Different species of trees produce different kinds of fruit. We must not look for cherries on a plum tree. So, it is with people. Each one has to bear fruit according to its kind which is the combined result of grace and a person’s special attraction.
Nicholas Barré (21 October 1621 – 31 May 1686) was a French Catholic priest who founded the Sisters of the Infant Jesus because he wanted to make education accessible to all, believing that education was the way to lift the poor out of poverty and to give them dignity and purpose.
In 1854, the Infant Jesus (IJ) Sisters arrived in Singapore to carry out Fr Barre’s vision of helping the poor and providing education for children, especially girls.
Led by Rev. Mother Mathilde Raclot, the first Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ) in Singapore was established at Victoria Street (present-day CHIJMES). Not long after, an orphanage and home for abandoned babies was started as day-old babies were being left at the school gate (aka the Gate of Hope) and the place quickly earned its reputation as a refuge for girls, and as a place where they will receive an education and a home.
Today, there are 11 schools established under the CHIJ banner and our convent orphanage and home for abandoned babies has evolved to become Infant Jesus Homes and Children’s Centres (IJHCC), the Catholic social mission arm of the IJ Sisters.
In 2013, IJ Village along Ang Mo Kio St 13 was built to more aptly reflect our desire to create a “village” or “kampung” spirit amongst our students, parents, volunteers and other like-minded supporters. Not only in spirit, but a village is also where the community may be small but the bonds strong, where the mission to serve is similar, where everyone knows each other, and where care and love can propagate within and spread.
Through the years, this spirit has grown so much so that the name IJ Village has now become synonymous with IJHCC and it is often used to refer to both our student care centre and to the larger organisation.
Indeed, through our Bursary Award Programme, the IJ Joy Pack and our Youth Club, we have been steadily extending our reach in the neighbourhood, impacting the lives of more than 2000 people in the community since 2019.
With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, though a spanner was thrown in the works and the roll-out of initiatives was affected, we remain unwavering in our mission to serve those in need. Notably, we will be extending our reach beyond the Ang Mo Kio and Serangoon neighbourhoods and inviting residents from (locations) to be part of our village. We also plan to expand and diversify our programmes and services to include community tuition, reading, homework supervision, speech and drama, and the arts.
I am indeed honoured, privileged and excited to be given the opportunity to work with my colleagues to serve in this special village – a village where children and youth can grow, learn, and develop their individual and collective talent to benefit society; a village where though the young may have left the confines of our walls, they continue to carry with them and spread the spirit of love, kindness, and giving.
I thank all my fellow villagers – the management and sub-committee members, volunteers, and staff – for their love, service, generosity, dedication, and commitment of time and resources. I know that everyone is working tirelessly together to make IJ Village the best little village in the world, inspired by nothing more than the single belief that we can transform lives.
Last but not least, I must give thanks to God for guiding IJ Village through the last century. I remain steadfast in my trust in divine providence to guide and provide for us, for many more years to come!
Tan Lay Hoon, CFA