediately did. I bought another ASUS laptop. Still, I didn’t give it enough rest like the previous one but this one is young and strong, so no fear.
Eventually, I managed to complete writing the homestay story a couple of days before the end of August, and handed the manuscript to the printing company on 31 August.
A great relief descended upon me. Now, I’m awaiting to do two proof-readings before the book goes into its final stage of production.
SIS President Yacob Hussain did his part by calling for quotations for the printing job and negotiating with the printing companies for the delivery date. Together we applied for the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) from the National Library Board and discussed with the selected printing company on matters concerning the book.
The book will be ready for delivery at the end of October, about two weeks before the arrival of the PYs. Do doa (make supplication) for the successful production of the book.
Anything else you want to know?
Yes, what’s the title of the book?
The ship that spreads friendship.
Wow! That’s a nice title!
How many people gave comments and were interviewed for their experiences?
Eighteen? Wow! So many! Who are they?
Be patient lah! Don’t be too excited lah! Wait for Part Two of the article, okay?
Till Part Two appears in this blog in about two weeks, just keep wondering how the design of the front cover of the book would be – the one shown above is only a sample done by me, not professionally done. So, I’m wondering too. But the designer has been instructed to make the front page look friendly – with the ship merrily sailing from one port of call to another, spreading friendship.
8 September 2019
Qurban in Medan
Hari Raya Haji celebration delight
A group of friends, comprising 12 Singaporeans and one Indonesian working in Singapore, went to Medan for a 5-day trip from 8-12 August (2019), the objective being to celebrate Eid ul-Adha (or Hari Raya Haji in Malay), and to perform the qurban (slaughtering of sheep and cows) whose meat was distributed to the poor.
In the group of 13 friends, three are non-Muslims – Rachel, Thana and Suguna. We had an interesting time together.
Four people made some comments about our Medan trip.
“Our Medan trip was simply awesome. It’s not just because my best buddies were with me but because I had the privilege of getting to know some new people who made the trip a memorable one.
Be it during the breezy boat ride, or stopping on an impulse for durians, or visiting the Batak execution chamber or taking the crayfish lunch, we broke jokes, shared anecdotes and had so much laughter, fun and joy.
It was one of those trips where it matters not where you go but who you go with!” – Ms Suguna Ramasamy
We were lucky to have Ms Sri Zuraida Zainal Abidin in our group, whose father, (her mother has passed away) and siblings live in Medan. We visited their home early in the morning of Hari Raya Haji and together went for the Hari Raya prayer in a mosque near their home and later went for the qurban ceremony in a vacant area in a village.
“I feel very honored for the group to have visited Medan and met my family members.
I am thankful to the Muslims in the group to celebrate Aidil Adha and making the qurban in my family’s village.
Many poor people in the village got the opportunity to meet Singaporeans and they found them very friendly.
From the qurban of the Singaporean Muslims in the group and that from some people in the village, those kampung people who are poor had more qurban meat to eat, and the kampung people are very thankful for that. It is good charity.
Thank you.” – Ms Sri Zuraida Zainal Abidin
On Sunday, 11 August (2019), while the Muslims went to Sri’s sister’s home some distance away from the hotel to perform the qurban rites, Rachel, Thana and Suguna went shopping, accompanied by their Muslim friend, Juliana, from the group.
Shopping was a delightful activity. Members of the group bought things from batik and baggage to fruits and foodstuff to be taken home.
Some of the interesting places we visited included cruising in the huge and scenic Lake Toba, Samosir Island where we visited Batak houses at the Ambarita Village and learned of the history of the Batak people, Barastagi province where we visited its Grand Mosque, and in the Medan city, we visited the Maimoon Palace.
In the afternoon, after completing our qurban rites, we had an audience with the Sultan Langkat, Tuanku Yang Mulia Azwar Aziz Abdul Djalil Rahmadsyah Alhaj, during which I proposed that we could have a student-exchange programme for our students to visit them and experience village life and observe the mountains, fruit trees, plantations and farms and their students can come to Singapore to learn about our lifestyle, and enjoy our food and attractions.
“We were lucky to meet up with an important person for an audience. He was Tuanku Yang Mulia Azwar Aziz Abdul Djalil Rahmadsyah Alhajj.
A soft-spoken person, Tuanku told us his roots and his past extensively. He also told us how the people in the villages lived, and the challenge taken to make the Malay language recognised internationally.
He would like to see the young people of today with western influence coming back to their culture and be more open-minded.
We admire his vast knowledge of this region and of his people.” – Mr Imhar Said
Of course, Muslims crowded the many mosques in Medan to perform the Eid ul-Adha solat (prayer) at around 7:30 in the morning. Then, at about ten, the qurban activity began.
The slaughtering was done following Islamic rites and instructions to relax the animal and to be compassionate to them before and during the slaughtering them, and keeping some distance away from each other with the blood flowing into a pre-made hole in the ground.
The Muslims in the group are happy to have accomplished our main objective of going to Medan – to celebrate Hari Raya Haji and offering our qurban to benefit the poor.
