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Zonta Club of Singapore 40th Anniversary
Speech by President, Cecilia Pang

View Video | Ruby Jubilee ! Zonta Club Singapore
"Advancing the Status of Women"

 

Honourable Minister of State for Community, Youth and Sports, Mdm Halimah Yacob, Past Zonta International President Mrs Olivia Ferry, fellow Zontians, ladies and gentlemen. Good evening.

On behalf of Zonta Club of Singapore, I would like to warmly welcome all of you and to thank you for taking time to join us tonight for our 40th Anniversary celebration.

I’m honoured to be standing here this evening as the President of Zonta Club Singapore. The significance of this honour struck me deeply at a conversation some months ago. I met this young lady who ultimately became the designer for the limited edition of our 40th Anniversary Zonta pin. Some of you may have seen it at the back of the room where the raffle items are located.

I was then explaining Lauryn, a young talented Singaporean woman and entrepreneur, some background on Zonta Club Singapore. I told her how we started in 1971 with a small group of charter members wanting to make a difference in the development of women in Singapore.

4oth Anniversary

I told her we are a small service club with membership ranging between 30-40 in any one year, and how we all come from different professions. When she heard this, she immediately said: “wow, it’s not easy for a small service club to have survived 40 years.”

Her comment struck home because I realize that when I stand here tonight, I’m merely carrying the flowers that have been planted and painstakingly nurtured by many other Zontians before me.

As we can see from the video montage, this is a small club with a big heart and an even bigger cause. As a service club, there are three things our members must be committed to do. One, we give financial support to the service projects we’ve chosen to undertake. Two, we roll up our sleeves to get the actual work done. Whatever talent we can individually bring to the table, we will. Third and perhaps the most difficult, is we have to sustain interest and commitment. This is because change doesn’t happen overnight. Trying to make a difference in uplifting the lives of other women is not a one-year crusade.

We are here today only because of the commitment and dedication of our members, and I salute you. In fact, I would especially like to acknowledge two special people here tonight. Mrs Mary Hoe-Tan and Dr Chan-Liok Yew Ai were part of the original charter membership. Mary is still a current member of the club after 40 years, and Yew-Ai retired only about a year ago.

Please help me give them a big round of applause.

40th Anniversary

So, what motivated them and what kept them going? Philanthropy is honourable and important but volunteerism is much harder. In today’s stressed-filled world, the most precious commodity is time. For all of us in this room , whether you are volunteering with Zonta or other organisations, we know that giving away hours to volunteerism is not easy. I’m sure that there are many occasions when each of us trying to cope with family and work could have given up.

Maybe it was the camaraderie and friendship that kept us going. And indeed we do have fun during our dinner meetings and activities. Maybe it’s because we get a warm, fuzzy feeling of having done something meaningful in our lives.

For me, the AHA moment came when I was talking with yet another young lady. She is a secondary school girl, one of the beneficiaries of the Project Pari. Our Project Pari chairman, Mrs Wee Wan Joo, will tell you more about Project Pari later.

During one of our activities, I asked this young lady what she’s doing with the $50 allowance that we give to her every month.

This girl looked at me and seemed rather shy about responding. For a split second, I thought, “oh no, she’s not using her money wisely”. So I asked again, “Are you using it to buy lunch?” She said no. Finally, she said : “I have to keep the money to contribute to dinner for the family… my mum, my dad and my young brother.”

Students

For a moment, I didn’t know what to say. $50 a month to help feed a family of four for dinner. Many of us would spend as much on one meal. When I finally composed myself, I told her it’s great that she’s sharing what she had with her family.

In that moment, I realize, why volunteers forget to be tired. I realize why volunteers willingly sacrifice their time. What mattered was that the little we were able to do helped to make a difference for someone.

Volunteerism is hard, and the only way we can continue to do it is when we believe in the cause. Today we celebrate 40 years of volunteerism of Zontians in Singapore. Ruby is the gemstone for 40 years because it signifies an eternal flame.

It is a meaningful stone, because without passion and the flame within us, we cannot do great work. May this flame continue to burn brightly for all Zontians here tonight. To our guests, thank you for your support. You are here because you are our family and friends, and in your own way, you are helping to keep us going.

So please have a wonderful dinner and celebrate this milestone with us!

Thank you.