SAFRA celebrates 50 years of bringing NSmen together

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02 Dec 2022 | MILESTONES

SAFRA celebrates 50 years of bringing NSmen together

// Story by Benita Teo

// Photos by Kenneth Lin

English 华文

If you served in the SAF, confirmed plus chop you've been to a SAFRA Club.

Dr Ng Eng Hen (fourth from left), with SAFRA President, Senior Minister of State for Defence Zaqy Mohamad (third from left) and past SAFRA presidents, celebrating SAFRA's 50th anniversary with a cake-cutting ceremony.

Located across Singapore from Mount Faber to Toa Payoh, Jurong, Yishun, Punggol and Tampines, SAFRA clubhouses have become a quintessential part in the lives of many Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) national servicemen and their families.

Over the years, many servicemen and their families have spent time together over fitness programmes, child-friendly activities, and good old makan (Malay for food) at these clubs.

To celebrate its golden jubilee, SAFRA held a dinner on 1 Dec at SAFRA Mount Faber. During the landmark celebration, a record 168 recipients were also recognised for their service and contributions towards the National Service (NS) community.

The SAFRA 50th Anniversary Dinner also marked the end of a year-long fund-raising campaign, led by Operationally Ready National Serviceman (NSman) volunteers, to help Singaporeans in need.

To date, over $800,000 has been raised for beneficiaries from the President's Challenge, SAF Care Fund, Rainbow Centre and others.

The various charity initiatives include the SAFRA Wheels & Feet Charity Challenge and SAFRA Swim for Hope. The Let's Gift For A Reason initiative is still ongoing until 18 Dec.

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At the SAFRA 50th anniversary dinner, Dr Ng (pictured above, second from left) presented the cheque to Colonel (NS) Abu Bakar Mohd Nor, Chairman of the SAFRA Cares Initiative and member of the SAFRA50 Organising Committee (left). 

With them are Mr Aubeck Kam, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Social and Family Development and Co-Chairperson of the President's Challenge Steering Committee (second from right); and Lieutenant-General Melvyn Ong, Chief of Defence Force and Chairman of the SAF Care Fund Board (far right).

LTC (NS) Quek with Meritorious Service Awards (Bronze) recipient Ms Lim Mei Mei.

Meritorious Service Awards (Gold) recipient Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) (NS) Terence Quek has been a SAFRA volunteer since 2009. He is currently serving as the Chairman of the SAFRA Toa Payoh Executive Committee.

"When I volunteer with an organisation, it's very important that I'm serving a cause much bigger than myself. And SAFRA's mission (to strengthen bonds among NSmen) is very much aligned with the institution of NS," said the 47-year-old, who serves in the Republic of Singapore Navy.

"SAFRA has been evolving through the years. For instance, during the pandemic, we moved a lot of in-person activities online so that the members can continue to stay connected. One of the reasons I'm still here is because I still see SAFRA's relevance and how hard the volunteers are working."

LTC (NS) Quek (right) receiving the Meritorious Service Awards (Gold) from Dr Ng.

In his three years as Chairman of the Organising Committee for Let's Gift For A Reason, LTC (NS) Quek played an integral role in growing the outreach efforts for the Adopt A Wish and Adopt A Bag initiatives for underprivileged children and families.

Starting with 360 recipients from five beneficiary centres in 2019, the number grew tenfold by 2021, with 3,546 recipients from 16 beneficiary centres.

Dr Ng, who is also Chairman of the SAFRA Board of Governors, addressing the guests during the anniversary dinner.

In Dr Ng's speech at the dinner, he paid tribute to the late Dr Goh Keng Swee, then Minister of Defence, who had launched SAFRA in 1972 with two goals in mind.

The first was to show appreciation for NSmen by providing affordable and accessible clubhouse facilities to them and their families. The second was to foster a sense of belonging among SAF NSmen and build bonds and cohesion among them.

Dr Ng noted that "perhaps the strongest endorsement for SAFRA, comes from NSmen and their families" – nearly 475,000 NSmen and their families are members of SAFRA, with over 3,000 visiting the clubhouses daily.

Themed as a "fitness oasis", SAFRA Choa Chu Kang will feature an integrated fitness and wellness hub, a sky running track, a sheltered futsal court and a sheltered swimming pool.

Next year, NSmen and their families can look forward to the opening of SAFRA's seventh clubhouse in Choa Chu Kang.

"Fifty years on, SAFRA has done well in fulfilling its mission. But to maintain its relevance and attractiveness, we must adapt to the evolving tastes of the new generations of NSmen and their families," added Dr Ng.

"With the active inputs and contributions of NSman volunteers and the support from businesses and the community, I'm confident that SAFRA can continue to thrive in the decades ahead."

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