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News > Alumni Spotlight > Nurturing Lasallian Values for a Better World

Nurturing Lasallian Values for a Better World

Joshua Rebeira '09, a pioneer SJI International alum, reflects on the lasting impact of Lasallian education and highlights the principles of "the last, the lost, and the least".

To be a Lasallian is to be a person for others. 

I am not accustomed to writing about myself but am honoured to be given this privilege. I am delighted to have heard from many who have graduated from SJI International who have succeeded, picked up a wide array of skills, talents and importantly an all-rounded education. I wonder if any of us recalled that we were Lasallians while doing so? I for one, had forgotten for a period of time.

I am currently working for the Ministry of Social & Family Development as the Assistant Head of the Singapore Central Authority and a Manager of Child Protective Services in Singapore. I spent my entire Primary, Secondary and Tertiary education in Lasallian schools. From St Michael’s to St Patrick’s and lastly graduating from SJI International in 2010. Over a decade now, my time at SJI International is still one that I look back fondly on and cherish. Having been exposed to a new and holistic way of learning (IB) whilst also enjoying school playing football, bridge and jamming only puts a smile on my face. The friendships and bonds formed could last more than a lifetime and I am grateful for those who are still close to me.

Being a playful and idealistic teen, cultivating Lasallian values and principles was never my top priority and where academics were concerned, I struggled to attain top results for my IB Diploma. Nevertheless, I was privileged to have a supportive family to further my education and dove headfirst to the University of Nottingham pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Law with gusto. 

I had envisioned my future working as a lawyer representing criminal and family litigation matters but was tirelessly attempting to “survive” the law degree. Over time, I grew weary and lost; unsure of my purpose and intentions on employment upon completing the degree. I questioned what my passion was and if being a lawyer would truly fulfil it. I never pondered on what values I had in store to tackle these challenges. Instead, it was a dark period where I played a mantra in my head daily: “Do not waste this opportunity and investment. A law degree can only open more options to your future.” 

Another mantra that echoed was “Why live in a bubble when you are fortunate and blessed to study overseas”. I recount having a diverse and inclusive group of friends from St Patrick’s and SJI International. Living in a rented student house with seven university friends of different races and religions was further enlightening, to say the least. Over the first year of university, we grew to understand each of our different characters, cultures and cuisines. We had each pursued a different course which exposed us to more knowledge. These seven friends were my support network in England and they have become some of my closest friends to date. I encourage any of you who can study or work overseas to take the opportunity to make as many friends and contacts as possible to build your social network.

In order to break through the challenges, I was introduced to the concept of mindfulness. I learned to be intentional in every decision and experience and to dig deeper into what was truly important to me. Two words resonated more than any others – “Lasallian” and “Service”. What I had not realised, which was inculcated in me all along, were important values such as caring for the less fortunate and the numerous acts of service that SJI International had strived for us to carry out. It was as if a beam shone on the Lasallian principle of “Concern for the Poor and Social Justice”. I was encouraged by remembering past experiences at SJI International, especially of helping at the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped (SAVH), St. Theresa’s Home, Lee Ah Mooi Home and Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME).

This desire to help others was amplified when I joined the University of Nottingham’s Pro Bono Society which targeted at advising troubled youth who have been incarcerated and Working in Tandem which is an organisation that aided in educating children in need in Tanzania. Focusing on this newfound desire, I opted to understand and tackle other social issues arising in Nottingham including raising funds and helping the homeless and destitute find shelter. 

I returned to Singapore after completing my degree eager to help individuals who faced a myriad of societal challenges. As such, I have been working for Singapore’s Child Protective Service and the Singapore Central Authority. I currently manage a team of officers that deal with the operations of cases pertaining to international child abduction, adoption and youth-at-risk. I have also been involved in the amendments to two legislations relating to children and young persons and formulating policies on the creation of safe and strong families.

It is through SJI International’s wide array of Service co-curricular activities and teachings that opened my eyes to the greater vulnerable population of Singapore and the need to give back to society. Although there are truths that the social service sector can be an emotionally taxing industry, it is extremely fruitful and breath-taking when there is a positive change either on an individual or societal level. I strongly advocate for all of you to make conscious efforts or continue participating in acts of service if time permits. 

Despite the many questions from family and friends on my intention to practice Law privately, I have found a calling and passion to be a Civil Servant to protect the vulnerable in society and rehabilitate and journey with those who have strayed. It is bizarre and amusing that my office is located at the ‘two towers’ next to SJI International. While I know my journey is far from ending, it has brought me near full circle to my understanding of Lasallian values by helping the last, the lost, the least and the need to achieve social justice. I am honoured to be a Lasallian not only by merit of the schools I have attended but in being a person for others. I appreciate SJI International for instilling this need to be grounded. 

For those still studying at SJI International, graduating or my fellow alumni, I take this opportunity as a call to remind each of us of the Lasallian values that were instilled in us and to embody them courageously in being people for others daily; be it in school, office, place of worship and your community. If you need to, do take time to look deeper in a mirror and ponder inwards, I am sure you will find that Lasallian value tucked close to your heart.

 

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