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The Ramakrishna Mission Boys' Home came into existence as a result of the Second World War in 1940. The Ramakrishna Mission Boys' Home, as we know it today, was opened in 1950, with its own spacious building.

1940
The Mission saw the beginnings of the Boys' Home as five boys came into its care. The Mission aimed to give the boys academic, moral and vocational education. When the Indian labours fell victim to the Japanese forced recruitment for the Siam-Burma Death Railway, many of their children were left helpless and destitute. In order to help them, the Mission decided to start a Home for such boys on the piece of land at 179 Bartley Road. It was a very hard time to launch these kinds of activities. An earnest appeal was made to some merchant friends of Swami Bhaswarananda. A temporary dormitory was first built to accommodate a very small number of children. For a couple of years, installation of electricity and water lines was out of the question. Both through the generous help of the devotees, electricity and pipe water were introduced.

1943 - 1945
The period between 1943 and 1945 was the most trying period for the Mission. As the number of orphans increased, more dormitories were erected. On 14 April 1943, Mr.Mamoru Shinozaki from Koseika-Choof the Japanese Military Administration officiated at the opening of the Boys' Home which was the only such place for poor and orphan boys in Singapore at the time. Mr Shinozaki expressed high appreciation of the philanthropic attitude of the Ramakrishna Mission for playing a vital role in various relief measures. News that the Mission was providing shelter for the orphans spread throughout the Peninsula and soon orphans from as far away as Kedah, Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Johore were sent to the Ramakrishna Mission. At this time, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was the leader of the Indians in the South-East Asia. He was moved when an appeal was made to provide food and shelter for these children. Due to his generous donations, semi-permanent dormitories comprising two long huts were built. A monthly ration of food and clothing was arranged. He himself declared open one of the dormitories erected for the children. The strength, mostly orphans, was 99.The dormitory at Bartley Road for the boys only had the basic essentials such as beds and toilets. Due to the poor facilities here, every morning the boys walked from Bartley Road to Norries Road for their classes and meals. At the end of the day, before it got dark, they walked back to Bartley Road. This was the daily routine of the boys. During the final stages of the war in late 1945 due to constant air attacks in Singapore, just before the surrender of the Japanese, an evacuation order was issued to the public. The Boys' Home being nearer to the aerodrome had to be evacuated to a bungalow house belonging to a devotee at Batu Gajah, nearly 350 miles away from Singapore. On the way to Batu Gajah the news of the Japanese surrender was heard. But it was thought wise to keep the children at Bath Gajah for some time. After a month's stay, the children returned safely to Singapore. Since then the boys, numbering 89, started residing at 179 Bartley Road in three houses.

1946
On 20 March 1946, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited the Mission and its Orphanages. He spoke for a little while to the big concourse of people gathered in the Mission. The three temporary dormitories at the Boys' Home at 179 Bartley Road needed immediate attention as it were in need of repairs. The Mission wanted to replace the wooden structures with a concrete building with bathroom and kitchen facilities. This was estimated to cost about $20,000.The Mission also wanted to have a workshop built at the premises so that it could conduct tailoring and carpentry classes for the boys to supplement their academic education. On 6 Sept. 1947, the foundation stone of the Ramakrishna Mission Orphanage Workshop at 179 Bartley Road was laid by Mr. John A Thivy, Representative of the Government of India in Malaya.


