Wishing SIYLEP participants all the best in their aspirations towards greater leadership roles
Ratna Widya Iswara, and Alicia Beverly Weley who is Miss Earth Indonesia (Air) 2017 as well as Miss Inter-Continental Indonesia 2017, were among 20 youths between the ages of 22 and 27 who were on a three-day homestay stint with Singaporean families.
The youths, comprising 10 boys and 10 girls, were in Singapore under the Singapore-Indonesia Youth Leaders Exchange Programme (SIYLEP), aimed at fostering friendship between them and the youth leaders of Singapore.
“The main part of the 7-day programme was visits to institutions of learning where they met up with youth leaders and exchanged ideas and experiences. Corporate and cultural visits were also in the programme,” explained Mr Desmond Yew, Homestay Director, SSEAYP International Singapore.
“This exchange leadership programme is the first, and we hope it would be a yearly affair with Singapore youths too being reciprocally invited by Indonesia,” said Desmond.
The youths were taken by 10 Singapore families to stay for two nights in their homes.
When hosting these youths from neighbouring countries for the homestay stint, we are not only extending our friendship to the countries from where they come but we are also helping the youths to develop broadmindedness and equip them with knowledge and experiences of our local home environment and of our multi-racial, multi-cultural harmonious setting.
Outings – a great way to increase knowledge
As much of the outings was already included in the official programme organised by the National Youth Council, we took six youths (those hosted by Mr Desmond Yew, Ms Sri Zuraida and me to Little India where we visited Mustaffa Centre, drank Indian teh tarik at a nearby restaurant, explored the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple (Hindu temple) and went to Tekka Market where Alicia bought a sari set as she would be going to Sri Lanka soon, in December, to take part in the Inter-Continental Beauty Pageant.
Three birthday celebrations in a row – wow, how lucky she is!
She? Who’s she?
Oh! I should have told earlier. She’s my dear wife, Khairon Mastan. Age? I did ask her how young she is this year, but she didn’t want to tell me. It’s secret, she said.
First, there were 5
First, there were just five, all my family members: The birthday girl and me, and my son, Imran, his wife, Shuhaila and their daughter, Nur Iffah. It was a surprise – Shuhaila and Imran came out of my kitchen with a cake, like magic, and placed it on the table for the birthday girl to blow the lighted candles but our granddaughter extinguished the flames with just one powerful blow. That was on Wednesday, 15 Nov – Khairon’s Great Day.
Then, there were 2 Indonesian youths
A day later, on 16 Nov, the two Indonesian girls – Ratna and Alicia – who came for a 3-day homestay with us, celebrated Khairon’s birthday without a cake. Eh! Must there be a cake? With candles on top of that – in the age of electricity? The cake, if it’s so important, would be better if it’s sugarless, now that Singapore is Number 1 in diabetes and we won’t mind coming last in this “health issue” race and get a wooden or clay medal or no medal at all.
Then, there were 4 Indonesian youths
Two more Indonesian youths, both boys – Muhammad Indra Ramadhan and Faiz Rabbani – joined us to celebrate the birthday on Thursday evening, 16 Nov. The visitors were accompanied by Mr Yacob Hussain and Mdm Sri Zuraida. Sri and her 9-year old son, Muhammad Hazrul Malik, came an hour later with a surprise – a cake, sponsored by Sri and Yacob.
There was a variety of food, even chapati, to relish. Imran’s wife and daughter too joined us.
Then, there were 6 Indonesian youths
On Friday afternoon, 17 Nov, another two youths, both girls – Jerni Rinova Panjaitan and Jesika Rozella – visited us. They were the foster children of Mr Desmond Yew. That evening a third surprise greeted Khairon and all others. Yacob’s wife, Mdm Keiko Soeda, a Japanese, came with a cake to surprise Khairon. Their 10-year old son, Muhammad Yasir Yuuta and their 16-year old daughter, Zahrah Yuko, came along. My son, Imran, and his family too were present, so was Sri.
It was a cheerful celebration, a grand birthday bash, the third celebration with cake within a week. “I really enjoyed the birthday cheers and the birthday wishes and doa. I thank everyone, especially the sponsors of the three cakes. Wow! How lucky I am this year!” remarked my wife with glee.