Regarding the qurban (or spelt in Malay as korban), God says in the Islamic Holy Book, the Quran: “Celebrate the name of God through the days appointed over the herds for sacrifice. Then, eat and feed the unfortunate and the needy.” (22:28).
As for the qurban meat, God says: “It is not (the animal’s) flesh or blood that reaches Allah. It is your piety that reaches Him.” (22:37)
The qurban ceremony, held during the Haj in Mecca, is conducted at a location far away from the crowd, and the meat is deep-frozen and donated to the poor in countries around the world.
Sri’s siblings, Adhe Ahmadsyah Ramadhan Zainal Abidin, Nur Asmanissa Zainal Abidin, Sri Rahayu Zainal Abidin and her brother-in-law Agung Kurniawan (husband of Sri Rahayu), were also happy to take us shopping. We are very thankful to them for their hospitality and generosity.
“Salam to everybody in the Singapore group.
Alhamdulillah! I am pleased to welcome the delegation from Singapore and I wish everyone all the best.
I hope, all of you had a nice and enjoyable time in Medan and also during your cruise in Lake Toba and the tour to Samosir Island and Brastagi.
Thanks to those who visited my home and gave us the opportunity to do the Aidil Adha prayer together.
I hope, members of the Singapore group will stay healthy so that we can see each other again next time.
Ameen.” – Mr Agung Kurniawan (Sri’s brother-in-law)
As for our three non-Muslim friends, they too enjoyed the Medan trip. Best of all, we all gained deep friendship and we shall keep it.
16 August 2019
Towards unity as one people of Singapore Understanding and appreciating religious practices via interfaith dialogues
Towards unity as one people of Singapore
Understanding and appreciating religious practices via interfaith dialogues
More than 50 Singaporeans of multi-racial, multi-religious composition attended a talk on marriage from the perspectives of the Sikh and Ba’hai religions at the Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church on Sunday, 28 July 2019.
This is the fifth annual Interfaith Dialogue presentation organised by the Siglap Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC). The previous four assemblies, first organised in 2015, were also held in this church.
The speakers in this session were Ms Harjit Kaur who spoke on Sikh marriages and Ms Ang Ing Ing talked on Ba’hai marriages.
Though the approaches and rituals of marriages in each religion might be different, the objective and direction is the same – the marriage ought to last with love and happiness. Each married couple needs to be responsible in developing the family and seeing that understanding, love and compassion dominate the family unit.
Earlier in his introductory remark, the Guest-of-Honour Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman cited the importance of being aware of false posts which is rampant in modern time with the widespread use of social media. Fake news, misinformation, wild opinions and untruth and even rude and uncalled for rhetoric are flooding the social media, and these could create tension and hatred among the various races living in a country.
Unlike the print media, social media posts spread across the world in matters of seconds, and if the subject matter has taints of anti-racial issues or/and presented in vulgar and abusive language, it can generate mistrust, even discord, among the people in the communities.
Praising Singapore and Singaporeans, Dr Maliki, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs, Mayor South East District and Advisor East Coast Group Representation Constituency (ECGRC), mentioned that although Singapore is a small island, and indeed a red dot, its multi-racial, multi-religious people have shown resilience in the onslaught of fake posts and remained peaceful and harmonious but this peace and harmony should not be taken for granted.
Hence, everyone has a very important role to play in making Singapore a unique nation where its multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious people live together as one united people of Singapore, and that such interfaith dialogues are held with the aim of uniting people together by understanding and appreciating each other’s cultures and religious practices.
Two people agreed that such educational and social gathering is good for people to know and understand the various cultures and religions practised in Singapore and, at the same time, come close together in lasting friendship. Their comments are as follows:
“From this interfaith talk at the Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church on 28 July, I now understand more about the practices of other faiths, especially, in this case, about marriages in the Sikh and Ba’hai communities. Understanding about other religions is important to live together peacefully. I shall definitely attend future interfaith dialogues to gain more knowledge about other religions in Singapore.” – Ms Suryani Nasiruddin
“Our ongoing interfaith talks and dialogues provide a useful platform for meaningful conversations, exchanges of information and clarifications. More significantly, they open us to perspectives outside of our own circles and help us gain a greater appreciation and understanding of each other’s beliefs. In this digital age, unfriendly rhetoric, offhand opinions and sometimes careless conclusions surface in the media, so this makes our interfaith dialogues extremely useful in countering provocative inferences and presumptions.” – Rev Song Choon Hock
The interfaith dialogue session at the church ended with a fruit fiesta. The guests really enjoyed the local fruit treat and chatted away making new friends and renewing friendship.
In recent time, there have been cases of colour supremacy and racial slurs in some countries, causing tension and fear to the residents. With globalisation, as people work and even live in other countries, racism and colour supremacy should no longer exist or tolerated. We need to forget race and colour and work together as one humankind.
More than 1400 years ago, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), in his famous long and last sermon, apart from reminding Muslims on their religious obligations and social responsibilities, advised all humanity to keep away from racism and colour supremacy.
The Prophet said: “All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also, a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white except by piety and good action…Remember, one day you will appear before Allah and answer your deeds. So, be aware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.”
1 August 2019