About Sikh Welfare Council

The 1990s saw an increased consciousness among the members of the Sikh community, regarding the rising number of social, economic and valued related problems within the community. The community’s preoccupation with the promotion of teaching and learning Punjabi language in particular, educational achievement of Sikh students in general and heritage related activities had however delayed the setting up of a formal mechanism or an organisation to address welfare related concerns. A great deal of preparatory work was needed in this respect before a national body could be set up. In 1993, the Sikh Advisory Board (SAB), under the leadership of its Chairman, S. Bhajan Singh Suropadda, began working with other Sikh institutions to out a study of the welfare concerns of the community. The key concerns centered basically around the plight of a number of Sikh destitute families, the difficulties faced by Sikh children, youth and adults arising from the erosion of the family as a social unit and the absence of a professionally constituted, viable and effective mechanism to process, study and address the welfare needs of individuals and groups in the community. Furthermore, whilst it was important for the proposed Sikh Welfare Council (SIWEC) to provide for the above needs, it was felt that SIWEC should not duplicate what was already available in other agencies in Singapore. We therefore wanted to ensure that it optimised on all existing government and privately provided welfare facilities and acted as an avenue of last resort. It was also decided to learn from the experiences of other similar agencies and S. Bhajan Singh and S. Surjit Wasan, Secretary, Sikh Advisory Board held various meeting with government agencies and other welfare organisations to provide the volunteers with direct first hand experience and understanding of the working of welfare agencies and laid ground for future networking to the advantage of the community.

After all the studies and reviews above Sikh Welfare Council was officially launched by Mr Teo Chee Hean, Acting Minister for Environment and Senior Minister of State for Defence in October 1995 at a fund raising dinner attended by 1550 supporters and well-wishers. The $1.7 million raised at the dinner showed the commitment of the community to this cause and put SIWEC on a sound financial footing and SIWEC started its operations from its office in Central Sikh Temple. The major donors and founding Trustees of SIWEC honoured at the launch were S. Kartar Singh Thakral, S. Mohinder Singh Thakral, S Naranjan Singh Brahmpura, S Daljit Singh Gagarbhana, S Jagjit Singh Sekhon, S Jagjeet Singh Seghal, S. Mahn Singh Bajaj, S Gurcharan Singh Narula and S Kartar Singh Dalamnangal.

In adopting a logo and a moto for the SIWEC, it was decided to go back to history and the history and the teaching of Sikhism. The work of Bhai Khaniyah, as the father of Sikh welfare, seemed the most appropriate source of inspiration for volunteers who wanted to serve in this area. The motto “Jan Ki Sewa” (service of mankind) was appropriately selected as the motto for the SIWEC.

In view of the total commitment of the entire Sikh community of Singapore in the setting up of SIWEC, it was agreed that it should be owned by the entire community and managed through representatives of all the Sikh Institutions. The Founding Management Team of Sikh Welfare Council comprised S. Sorinder Singh Toor as Chairman with S. Bhajan Singh Suropadda as Vice Chairman, S. Harmit Singh Gandhi as Secretary and S. Nirmal Singh as Treasurer. SIWEC continues to receive financial and other support from all Sikh Institutions.

The structure and operations of SIWEC served the community well for the first 12-15 years. Singapore’s rapid increase in population and particularly the rapid increase in the ageing population required SIWEC to provide a wider spectrum of services, but on the other hand with the fast growing work-related stress of Singaporeans, the number of volunteers started to dwindle and this was becoming a concern for SIWEC. It became crucial that in order for SIWEC to survive, it had to revamp its operations, deliverables and its fund raising efforts; and to achieve this, there was a dire need for new blood in the organization and set on a new path.

The year 2009 was a turning point year in the history of SIWEC and a new team led by S. Jagjit Singh Sekhon as Chairman and S. Gurdip Singh Usma as Vice Chairman and S. Balbeer Singh Mangat as Treasurer. Jagjit Singh and Balbeer Singh spearheading the fund raising efforts and Gurdip Singh revamping the constitution in order for SIWEC to be eligible to be an Institution of Public Character (IPC), so that fund raising efforts would become easier with the additional tax benefits. These moves bore fruits when SIWEC was granted IPC status in November 2009. With this status, SIWEC became a registered charity and all donations to SIWEC were tax exempt. This also attracted more donors to come forward to donate. SIWECs status as an IPC was further enhanced in July 2014 when it was admitted as a Full member of National Council of Social Service (NCSS) and SIWEC was able to offer even more programs and services to the community. This higher profile of SIWEC has also enable SIWEC to receive donations from other communities and non-Sikh organisations.

