Speech by Ambassador Lawrence Anderson at the Closing Ceremony of the SJAB Ray of Light Humanitarian Mission in Phnom Penh, 8 June 2006
H.E. Ouk Damry
First Vice-President of the Cambodian Red Cross
Dr Chen Sze Hua
Chief Commissioner of the St John's Ambulance Brigade (Singapore)
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to join you here today at the closing ceremony of the "Ray of Light" Humanitarian Mission to Cambodia.
I first heard about this Mission from my good friend Andrew Tay who, besides being actively involved with the St John's Ambulance, is also the owner of this beautiful Himawari hotel. When Andrew invited me to attend this ceremony, I happily agreed.
One of the most satisfying aspects of being the Ambassador is that I get the chance to meet our volunteers, church groups and NGOs who come to undertake projects like the "Ray of Light" Mission has done. Since arriving in Phnom Penh over two years ago, I have been impressed by the number of Singaporeans involved in community programmes for needy Cambodians.
This is only right. The Cambodian people are our friends. Singapore and Cambodia are ASEAN neighbours. And as we all know, one of the basic religious tenets we learn from early childhood is: We must help our neighbours, as we help ourselves.
I am glad that the St John's Ambulance has taken an active interest in Cambodia. The organisation is well-respected in Singapore for humanitarian and charity work with emphasis on medical services. For some time now, the St John's Ambulance has shared its resources and skills with other countries in the region as well.
As Chief Commissioner Dr Chen mentioned earlier, this Mission has visited Kien Klang and Future Light Orphanage, as well as villages in Kampong Speu, particularly Aoral. The team has spent the last several days providing medical consultation, dispensing First Aid and teaching basic hygiene to the villagers. They have also donated medical supplies and basic items like rice and stationary.
This is praiseworthy indeed. I think it is fitting that this Mission is called "Ray of Light" because the team's efforts have certainly been a 'ray of light' that has touched the hearts of the villagers and made them aware they have friends outside who care.
Of course, the Mission's success has also been due to the strong support given by the Cambodian Red Cross, Project Khmer H.O.P.E. and Family Care Cambodia. From my experience, such projects have a better chance of doing well if they have the active cooperation and approval of the Royal Cambodian Government, the provincial authorities, the local community and fellow NGOs. I would like to thank our Cambodian friends for their valuable support for the St John's Ambulance's projects.
In this connection, I must highlight the cooperative efforts of the three partner organisations:
First, the Cambodian Red Cross. Under the patronage of Madam Bun Rany, the Prime Minister's wife, the Cambodian Red Cross has been a keen supporter not only of this project, but those involving other groups from Singapore as well. In fact, HE Ouk Damry and I were at a ceremony in Takeo province two years ago for a health and sanitation project involving the Singapore and Cambodian Red Cross. It is good to see HE Ouk Damry again and I want to thank him for being here today.
Second, Project Khmer H.O.P.E. I had the privilege to attend the Opening of the PKH Centre in Kampong Speu not long after my arrival in Cambodia. There, I met Ms Bessie Lee and Yvonne Chew, two ladies firmly dedicated to their calling. The Centre runs basic healthcare and skills development programmes, which makes PKH a natural partner for the St John's Ambulance projects.
Third, Family Care Cambodia. With its emphasis on improving the quality of life of orphans and abandoned children, complements the "Ray of Light" Mission's work. This synergy should spark further collaborative projects and inspire more teams to come over here.
I hope that the Cambodian Government, provincial authorities and NGOs will continue to lend their support to the St John's Ambulance and other Singaporean groups in their efforts to help the Cambodian people.
Finally, I must commend the St John's Ambulance senior officials - Chief Commissioner Dr Chen Sze Hua; Zone Two President Mr Andrew Tay; Zone Two Commissioner Mr David Cheng; Zone Two Surgeon Dr Patrick Tan - and the other members of the "Ray of Light" Mission Team for their dilligence, faith and compassion in taking time off from their busy schedules to do humanitarian work here.
Cambodia has gone through difficult times over the last thirty years, much worse than most nations have experienced. Thankfully, the country is at peace and the government has done much to instill stability and a sense of order. More needs to be done, but with the help and support of its neighbours and friends like the St John's Ambulance Brigade, we believe the Cambodian people will regain a sense of normalcy and purpose to their lives.