Chinese clan associations focusing on youth development
Clans to attract younger members with classes, competition and new award
More than half of the clan associations are in danger of fading away, if they don't actively attract younger members.
That was a warning by Mr Tan Aik Hock, the youth committee chairman of the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clans Association (SFCCA).
Of more than 200 clans here, only 20 per cent have some form of youth groups, the 48-year-old told The New Paper.
"It is like a piece of ice - if there is no younger generation, it will melt," the chairman of general affairs at the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan added.
The dearth of younger members in clans was flagged some six years ago by SFCCA chairman Chua Thian Poh.
This is partly due to the changing role of clans, said Mr Tan. In the past, clans facilitated communication and bonding among Chinese community members and provided for their welfare. The role of clans has since evolved with time to preserve Chinese heritage through activities and traditional festival celebrations, as well as promoting the Chinese language.
Now, welfare issues can be resolved with a visit to the residents' committee or the Meet-the-People Sessions.
As a result, the number of activities has dwindled in many of these associations.
The lack of succession plans in clans has also led to their slow deaths, said Mr Stanley Ng, the secretary-general of Huang Clan Association's youth committee.
"No one wants to take over the running of the clan associations, which is sad," he said.
He is trying to improve the situation in his own clan by changing its traditional image. (See report below.)
The challenge lies in convincing young Singaporeans of the importance of understanding their heritage in a globalised world - something parents and the Government should chip in to help, said Dr Phua Kok Khoo, vice-president of Ee Hoe Hean Club.
The situation is looking up slightly, with SFCCA focusing on youth group development, said Mr Tan.
An upcoming event involves classes on basic software writing for drones and robotics. This will lead to a competition on drone photography or videography of clan association events.
"This will attract a lot of youngsters, and we want to make sure these things link back to our clans," Mr Tan said.
The SFCCA will also give out its inaugural Outstanding Youth Award in April to attract a new crop of leaders.
Another way is to convince the youth that joining clans has its benefits. For instance, one gets to network with people outside his social circle, said Mr Ng.
In the case of the Huang clan, its notable members include former deputy prime minister Wong Kan Seng and veteran banker Wee Cho Yaw.
"There is nothing more impressive than a young person who understands his culture well," he added.