1948

A concert was held in aid of the Ramakrishna Mission Orphanage at the Victoria Theater on 2nd March 1948. Among others, the Ramakrishna Orchestra staged an item at the concert. In oct. Swami Vamadevananda visited H.E. Sri C Rajagopalachari, the Governor General of India, with a request for help in his work on the wartorn island, particularly to build a proper building for the orphanage for Indian children who became homeless during the war. At that time, the Mission was caring for 75 boys and girls from all over Malaysia including some from Burma and Siam. As a result of this visit as well as representations made by Mr J.A,Thivy,H.E. sanctioned Rs 15,000/- from the funds of the Government of India for the construction of the orphanage dormitory. He also donated Rs 1,000/- from his Personal account for the maintenance of the orphans. The Mission spurred ahead with its plan to build a permanent boys' home. The orphanage was designed by Mr Karmakar, a Singapore architect. The foundation stone of the orphanage dormitory for 100 orphans was laid on 10 Dec. 1948 by H.E. the Commissioner-General for the U.K. in South-East Asia, the Right Honorable, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, P.C. Although there was a heavy downpour, the shower ended just before the function commenced and amidst great enthusiasm and before a large distinguished gathering of all nationalities, the Commissioner General, who was accompanied by his wife, officially laid the foundation stone of the dormitory.

Later in his address on the guests, Mr MacDonald said, “No branch of the Ramakrishna Mission in more active than the Singapore branch. The project to build a Dormitory only a few months after the Workshop was added to the other buildings is evidence of its constant vitality and growth. The dormitory is urgently needed to give comfortable sleeping quarters and happy dreams to large number of orphans for whom the Mission acts as mother, father and guardian angel. I feel sure that those interested in the many charitable works of the Mission will follow the personal example of the Governor General of India and support the dormitory fund liberally." After the ceremony, the pupils of the Saradamani School entertained the gathering to sweet music. Contributions poured in and within two years the ground floor of the two-storied project was completed.

1949
Work on the construction of the dormitory for the boys was started in 1949.

The students of the Mission schools and the orphanage staged a three-day variety programme on 16-17 Feb and 2 March 1949 at the Victoria Hall in aid of the Mission Orphanage.

1950
Meanwhile work on the orphanage progressed rapidly and on 18 June 1950, Pandit Jawarhalal Nehru the Prime Minister of India opened the ground floor of the Boys Home. Mr. Nehru was accompanied at the ceremony by the Commissioner General, Mr Malcolm MacDonald and his daughter, Mrs.Indira Gandhi. A guard of honour of children of the orphanage has lined the lane leading up to the orphanage and on arrival he was garlanded by the orphanage's youngest inmate. On this occasion, the Indian Prime Minister presented S1000 to the orphanage..

In a short speech he paid high tribute to the many activities of the Mission in its centres. To this, he added, " I dislike the building to be known as the Orphanage Dormitory. Orphans should be reminded as little as possible that they are orphans and one of the ways is to change the name of the building. I leave to you to find a proper name. Let us give them a better deal. They should be given the same privileges and the same rights. They, like, other children will be the future citizens of this country who will give their best in the services of the country." This it is believed has perhaps somewhat influenced the determination of the present name of the building “Ramakrishna Mission Boys' Home". The new home although only partially completed then, provided the children with a clean and healthy environment.

Some of the other prominent visitors to the Boys' Home included Sir Franklin Gimson , the Government of Singapore; Srimato Sakuntala Bharati; Sri N Chatterji and Mr M Gopala Menon, the Representative of the Government of India.

1952
It became apparent that the Industrial school lacked proper facilities, instruments and tools. It was estimated that another $125,000 would be needed to carry out its building plans and purchase more equipment. Members went about making and collecting donations. To raise funds, a Charity Fair in aid of the Boys' Home was held in January 1952. It was presided by Mr. G.Gopala Menon (representative to the Government of India) and attended by over two thousand people.

1956
The Chief Justice of the High Court of Burma, Mr.Chan Tun Aung, on a visit to Singapore, visited the Ramakrishna Mission Boys' Home at Bartley Road on 17 April 1956. He wrote in the Visitor's Book that he was greatly impressed with the good work done by the Mission. He felt sure that " the most noble object of the Mission will be realized in full, in the near future, in view of the thoroughness with which it is being conducted".

