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PA's initiatives to integrate new immigrants & Singaporeans

Having more dialogue sessions and roping in youths to help are some initiatives the People's Association Integration Council will roll out to strengthen ties between new immigrants and Singaporeans.

SINGAPORE: Having more dialogue sessions and roping in youths to help are some initiatives the People's Association Integration Council will roll out to strengthen ties between new immigrants and Singaporeans.

This was announced by the council's adviser, Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef, at a forum on Integration and Naturalisation Champions on Saturday.

Over 250 Integration and Naturalisation Champions (INC) shared insights on community integration at the forum.

INC helps new immigrants settle down and encourage them to play an active role in the community.

After studying and living in Japan for a year, Anthony Wee understood the importance of respecting people of diverse backgrounds.

This spurred him to be an INC since 2007.

Like Anthony, some 1,300 INCs will now work closely with Residents' Committees (RCs) and Neighbourhood Committees (NCs) to have customised programmes for residents.

The PA Integration Division will also work with institutes of higher learning and schools to appoint 150 youth integration ambassadors.

Their role is to share positive stories within the community on new media platforms.

A pilot chit-chat session and a learning journey will be introduced at 20 RCs and NCs in the next six months.

This would enable neighbours living in close proximity to bond on a more personal level and talk about social norms and neighbourhood issues.

The learning journey will help them to further strengthen ties among one another.

But much effort is still needed to make the programmes work.

Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, said: "Integration takes time and a lot of effort is needed at the person-to-person level.

"It's not just about organising one activity, it's not just about having more events, it's actually about the personal touch and the relationship.

"So your work as an INC is very important and I know it's not easy work, because to build that relationship takes a lot of effort.

"You also need to be adept at engaging individuals from diverse nationalities and cultural backgrounds, and be creative in organising the activities in such a way that it's not just (about)coming and being a passive attendance.

"You have to organise the events in such a way that people can engage one another, that can bring new immigrants and Singaporeans together.

"You also need to be patient and committed as the results of your efforts may not bear fruit immediately."

Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef said: "People from the same ethnic community tend to stick together - the so-called herd community mentality.

"We have to try to break them down to a certain extent by integrating people, bringing them out.

"It's only human nature for people to want to gather together with people from the same background."

The People's Association has been increasing the number of activities which would promote integration in the community.

There were 2,310 last year - a 35 per cent increase over 2011 when there were 1,700 activities.

The activities last year reached out to some 400,000 residents, of whom more than 20 per cent were new immigrants.

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