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Swami Vivekananda’s visit to Singapore
Swami Vivekananda, on his way to America to attend the Parliament of Religions, visited Singapore on 12th June 1893. During his short stay he went to see the Botanical Gardens and the Museum. After his brief halt many monks of the Ramakrishna Order paid their visits to Singapore and created interest in people. In a way they laid the foundation for a center to begin its welfare work here. The devotees and admirers of Singapore requested the authorities of the Ramakrishna Mission in India to start a branch here.
In response to their earnest appeal Swami Adyananda was sent to Singapore in May 1928. The Swami with the help of devotees and well-wishers started a branch center of the Mission on the 7th of August 1928. The Mission set before itself some general guidelines to direct its activities:
1. Educational work – starting a day school for children and night school for adults.
2. Charitable works for all people.
3. Dissemination of spiritual ideas
To facilitate the increasing activities of the Mission a spacious building was built at Norris Road in 1932. In the same year the center started the Vivekananda School with thirty-two students. Both English and Tamil were taught in this school. The Mission realized education for the adults would be the best way to remove the problems of alcoholism and unhealthy living habits and conditions among the poor sections of the community. The Mission started a night school for these people. A separate school for girls – ‘Sardamani girls’ School’ was opened in 1937. As soon it was opened it was filled to capacity and the school had to turn away many. The high academic standards maintained by these schools were praised by the Education Department. Much later, these schools because of declining number of students were discontinued.
Move to Bartley Road
The Boys’ Home which has been rendering commendable service for the last sixty years began its work in 1940, as five destitute students came under its care and protection. A spacious land was purchase at Bartley Road in 1941 to provide shelter to increasing number of poor and orphan boys. These boys lived in temporary dormitories. The orphan girls were provided accommodation at Norris Road. The Boys’ Home permanent building was built only in 1950.
During the Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945, the Mission sheltered hundreds of homeless people. The Mission did commendable work during the war by providing food and medicine to the victims of the war. It started a temporary hospital with eighty beds and dispensaries to help the sick and wounded.
The Governor of Singapore Sir Franklin Gimson, while inaugurating the workshop for the boys at Bartley Road in April 1948 said, ”The Ramakrishna Mission has always enjoyed a good reputation for charitable work and the Government is pleased to assist anybody of this nature which has interested itself in the care and upbringing of the young.”
Current activities of the Mission
The Boys’ Home began its work in 1940 with five destitute boys at Norris Road. To accommodate increasing number of poor and orphan boys it was shifted in 1942 to the newly acquired spacious land at 179 Bartley Road. The boys attended the schools at Norris Road from this place. In addition to their academic studies they were given vocational training in carpentry, machine repair, tailoring, basket weaving and toy-making.
The Boys from temporary dormitories at last were shifted to the present permanent building in 1950. It was opened by Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India. A second storey was added in1959. The boys’ Home activities are partly supported by the Ministry of Community Development and sports. Since its inception thousands of boys have gone out of the Home.
The former boys, now well-established, have formed an association – Ramakrishna Old Boys’ Association. This Association organized cultural and sports events to raise money for the Boys’ Home. They are doing laudable service.
For further details please visit: http://www.rkmbh.org/home.htm
To impart character-building education and to impart moral values in young children at tender age, the Mission started a Kindergarten in 1992 with 126 children with an initial grant from SINDA. The Kindergarten is registered with the Ministry of Education and is open to all. Because of growing demand for admission, the Mission constructed a purpose-built building to provide accommodation to 400 children. In addition to the curriculum approved by MOE, the children are taught music and movement, English and Tamil speech and drama training. The children are exposed to computer-based learning through its multi-media computer center. Tamil, Hindi & Mandarin are taught as second languages. With its extensive green grounds, the children have the additional facility for loving and enjoying the natural and sylvan surroundings.
The Mission has constructed a new building and extended the facilities by adding additional classrooms, a new Computer Room and a gymnasium among others. The enrolment of children is now more than 500.
For further details please visit http://www.sarada.edu.sg/
Realizing the growing need for counseling services the Mission started a counseling service center in 1995. During this short period the Centre not only widened the area of its services but also gained rich experience and insights. In the beginning the center focused its attention on the school students and their problems. The professional counselors visited the schools in the neighborhood and offered the valuable services. From this beginning it has expanded its horizon to include talks, workshops, family therapy, home visits, guidance to parents and teachers, psychiatric service, Rainbow and language enrichment programmes and many other result-oriented services. With the expansion of the services the center is focused on providing a more holistic approach to meet the needs of children and adolescents. Service packages targeted at: Students, Teachers, Parents and family of the Students.
Helping those who are in need is a wonderful service, which brings joy and a sense of fulfillment. To be happy is to see the happiness of others.
The generous financial support of the National Council of Social Service has enabled the counseling center to render its services to the children and adolescents of Singapore.
The new building for the center makes available space and facilities for expansion of services and center-based counseling.
For further details please visit : http://wingscounselling.org.sg/
Spiritual and Cultural Activities
The Mission has a beautiful temple dedicated to Sri Ramakrishna. People without any distinction of race, religion or creed are allowed to make use of the peaceful and spiritually vibrant atmosphere for prayer and meditation. The birthdays of great saints and prophets are celebrated with worship, prayers and discourses. Occasionally seminars and inter-religious dialogues are held to enhance inter-religious understanding to promote Religious Harmony. Saturdays and Sundays weekly scriptural classes are held.
Training in Yoga is given to a large number of adults on all Sunday mornings. This Yoga course is free and open to all. It has become very popular.
This Centre has been operating very successfully since 1993. Consultation and medicine are free. More and more people are showing interest in Homoeopathic treatment.
Classes for children
On Saturdays and Sundays children between the ages of four and twelve are taught music, bhajans and moral values.
The Mission publishes a quarterly journal, ‘Nirvana’ to promote racial and religious harmony.
Above noted are few of the several activities of the Ramakrishna Mission Centre in Singapore.