People's Association
Feature | People's Association

Two Paths, One Purpose: United in Uplifting Communities

People’s Association scholars Wang Yi En and Haimuel Matthias Wong-Asri, are on a collective mission to Build and Bridge communities in achieving One People, One Singapore. Despite their diverse paths, they are united by their shared dedication to enrich Singapore’s social fabric.

Left: Haimuel Matthias Wong-Asri is a PA Undergraduate scholar who is enrolled in the Bachelor of Social Science in Economics programme at NTU.

Right: Wang Yi En is a recipient of the PA Undergraduate Scholarship. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) at the University of Toronto in Canada.

The People’s Association (PA), established in 1960, stands as the bedrock of Singapore’s community-building efforts. At its core, PA aspires to build and bond communities to achieve racial harmony and social cohesion.

With an extensive network encompassing grassroots organisations, Community Clubs (CCs), Community Development Councils (CDCs), and more, PA plays a pivotal role in shaping the nation’s social landscape. Among its initiatives is the PA Scholarship programme which identifies and supports emerging leaders who are deeply dedicated to bridge and enhance Singapore’s vibrant community.

Among the outstanding recipients of the PA Scholarship are Wang Yi En and Haimuel Matthias Wong-Asri. Yi En is a PA Undergraduate Scholar (Overseas) who is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from the University of Toronto, while Matthias is a PA Undergraduate Scholar (Local) who is studying a Bachelor of Social Science in Economics at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). While their academic pursuits may differ, both share a common dedication to serve their communities and further PA’s mission.

A Passion for Community Transformation

Yi En’s passion for community development was ignited during her secondary school years where her involvement in events brought her face-to-face with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds.

“After my experience in extracurriculars and leadership roles, I was sure that I would like to work in the social sector, helping to empower fellow Singaporeans, especially on the ground. To me, it is important that policy decisions and top-down planning should always be reconciled with realities on the ground.” This conviction led Yi En to PA.

During her internship at the Sembawang Constituency Office, Yi En witnessed the dedication of her colleagues in serving residents. She saw the passion through their tireless work ethics and unswerving commitment, which fortified her determination to apply for the PA Scholarship.

Similarly, Matthias found his calling while working closely with various PA organisations during his time in polytechnic and National Service with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF). His involvement included chairing the Verve Community Arts Festival and collaborating with the Bukit Batok East CC and South West CDC.

As Matthias interacted with volunteers and grassroots advisers, he witnessed the immense commitment of the PA towards nation-building and community strengthening. His service in SCDF, particularly, required engagement with PA’s Community Emergency and Engagement (C2E) Committees and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), which unveiled the deeper layers of PA’s work.

“I learnt that there is greater depth to PA’s work: it empowers everyone in the community to make a positive difference. It was the opportunity to give back to my community and Singapore that motivated me to apply for the scholarship,” he said.

Empowered for Excellence and Impact

The PA Scholarship has been a beacon of support throughout both scholars’ academic journeys, unlocking doors to various opportunities for them.

For Yi En, her overseas studies enabled her to gain an array of enriching experiences and new perspectives. “I have met so many people who come from different backgrounds, while also experiencing for myself how different physical and cultural environments can lead to different kinds of lives. Against such an environment, I realised that there are so many meaningful stories and perspectives that we can learn once we stop to look at and listen to the people beside us,” she explained.

During her internship with PA, Yi En also gained a deeper understanding of the organisation. “For example, through my internship with the Community Development Council (CDC) Planning and Development division, I had the chance to discuss organisational theories with my supervisor, and how we can apply this to the way the division is structured and coordinates efforts across CDCs and partners,” she said. “This then provided me more insight into the theories that I learnt in school while also allowing me to exercise my academic muscles in reviewing the realities I work with in a more critical, objective view.”

For Matthias, the scholarship unlocked a world of diverse opportunities.

“PA has an extremely positive culture that encompasses care and promotes social cohesion, which comes as no surprise. As a freshman scholar, I have already been approached by several PA senior scholars to join them in their activities. They have been very supportive and have constantly offered opportunities to learn from them as they conduct groundwork in the community,” he reflected. “This makes the orientation process enjoyable and comfortable as I eventually familiarise myself with PA’s day-to-day work, which is very fulfilling as serving the community is at the heart of it.”

Champions of Change

Both Yi En and Matthias share a clear vision of the impact they aspire to create. Yi En looks forward to a career dedicated to enhance the happiness of her fellow Singaporeans and ensuring their voices are heard.

“I hope to contribute towards the happiness of my fellow Singaporeans, no matter directly or indirectly, in my future career. Not everyone has the resources or privilege to talk about the realities they live in or the concerns they may have. I hope that my work can help others feel that their voices are heard and that they have a place to belong in Singapore, one where they can find their kind of happiness and comfort,” she enthused.

Having overcome challenges early in life, Matthias is motivated to inspire those around him. “Despite coming from an underprivileged, single-parent household, I worked extremely hard no matter the circumstance to build a brighter future for myself,” he shared. “My mother has also instilled in me the core belief to always give back to my community and the less fortunate. I hope my story inspires those around me to remember that hard work will eventually be rewarded, and to always have compassion and kindness for others.”

Embracing Diversity and Growth

For aspiring scholars who are considering joining PA, Matthias offers them a glimpse of the promising journey ahead.

“You are required to do internships at a community club before going to PA Headquarters. This roadmap is designed to ensure you know the groundwork done on a community level before being involved in projects that directly impact such groundwork. Upon graduation, you will eventually take up diverse roles that suit your strengths, goals, and field of study, so future prospects are exciting! Along the way, there are also developmental opportunities to enhance your capabilities and to further explore how you can better contribute to PA’s work,” he said.