A creative approach to making a difference
In 1999, former airline pilot Budi Soehardi and his wife Peggy (who were then based in Singapore) watched a television programme about East Timor refugees. Moved by their plight, the couple decided to help and support those who were most at risk — the children. The couple co-founded the Roslin Orphanage in the early 2000s, which has been gradually built up over the years. With education as one of the bedrocks of the Roslin Orphanage’s goals, the couple’s efforts have taken a creative turn with The Kupang Project, a collaboration with the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) and GenerAsia.
In 1999, former airline pilot Budi Soehardi and his wife Peggy (who were then based in Singapore) watched a television programme about East Timor refugees. Moved by their plight, the couple decided to help and support those who were most at risk — the children.
Peggy found a place to stay in West Timor and took in four children. The couple co-founded the Roslin Orphanage in the early 2000s, which has been gradually built up over the years.
With education as one of the bedrocks of the Roslin Orphanage’s goals, the couple’s efforts have taken a creative turn with The Kupang Project, a collaboration with the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) and GenerAsia.
The SIF organises cultural-exchange programmes to promote international understanding while GenerAsia encourages new and veteran artistes to work together to create new works for young Asians.
The next creative level
The Kupang Project is a creative-education programme for the children at the Roslin Orphanage that has brought together Singapore and Indonesian communities through the arts.
Said Soh Lai Yee, head, cultural exchange, Programme Division, SIF: “It brings together globally responsible Singaporeans and Indonesians based in Singapore and the Indonesian community to harness the power of culture to uplift the lives of the residents in the orphanage, and inspire others to do good.”
While The Kupang Project may be a relatively small-scale effort, Richard Tan, artistic director of GenerAsia, believes in its long-term benefits.
“This is a very meaningful project for Singaporeans and Indonesians, as we reach out to each other, bond and extend our friendships. It may be a very small project but the repercussions, the waves of how this will grow, is going to be very inspiring for other people,” he said.
This inspiration has already made a difference in the lives of many children involved in the project, like Galang Nahak. The 12-year-old didn’t make much of an initial impression due to his shyness and was first cast in the show’s chorus line. Galang’s transformation began at a workshop with actress Nora Samosir.
Said Richard: “He responded to the lessons and started to engage. So I gave him a challenge to be cast in a lead role as Mungil, the lost ant. In a few days, he memorised the script and in coaching sessions with Nora and myself, he learnt really fast.”
Added Kupang Project producer Joyce Lim: “Galang had a moment of self-realisation and in a few minutes he transformed. All we did was ignite the spark. He did the rest.”
Workshops, which started last April, concluded this month. Its objectives included teaching Indonesian trainers to develop a creative-education syllabus for Roslin Orphanage residents, so these efforts can be sustained.
Come September, the fruits of their labour will be seen onstage when the Roslin Orphanage children, along with Singaporean and Indonesian actors, perform a pantomime at the Ciputra Theatre in Jakarta in September.
Today, about 170 children call the Roslin Orphanage in West Timor home, and it’s all because a former pilot and his wife decided to make a difference over 15 years ago.
Programmes like The Kupang Project and the Singapore Internationale (SI) programme (both of which are now a part of the SIF’s recently launched Arts for Good initiative) have been giving artists a platform to wear multiple hats as they practise their craft and build international relationships.
Launched in 2000, the SI programme partners Singaporean artists who work in a variety of fields such as the performing, visual and literary arts. The aim, says Lai Yee, is to bridge communities for a better world.
In part, it reflects the view that arts practitioners can take on a bigger role as artist-ambassadors — people who can work with overseas peers to foster greater understanding across borders.
This can help foster greater inclusiveness by raising awareness of issues affecting varied demographics — like the disabled, the aged and at-risk youth.
Said Lai Yee: “We believe in the power of collaborations and the value of arts and culture in doing good.”
The arts for good
Programmes like The Kupang Project and Singapore Internationale project are now a part of the SIF’s recently launched Arts for Good initiative, which uses the arts to foster greater understanding between Singaporeans and overseas communities. And perhaps best of all, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
Said Soh Lai Yee, head, cultural exchange, Programme Division, SIF: “The arts and culture has been one key feature of our work since 2000. When our artists interact and collaborate with their global counterparts, they share a facet of Singapore culture in their role as citizen ambassadors but also draw inspirations from other cultures.”
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