The Hindu endowments, which were under Mohammaden Hindu Endowments Board (MHEB) set up in 1906 by the colonial government in Singapore, were transferred to HEB in 1968.
The endowments transferred relate to Sri Mariamman Temple, Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple, Sri Sivan Temple and Sri Vairavimada Kaliamman Temple.
All other Hindu temples, shrines and monuments in Singapore are managed by other organisations.
As there appears to be many misconceptions about HEB’s role I decided to write about its focus in two segments, the various community initiatives it has undertaken over the years and its plans for the immediate future.
HEB started Singapore’s first Ministry of Education-registered Tamil kindergarten in 1990.
Today, we have two kindergartens – Saraswathy Kindergarten (SKG) in Toa Payoh and Saraswathy Darma Muneeswaran Kindergarten (SDMKG) in Yishun.
Our kindergartens are accredited, have won many accolades in the pre-school sector and offer a comprehensive curriculum.
Our kindergartens offer free education to less-fortunate children who would otherwise not be able to attend school in their formative years.
This includes giving bursaries amounting to no less than $50,000 to our students annually.
I am proud to say that both our kindergartens are celebrating milestone events this year – 25 years of successful operations for SKG and 10 years for SDMKG.
As this year is special for the kindergartens, there will be many fringe events over the year including a Games Day on May 16 and a carnival in July.
Yet another key community contribution is the HEB-Ashram Halfway House.
Set up in 2000, the facility has been providing well-rounded and proven rehabilitation programmes for referrals from prisons and Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises.
It holds Institute of a Public Character status with National Council of Social Service accredition.
In December 2014, it was awarded ISO 9001-2008 certification, the first halfway house in Singapore to receive that recognition.
Going forward, HEB-Ashram will have a three-pronged approach to aftercare.
It will work closely with the Indian Community Aftercare Council to provide befrienders to its residents and their families.
Secondly, it will focus on preventive education for residents, ex-offenders and their families.
Thirdly, it will set up a social enterprise to enhance employment prospects for ex-offenders in an effort to bring about positive change in their lives.
HEB-Ashram also has plans to expand its Gift from the Heart programme that was launched in 2009 to provide food rations to needy families in the Hindu and other communities in Singapore.
HEB-Ashram hopes to reach out to at least 500 families through this initiative.
Currently, we are spending about $84,000 annually for this project.
Project Bhakti is one of HEB’s long-running social programmes.
In its 14th year, the programme teaches Hindu values in a fun-filled, engaging format.
Its yearly curriculum runs over 24 weeks on Sundays at various Hindu temples.
HEB has decided to expand the enrolment from 180 students to 500 by 2016 and reach about 2,000 students in the next three years.
Transport, books and snacks are provided free.
Plans are afoot to offer it through other privately-managed temples at no additional cost to the temples.
HEB also conducts a health fair every year in partnership with Health Promotion Board (HPB) where about 700 participants undergo free medical screening and get referrals to hospitals.
The next Healthy Lifestyle Carnival on July 26 will be on a larger scale and will involve 2,000 to 3,000 participants.
This event is in partnership with Vasantham Central and other organisations with support from HPB.
HEB is the only Hindu organisation in Singapore that gives out bursaries to students from pre-school all the way up to ITE, poly and university.
Even students in private universities have benefitted from our bursaries.
Since 2011, we have granted $803,292 in bursaries, through our Sivadas-HEB Education Fund.
A close look at our books will indicate that nothing less than $600,000 is set aside each year for social and community programmes, including the yearly contribution to the President’s Challenge.
The budget for these initiatives for the current financial year has been increased to about $770,000.
I would like to see the board expand its social focus to meet the escalating needs and expectations of our community.
With prudence and careful financial planning, we should be able to fund many more social initiatives, thus reinforcing our place among the premier community organisations in Singapore.
Mr R. Jayachandran is chairman of the Hindu Endowments Board.