Keiko, impressed with the youths’ cheerfulness and dynamisms, remarked: “International exchanges provide different perspectives on many practical issues that could broaden the mind. For this reason, I want my son, Yasir, and daughter, Zahrah, to be involved in such activities. This made me take them here to be with the youths. Interacting with them provides a brilliant opportunity to widen their friendship.”
She added: “I also feel that through this kind of interaction, Yuuta and Yuko would be potential homestay hosts in the future.”
An evening of fun
All the six visitors together with their foster parents enjoyed the time spent at my home, the last evening of the guests’ stay in Singapore. Jesika and Iffah entertained us with songs and dances. It was a fun evening full of laughter.
As time approached for the other four youths to leave for their foster parents’ homes, Mr Yacob Hussain, Deputy President of SSEAYP International Singapore who was with us enjoying the evening’s fun, requested each of us, both the youths and their foster parents, to say a few words about their stay in Singapore for “tomorrow we part”. Every one did, except little Iffah, who was too sad to say anything.
In summary, Mr Yacob said: “Bilateral youth leadership programmes between countries, like this Singapore-Indonesia Youth Leaders Exchange Programme, in which there is much interacting, engaging and socialising, is important in laying the foundation in many aspects of leadership.”
He added: “Hopefully, the number of youths in this programme would increase as the experience gained would be meaningful and beneficial to them in facing future challenges.”
Familiarising with books and articles written by host
What is homestay if the homestay guests do not spend time at home with the foster-parents and learn about their food and lifestyle. Ratna and Alicia did. They looked through the album of my past homestay youths, the books I have written and the 12 volumes of my articles that have been published in various local and overseas journals. “Your writings have inspired me to write, and when I return to Indonesia, I would want write,” said Ratna. Indeed, I’m happy that Ratna has been motivated to write in her spare time.
Some youths from other homestay families
In such homestay programmes, the foster parents would sometimes happen to bump into each other at some places of interest when we take them out or meet at the airport. Here are some photos of the other homestay youth leaders.
Sadness of parting
In the morning of the third day, my wife and I sent off Ratna and Alicia to the airport where we met the others for a final get-together. The reunion at the airport was all happiness and sadness.
At the Departure gate, there were handshakes, hugs and salam, and, as always in such sending-off situation, the parting was overwhelmed with sadness.
We enjoyed hosting these youths and likewise they enjoyed their stay with us. And this is our happiness.
Messages from my foster children
When we returned from the airport we saw Alicia’s and Ratna’s messages which they had left on our table moments before we left for the airport.
Message from Alicia
Alicia’s unedited message is reproduced below:
“I was so impressed! A small country that gives
big positive impacts to its people. Every corner of the
city is clean and very structured. Smart city, smart people!
Message from Ratna
Ratna’s message is longer. Her unedited message is reproduced below:
“I like Singapore a lot. The people are kind, friendly, nice, especially
foster parents. Mr and Mrs Shaik Kadir, thank you so much
for your warm hospitality. I feel like home.
Your writing inspires me a lot.
Singapore is also famous for its high-tech and high-touch innovation.
The MRT, (ANZ?) ATM machine? (the one that can pay anything in a
machine) the integrated library, many trees and good air.)
I also like the way 3Ps (people, private and public) are connected
To create a smart nation. I hope Indonesia can follow the
However, during my time here I still found rubbish on the
Street which shocks me. Before I came here, I thought
Singapore is 100% clean, that’s what I expect. But I
think it is okay, maybe some people still need to be aware
about cleanliness everywhere.
So again, thank you so much Bapak and Ibu in Singapore
May Allah bless you always and grant you with good
health, and barokah rezeki. Thank you and see you.
Ratna Widya Iswara
Further training in Riau
From Singapore, the youths flew to Jakarta and the following day left for Riau (Sumatra) where they spent a few days for further leadership training which ended yesterday.
One of Desmond’s foster child, Jerni Rinova Panjaitan, sent a beautiful photo of the group taken in Riau, shown below.
On behalf of all the other foster parents, I wish all the 20 youths all the best in their future endeavours. We hope many of them would come back to Singapore in the future to relish in Singapore’s gorgeous atmosphere and meet up with their foster families.
25 November 2017