“Whichever path you choose, make the most out of your journey” — Dr Benjie Ng

Having made his first travel in his life to Japan under the 6-week Japan Airlines Summer Programme, Dr Benjie Ng seized the opportunity to visit Japan again the following year by applying to be a Participating Youth (PY) of the Ship for Southeast Asian and Japanese Youth Programme (SSEAYP) in 1978.

It was not an easy decision for Dr Benjie to sign up for SSEAYP as he had already taken leave from his university to participate in the Summer Programme. Despite the disruption to his academic activities, he was able to self-study, clear the examinations and became the first non-Hokkien to receive the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan scholarship.

Dr Benjie recalled that he was in his penultimate year when he participated in SSEAYP. He was thankful that he had an understanding lecturer who provided tutorials to help him catch up with the lessons he missed. His time management skills also helped as he cramped what he missed in 8 weeks into 4 weeks of intensive revision before the examination.

Dr Benjie had an equally exciting and memorable SSEAYP experience. After the first port-of-call in Port Klang, he returned to Singapore and Nanyang University sought approval for him to take leave from the programme to represent the university to participate in the Inter-Varsity TV Debates with Singapore University. Most PYs would know that it was close to impossible to take leave from SSEAYP. But for Dr Benjie, he would go on to clinche the Best Speaker award in that debate contest.

After missing the local SSEAYP programme in Indonesia, Dr Benjie was flown to Bangkok by his university to continue the SSEAYP programme at the fourth port-of-call at Bangkok. As Nippon Maru sailed from Bangkok to the Philippines, the SSEAYP Press Club Debate was held and he clinched the Best Speaker award again! Each contingent sent a representative to participate in the debate and each debate team comprised 3 members. For Dr Benjie, the victory was quite a sensation.

One of the group photos taken on board Nippon Maru

As part of the SSEAYP Press Club, Dr Benjie recounted how he and his counterparts would capture the stories from each key events during SSEAYP to publish the SSEAYP news regularly for PYs to be aware of the happenings at each port-of-call.

Dr Benjie Ng with fellow PYs involved in the Debate Contest

Dr Benjie’s community work began when he joined the People’s Association as a grassroots leader in 1980. Benjie sees managing Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) as his personal vocation. Benjie has been an active member of the Junior Chamber International (JCI) since 1982. He was conferred the Life membership JCI Senator award in 1997 and was served as President of JCI Senators Club of Singapore (2012-2013) and President, Association of JCI Senators in the South East Asian Nations (ASSEAN) in 2018.

Dr Benjie had also established the ASEAN Network of Independent Universities (ANIU) to promote intra-ASEAN exchanges and cross cultural learning amongst ASEAN private universities.

Dr Benjie Ng in a group photo taken in Japan during SSEAYP 1978

After SSEAYP, Dr Benjie began his career in the financial sector and then moved on to Public Relations. In 1994, he became the Executive Director, Institute of Public Relations of Singapore. He then served as ED, Association of Small & Medium Enterprises (ASME) from 1997 to 2001; ED, Singapore Confederation of Industries (renamed as Singapore Manufacturing Federation) from 2001 to 2002; Co-founder, Dr. WHO Waterworks from 2002 to 2003 where he rebranded the entity to become a major supplier of bottled water and water filtration today; ED, Financial Planning Association of Singapore (FPAS) from 2003 to 2004; Charter Secretary-General, Society of Association Executives in 2005; CEO, Sree Narayana Mission (Singapore) from 2006 to 2009.

From 2009 to 2010, Dr Benjie was Head, Fund Raising & Volunteer Development, Ren Ci Hospital & Medicare Centre and played a key role in raising $7.33 million for the organisation through the TV Charity Show. From 2010 to 2011, he was Head, Fund Raising & Volunteer Development, Singapore Red Cross where he raised $35 million to support relief efforts for the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan.

Dr Benjie was the Chief Operating Officer, World Toilet Organisation & World Toilet College from 2011 to 2012. In 2012, he served as Founder/ED, Fortune PR Singapore. From 2013 to 2020, he served as ED, Sian Chay Medical Institution.

Dr Benjie’s other portfolio includes:

1989 – Secretary, Dr. Toh Chin Chye Benevolent Fund for the Aged Board of Trustees

1990 – Secretary, S. Rajaratnam Education Trust Fund

1990 – present Honorary Director, Theng Hai Huay Kuan

2016 – 2022, Vice President, Huang Clan Association

2009 – present, Vice Secretary, Taoist charity Zhi Zhen Tan Dao Xue Hui (Singapore) [新加坡旨真坛道学会]

2012 – 2022 – Deputy Secretary, Thong Kheng Welfare Services Society

2018 – 2020 – Secretary, Thong Kheng Charitable Institution

SSEAYP: Looking Forward

With the advent of the COVID pandemic, Dr Benjie pointed out that SSEAYP could not be expected to be the same as before. He opined that the duration of SSEAYP might be shortened as part of the programme, such as pre-departure online exchange, could be conducted virtually. Technology could be leverage to focus the physical programme to be more targeted and meaningful.

Words for Aspiring SSEAYP PYs

Dr Benjie highlighted that the opportunity to interact with ASEAN friends and the cross-cultural understanding had naturally given him an edge when he entered the PR, marketing and communications professions. He added that SSEAYP provided opportunities in career development, leadership development. SSEAYP also created a network and platform for him to get to know many outstanding youths within ASEAN.

Dr Benjie Ng calls on aspiring youths to consider participating in SSEAYP to enrich their lives, “Whichever path you choose, make the most out of your journey.”