From Singapore to Singaporeans

Dec 30, 2019   |   Fan Wenrui

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From 19 to 22 December 2019, Heartware Network volunteers along with President’s Challenge benefiting organisations attended the Bicentennial Experience, embarking on a sensorial trip through seven centuries of Singapore’s past. The Bicentennial Experience brings visitors through a dynamic unfolding of Singapore’s history, even stretching beyond the British arrival in 1819 to explore the preceding 500 years.

The Bicentennial Experience, located at the Fort Canning Green, commemorates the 200th anniversary of Raffles’ landing in Singapore through 5 acts. As the centrepiece event of the Singapore Bicentennial, this multimedia sensory experience brings visitors back in time to witness key events of Singapore’s transformation.

Look at each and every one of them smiling so widely as volunteers engaged the beneficiaries in a game of Charades!

Before the start of The Bicentennial Experience, our volunteers engaged the beneficiaries in a game of Charades as a bonding activity to keep them occupied while waiting.

As it appears, one game of Charades was all it took to break the ice between volunteers and beneficiaries despite the jarring age and gender differences! The atmosphere in the waiting area was surprisingly light-hearted and lively before a supposedly information-dense historical trail at the Fort Canning Centre.

Unlike other content-heavy and eerily-quiet historical trials, The Bicentennial Experience brings volunteers and beneficiaries on an engaging and insightful journey to relive some of Singapore’s key historical moments.

Through the strategic manipulation of multimedia and high tech, history was made alive. The entire trial was interactive and enjoyable, immersing our volunteers and beneficiaries in a multi-perspective experience detailing Singapore’s history.

Look at the awed expressions on the volunteers at the Atrium!

This is where it all starts – the Atrium.

Our volunteers and beneficiaries immersed themselves in the cinematic storytelling of the ever-evolving climate effects on the world, and the significant role weather plays in the rise and fall of civilisations and cities. With monsoon rains and strong winds, vessels and people are brought to and from the island. This is how robust trade, immigration and connectivity were brought about in early periods of Singapore.

Through the 5 acts of The Bicentennial Experience, we explored the many different facets of Singapore’s progress. The dynamic period of early Singapore started with Sang Nila Utama’s arrival, before a fateful turning point of Singapore’s history in 1819- Raffles’ landing.

Then, we witnessed Singapore’s dynamic transformation from a dormant fishing village to a bustling key British trading post. Following that was the revelation of struggles of real-time survivors during the tumultuous and difficult days of Japanese occupation. Lastly, our volunteers and beneficiaries experienced a refreshing historical walk-through of Singapore’s journey to independence. Despite the cloudy and rainy conditions from the past to present-day, Singapore is moving out of the colonial era to become an independent and flourishing world-class city.

Group photo with Pertapis after a wonderful day of bonding and learning together.

Volunteers Benjamin, Shiting and Natelie, who came down for more than 4 sessions of the Bicentennial Experience remarked that it was an eye-opening and enlightening experience for them and learnt to interact with beneficiaries from varying age groups. Though it may appear to be effortless and simple, it is not as easy as it looks! Shiting recalled that the most memorable thing that happened was her experience with an elderly suffering from severe dementia.

Being asked the same question repeatedly and several mindblowing incidences did not daunt Shiting at all. She brushed it off and said that it was indeed an unforgettable experience as she has also learnt how to think on her feet and react accordingly.

Though some volunteers, like Benjamin, Shiting and Natelie, chose to accompany four different groups of beneficiaries through The Bicentennial Experience at four different times, they all remarked that it was fascinating to see Singapore in a different light, as they never failed to discover something new every time they go through The Bicentennial Experience.

All hearts among our volunteers and this adorable kid from Pertapis home!

Despite it being a one-off event for our beneficiaries, we hope that this will be a brand new chapter for them. Other than gaining more exposure and developing a deeper and more nuanced understanding of Singapore’s history, beneficiaries may also gain more strength to fight their own storms. Just as how Singapore’s cloudy and tumultuous periods pass after some persistence, I believe that we will be able to fight against all the odds and emerge victorious too, if only we firmly clasp our fate in our hands.

As Charles Dickens aptly says, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Indeed, Singapore has experienced a time of chaos, conflict and despair, as well as happiness. In this era teeming with contradictions and controversies, obstacles could either be deemed as stumbling blocks or windows of opportunity. Singapore did not end up in ruins after being struck with numerous seemingly life-threatening blows. Instead, we stood strong together with earlier generations to weather the storm as a nation. We are fortunate to witness Singapore’s growth from a British trading port to a ‘little red dot’ brave enough to punch above her weight. May we continue to shoulder our duties as Singapore citizens and sow more miraculous breakthroughs and achievements.

Majulah, Singapura.