Dedicated service, for the greater good

A health screening at Taman Jurong by NUS medical students

Singapore’s flagship university traces its beginnings to 1905 when Straits-born Chinese Mr Tan Jiak Kim and a determined group of businessmen raised funds and petitioned for the establishment of a medical school to serve the local community. The Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States Government Medical School soon opened with 23 local students who went on to give back to those in need in many ways, including serving alongside faculty members in the Medical Auxiliary Services to provide medical care for the community during the Japanese Occupation.

That humble medical school has since evolved to become the globally recognised NUS we know today. However, throughout the years, the University has stayed true to its founding spirit of altruism and continued its long tradition of service to community and country.

An example is the NUS Students’ Union Receiving and Giving (RAG) event, a proud yearly tradition that aims to inculcate a spirit of giving and volunteerism among NUS students, and a signature event in the University’s calendar. The first RAG procession took place in 1957 as part of Welfare Week, when ten floats were driven though the city to thank the public for their contributions. Today, students across campus wake up at the crack of dawn on Flag Day and venture across the island to collect donations from the public. As a show of appreciation, the students put up dazzling dance performances coupled with intricate mobile floats and props lovingly made from recycled materials on Rag Day. To date, the iconic Rag and Flag has raised more than $7 million for local beneficiaries. This year, Rag Day will take place on 11 August at NUS University Town to thank the public for their generous support during the recent Flag Day held on 6 August.

Building on the legacy of their predecessors, students from the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine initiated the Neighbourhood Health Service (NHS) in 2008 to provide free health screenings for elderly and lower income residents and reconnect them to the healthcare system. The NHS, run twice annually, has grown substantially over the years to include more than 20 services including mental health assessment and socioeconomic evaluations; door-to-door screening and follow-up calls and visits; as well as an expanded pool of volunteers that includes students from the Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies at NUS and NUS Social Work. More than 5,100 residents living in rental housing blocks across Singapore have benefitted from the initiative since its inception, while the students gain valuable experience by applying the skills they have learnt to help the community. Upcoming health screenings will be held from 8 to 9 September at Kampong Glam Community Club and from 6 to 7 October at Leng Kee Community Club.

In 2016, the NUS Alumni Advisory Board launched the inaugural NUS Day of Service. Its most recent edition last year saw as many as 2,000 staff, students and alumni, both in Singapore and overseas, engage in 42 activities to benefit society, such as environmental clean-ups, food distribution and tree planting. The annual event has touched the lives of more than 5,000 beneficiaries so far, with the third Day of Service slated for 1 September. 

These initiatives complement the numerous other schemes and regular events launched by various members of the NUS community in their dedication to improve the lives of those around them and make a difference to Singapore and the world — a dedication that has not wavered in 113 years.