1957
In aid of Ramakrishna Mission Boys Home at the Victoria Memorial Hall an exhibition of classical Indian Dances was given by Miss Uma Shankar, daughter of Dr. & Mrs E.A. Shankar on 12 Oct. 1957. The aim of the event was widely publicized both in the local English and Tamil press. The exhibition grossed a total receipt of $1,759/-

The opening ceremony of the newly renovated library at No.9 Norris Road was held on 26 Oct. by H.E. Mr V.M.M . Nair, the then High commissioner for India and Malaya. Extensions and renovations to the library and the reading room were made possible by the generous contributions from the government of India. Hundreds of new books in different languages on arts, literature, philosophy etc. by renowned authors both eastern and western were added to the existing collection.

1958
Work on the additional two wings and the second floor and alterations to the dormitory of the Boys' Home was carried out at an estimated cost of $8,000.

A Fun Fair was held on the grounds of the Indian Association in Balestier Road on 2nd March 1959, in aid of the Boys' Home Building Fund. A total of $5,783.70 in gross receipts was collected at the fair.

The construction of the Boys' Home was completed in May 1959 and it was declared open on 6 June 1959 by Swami Madhavanandaji , the General Secretary, Ramakrishna Mission Belur Math in short but impressive ceremony. The facilities of the one-storey building was inadequate for the growing number of boys that came under its care. To make up for the lack of space, the Industrial Workshop was used at night as a dormitory with the boys sleeping on low wooden beds covered with straw mats. The addition of the two new wings, the first floor and alterations to the dormitory of the Boys Home finally fulfilled this dire need for space. A public meeting was arranged and presided by Mr.S.K. Banerji, the High Commissioner for India in Malaya.

Mr.Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister of Singapore, accompanied by Mr.S.Rajaratnam, Minister for Culture, Mr.Chan Chee, Parliamentary Secretery, Ministry of Home Affairs, Mr.G. Kandasamy, and Mr. S.V Lingam, members of the Assembly visited the centre at Norris Road on 28th July 1963, while touring the constituencies. The Prime Minister wrote in the Visitors' Book " With all good wishes for you. Good work".

On 4 March 1963, Hon. Minister Mr.S. Rajaratnam, Minister for Culture, presided the Birthday celebrations of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. He observed " We in Malaysia, whatever our race or religion

-or if we have no religion at all- can profit a great deal by imbibing the universalism and tolerance of men like Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda."




1964

His holiness Srimat Swami Madhavanandaji Maharaj, President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission arrived in Singapore from Belur Math, Calcutta, India on 19 Feb. for a visit to the region.

In conjunction with the Centenary Celebrations, an exhibition of photos, paintings and books was opened by His Excellency the Yang di-Pertuan Negara on 22 Feb. 1964. His holiness Srimat Swami Madhavanandaji Maharaj was present with his Excellency at the exhibition. Among the works included about sixty water-coloured portraits of Swamiji and maps showing the Ramakrishna Mission Centres and the places Swamiji visited. The exhibition was on view for three days.

Rabindranath Tagore's Valmiki Pratibha and Indian Dances produced by the Fine Arts Society and directed by Sri Dilip Kumar were staged on 14th March 1964 at the Victoria Theater. Through these items and others of similar nature, it was possible to disseminate our cultural heritage and Swamiji's ideas with regard to them.

Mr A. Vaidyanathan, Regional Representative, United Nations Technical Assistance Board, S.E Asia, spoke on "Swami Vivekananda and International Fellowship". At this meeting, Mr N Uchigaki, the founder President of the Academy of Ramakrishna - Vivekananda, Osaka and Miss Innoue, the Secretary of the Academy spoke. Dr V Raghavan, Professor of Sanskrit, University of Madras, delivered a lecture on "Spiritual Heritage of India".

The climax of the Centenary Celebrations was the Parliament of Religions held at National Theater presided by Mr.S.Rajaratnam, Minister for Culture on 21 Sept.1964. The representative of different religions and from Inter Religious Organisations in Singapore spoke on Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Zorastrianism, and Hinduism. Swami Ranganathanandaji Maharaj spoke on " Swami Vivekananda and Parliament of Religions at Chicago". Swamiji also delivered lectures at Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Johore Bahru.

