Singapore Kindness Conference

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Last Saturday, on 16 November, I attended the third Singapore Kindness Conference organized by the Singapore Kindness Movement with Shermaine, Sarah, Phionna and Wang You. This year's theme was "Are you the Bo Chup Kind?", playing with how Singaporeans generally mind their own business instead of caring for others, if it meant doing a little something extra. We gathered early in the morning, with other people who were interested in the issue of kindness in Singapore, at the seventh floor of Bugis+ for discussion. 

(photo credits to Shermaine!) It was quite a major event, and Phionna herself had attended it last year as well - we came to learn about the conference through Shermaine though, and signed up for it. 

A lot of effort has gone into organizing this conference, and I'm heartened to see that there are people who actually care :') 

The first half of the conference wasn't interactive - we listened to speeches and the keynote speech given by Dr Kumaran Rasappan inspired me greatly. He is a medical doctor who scaled Mt Everest while raising funds for needy patients and along his journey, he touched the hearts of many, and these stories in turn, touched me. It was amazing to know that the smallest acts of kindness he showed to those in less fortunate countries brought the biggest and brightest smiles, and these smiles of gratitude were something he has never witnessed before when practising in Singapore. Indeed, his sharing inspired yet shamed me slightly - why aren't Singaporeans not showing him the same amount of happiness when he treats them? Just because we are more fortunate and have access to medical help easily doesn't mean the help we receive is any less meaningful or helpful... right? 

With the Boings during break/ lunch :-)

The second half of the conference required participants to split into groups, to tackle different topics - Wang You and myself chose the case study on online etiquette. It was rather refreshing to hear different viewpoints and perspectives on things I never really thought can be discussed, or rather, never really bothered to think about. (Yes, I am guilty of being 'Bo Chup' at times) and although I personally don't believe that a conference like that will be able to draw out concrete solutions to better the situation in Singapore, it was good that our attention was focused on issues like that that truly got us thinking and realizing that there are many factors that could contribute to how kind a person is. 

There were many suggestions thrown out by the participants on things the Singapore Kindness Movement or the Government could do to help kindness levels in Singapore, especially on public transport. Some of them were things like allowing people to board the bus from the back door or even appointing kindness ambassadors (like the litterbug ambassador scheme recently rolled out) and although these were great suggestions, I personally believe that such things won't really help. 

Tangible suggestions like these might make the ungracious situation a little better simply by making more people happy but it will not do anything to tackle the selfish mindset Singaporeans adopt. Being able to board the bus won't make us more kind, it will just elevate the idea that we are in the center of the universe and the Government should come up with more policies to help us. "There is nothing I can do as a person but wait for the solutions the authorities come up with". That isn't a good mindset at all. I feel like there is a need to change the way a person thinks, to think of themselves less. It is much more difficult than having tangible action plans but a society can only be kind if the physical situation stays the same and yet more people will be able to board the bus. 

But that's just my idealistic take, because it is definitely an uphill task if one were to try changing a person from the inside. The best way I can think of is starting small, starting young, through education. Again, the role models would be their parents, which just reiterates the difficulty of such a method. It is possible though, and I'm confident that Singapore can be a kind place. 

Thoughts aside, it was a great morning spent with some of my favourite people (-: 

And I shall end off my blog post with this quote, because things being free is what most Singaporeans care about, yes? 

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