Giving back from the US to Singapore: Building a Home away from Home

Last month, we featured three overseas Singaporeans in tech who gave back from the U.S. to Singapore. In this article, we highlight some inspiring stories on how other volunteers stepped up to serve the community during these difficult times.

5 August 2020 / By SGN

From bringing together the community virtually to rallying help for local businesses, these volunteers help make our community a home away from home. With Singapore’s 55th birthday around the corner, we also asked them for their wishes for our little red dot.     

Strengthening Connections through Virtual Events

Since March, SingaporeConnect, a Silicon Valley-based Singaporean organisation, has painstakingly hosted fourteen COVID-19 Community Forums. In collaboration with SGN and MFA, the Forums featured subject matter experts who provided helpful perspectives and insights related to the pandemic, including Covid-19 prevention, mental wellness, and job opportunities. Mark Sin, President of SingaporeConnect, shared, “It was heartening to have received an outpouring of thanks for the events. Many requested us to continue the Forums after the pandemic!”

Mark Sin, President, SingaporeConnect, hosted fourteen community forums since the COVID-19 outbreak.

On the East Coast, community leaders Richard Hill, Wu Jiezhen, and Lee Chia Ying organised a series of get-togethers, including SG Hour, SEA Social, and Trivia Nights. These virtual events reached hundreds of overseas Singaporeans and friends of Singapore, providing the opportunity for the community to interact and provide mutual support for one another even when hundreds of miles apart.

It’s Zoom time! East Coast SGN Community leaders (clockwise from top left): Richard Hill, Wu Jiezhen and Lee Chia Ying

Keeping the Hawker Culture Alive

Food unites Singaporeans, and hawker food is our anchor wherever we may be in the world. Hence, when many small businesses, including Singaporean-run food enterprises in the U.S. were severely impacted by the pandemic, some of our members decided to step up and encourage the community to support these businesses.

In Boston, Ian Goh and Ruijie He organised food deliveries from a local Singaporean-run business, Selera Bunda, to Singaporeans sheltering-in-place. Through his volunteer experience, Ruijie shared that nothing brings Singaporeans together more than home-cooked briyani, lontong, satay, and curry puffs. Ian commented, “It’s during times of crisis that you realise the importance of community. This was the first time in my 12 years in the U.S. that I felt so connected to other Singaporeans nearby.”

Ian Goh (left) having fun during a dog outing!

In the Bay Area, the idea for SG-Dash, a Singapore food-focused, volunteer delivery service originated when many saw restaurants struggling due to the pandemic. What it lacked was a spark, which came from one person: Alan Tan (Cupertino, CA) who led the community into action. So far, the self-organised delivery service has facilitated close to 700 meal orders in the Bay Area and more than 2,000 servings. There are more than 20 volunteers who have driven more than 1,000 miles to various Bay Area cities to deliver the orders. To date, the volunteers have done over a dozen such runs for Shiok! Singapore Kitchen, Satay by The Bay, and Nyonya Cafe.

Bay Area Singaporeans working together to keep Hawker food heritage alive


Giving Your Best to Others

Members in the community have also used their talent, experience, and resources to help. Silicon Valley-based Jasmin Young, CEO of Netreo has moderated many of SingaporeConnect’s webcasts over the past five months. Her effort to understand evolving community needs, passion, and enthusiasm during these challenging times have positively impacted Singaporeans in the SF Bay Area.

Lin Junwen is an immigration attorney based in Los Angeles. He and his wife have regularly volunteered at SGN events in Southern California. When COVID-19 struck, Junwen worked closely with SGN to provide perspectives on the impact of recent U.S. immigration policy changes to Singaporeans, over three community webinars.

Through the projects, he appreciated connecting with other Singaporean volunteers on both the East and West Coasts. He commented, “The Singaporean warmth and empathy, coupled with a spirit of excellence in how each project was organised and executed, made me very proud to be a Singaporean.”

Lin Junwen and his wife at OUE Skyspace in downtown Los Angeles

Happy 55th Birthday, Singapore: From the U.S. with Love  

Junwen: “I have, on many occasions, told my American friends that I won the country lottery because I was born in Singapore. I wish Singapore continued resilience, prosperity, and success!”  

Mark: “How Singapore became independent was unplanned, but how Singapore has come to where it is today was due to meticulous planning. I wish for Singapore to stay this course for further prosperity.”  

Ian: “I have never felt more optimism for the future of Singapore – a society striving towards its ideals of fairness, democracy, progress, inclusiveness, diversity and accountability. Onward!”  

Richard, Jiezhen, Chia Ying: “Our wish for Singapore is that we embrace the unknown and possibilities for the future, to create a more inclusive and caring society.”  

If you would like to get in touch with any of these volunteers and learn more, please send your request here. SGN will be happy to make the introduction.


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