Documentary film on Swami Vivekananda with commentaries in English and Tamil were shown all over Singapore.

The increasing importance of spirtual and culrtural activities made the Mission realize the need for a central location where various spiritual and cultural activities could be held. This and to commemorate the centenary celebrations held during the year, led to the idea of a Vivekananda Centenary Memorial Building. On Monday, 24 Feb. 1964, Srimat Swami Madhavanandaji Maharaj laid the foundation stone of the Swami Vivekananda Centenary Memorial

Building at Bartley Road. The building was to house a Library and Reading Room, a Children's Library, Workers' Quarters, Administration Block for use by the senior students doing higher studies, teachers, supervisors and workers of the Boys' home and Guest Rooms, etc.. During the course of the construction, the government of India contributed Rs. 150,000/- (S$62,000/-)

1965
Prime Minister of Singapore Mr Lee Kuan Yew visited the Mission on its invitation on the occasion of the Birthday celebrations of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda on 18th April 1965. He addressed a very large gathering. He said inter-alia that the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna & Swami Vivekananda could make us tolerant of each other and ultimately lead to the emergence of common values and cultural affinity in a multi-racial society like Singapore.

When the People's Action Party (PAP) formed the government in 1959, one of the areas of its focus was child welfare services. The Boys' Home which came into being during the war, catered mainly for boys whose parents had been killed in the war or children whose parents are too poor to support them. In the 1960s and after, it continued to follow these guidelines and a large number of boys admitted were mostly from broken or disturbed homes, where either one or both of the parents were dead, not working or otherwise unable to support the children and provide a suitable environment for their education. The government encouraged these voluntary activities and in 1965, the Mission was granted $9,325 as part of an annual per capita grant. These and other public donations helped it to continue its functions.


1971

The Minister for Social Affairs, Mr Othman Bin Wok and other officials of the Ministry visited the Mission 22 Feb. 1971. The Minister was very impressed by the work done by the Mission.

1972
The Boys' Home participated in the " Community Welfare Service in Perspective Exhibition 1972" organised by the Singapore Council of Social Service at the Victoria Memorial Hall from 14th to 17th Oct. 1972. The exhibition was opened by President Sheares on 14th Oct.

Mrs. Sally Meyer accompanied by Mrs. T.Kulasekaran President Asian Women's Welfare Association visited the Boys Home on 18 May 1974 at the presentation of steel lockers for the Home.

The Boys' Home joined the Community Chest in October 1983. The support from the Chest will commence from the fiscal year 1984 starting on 1 Jan. 1984. As a result the Mission discontinued flag days.

The Singapore Council of Social Service formed a Resource Group of Voluntary Children's Institutions in Singpore to provide consultation, to advise methods in dealing with behavioral and emotional problems and to assist in case reviews. Two resource persons viz. Miss Irene Yong - Senior Medical Social Worker, Child Phychiatric Clinic and Mrs. Hanneke Soetens - an educational psychologist were assigned to the Boys' Home.

The Singapore Broadcast Corporation took video pictures of the Boys' Home and activites. It was telecast on Saturday 15th October 1988 in " Heartstrings 1988".

A certificate for voluntary services rendered was received from the President of Singapore on 26th July 1989.

On 17th Sept. 1989, the Sunday School Children enacted a Drama on an episode from the Mahabharata and other cultural items at the PUB Auditorium at 6.30pm. Dr S. Vasoo, M.P inaugarated the function and Dr M.V Nadkarni of then National University of Singapore gave a lecture on "Relevance of Mahabharata today".

The old boys of the Boys' Home put up a variety show late 1992 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Boys' Home, and to raise funds for the Multi-purpose Hall (Sarada Hall). They produced a beautiful souvenir and donated the total proceeds of about $34,000 to the Mission. Mr J.Y.Pillay, President of SINDA (Singapore Indian Development Association) was the Chief Guest.

Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved. Ramakrishna Mission Boys' Home Singapore.
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