With this new beginning and IPC status, SIWEC transformed itself into a more dynamic welfare institution. The donations that came along with the IPC charter status, allowed SIWEC to start more much needed fresh welfare programmes and to provide these services the staff strength grew from two in its early years to six full time staff currently.

In line with SIWEC’s philosophy of continued leadership renewal, S. Amarjit Singh Wasan took over as Chairman from S. Jagjit Singh Sekhon in June 2013 and in June 2015 S. Gurdip Singh Usma took over as Chairman.

SIWEC Chairman S. Gurdip Singh Usma thanking volunteers during the Volunteers Appreciation Tea

Over the past 20 years, SIWEC has evolved from only providing basis assistance to needy Sikh families to a more complete spectrum of services to the needy, not only within the Sikh Community but the wider Singapore Community. The overall objectives for SIWEC was not just to provide immediate support, but more to assist these families to graduate from being “needy” to make them financially more independent by working with all other agencies to find suitable job for its clients, advising clients to find tenants to rent out their rooms to ease the financial dependency and providing medical support through Medical Social Workers (MSW) in order to enable the client to be fit for work. Some of the key services provided by SIWEC today include:

a. Financial Assistance & Food on the Table Program
Provide support to Singaporean families in need for financial or other type of assistance. We assess the needs of a family and provide them with the necessary financial, food ration and socioemotional support.

SIWEC staff arranging food deliveries to needy families

b. Prisons Counselling & Aftercare Program
Provide counselling and rehabilitation to the drug addicts and inmates (based on a well-structured fortnightly counselling programme) to assist them to integrate back into society. SIWEC also coordinates religious and spiritual visits with the Gurdwaras during celebrations like Vesakhi and Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Gurpurab.

Prison counsellors training and quarterly briefing

c. Family Bereavement Services
Provide bereaved families with logistical, social, emotional, spiritual and financial support by assisting individuals / families during bereavement.

d. Eldercare Program
Encourage Active Ageing and Volunteerism amongst elderly and to improve their quality of life, including talks, workshops and programmes to instill lifelong learning in our elderly folks.

Talks and activities for senior citizens as part of active ageing program

e. Hospital and Home Visits & Healthcare Ambassador Program
Provide for the social, emotional and psychological support and provide a listening ear and care for patients in nursing homes and hospitals and provide meals more suited to them on a regular basis to ensure they not feel left out and forgotten in society. SIWEC also conducts regular health screenings and talks during major Gurpurabs to create a greater health awareness and early detection environment.

Health screening during major Gurpurab celebrations

f. Education Support and Academic Excellence Program
SIWEC has also been working closely with Singapore Sikh Education Foundation to provide financial aid to pay for school fess, books and uniforms for Punjabi classes for the 100+ needy students and those living in 3bedroom flats and also identify students who need assistance in all their subjects and working out programs to address these needs and ensuring they do well in school.

g. Community Mediation Program
Facilitate reconciliation and mediation between parties within the community to reach a mutual agreement and work towards achieving an amicable solution rather than resort to other legal means.

Our group of trained Community Mediators

h. Outreach Activities
SIWEC reaches out to the member of the community to keep them abreast with SIWEC activities and new initiatives in the area of welfare and well-being. These are done through talks at Gurdwaras and other institutions and during major community events, when we also organize health talks, educational talks which will give positive steps you can take to better cope with the challenges in life.

SIWEC Manager, Ranjit Singh Waleh, updating the Gurdwara sangat on its activities and programs

i. Community Support
The Sikh Institutions in Singapore have been fully supportive of SIWEC from its inception with monthly contributions and donations; without which SIWEC would not have been able to achieve its objectives.


SIWEC receiving a donation from Isteri Satsang Sabha