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The Forum

 

Why:

United, stronger together.
 
Informed, safer and healthier.

SingaporeConnect started the weekly set of Covid-19 Forums on March 15, 2020, following a tumultuous week of responses in the SF Bay Area, if not to keep the disease at bay, to keep the Bay from becoming a calamity zone. 

 

Replay Video:

Video presentation of excerpts from past recorded forums (starting at Forum #4)

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL5SBzbvSBGHXLZMHt2E0FhXTVxGVOHxb4

 

Current Presentation:

The slide deck used for the forums is archived here - newer content up front and older content to the back.

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/13nZBj5mPrvigWqhCxCgY_4ya85JkxXtaue8RRfnMUBw/edit?usp=sharing

Topics:

Here's what we have covered:

1st: 03/15/20: Covid-19: A very serious situation

2nd: 03/22/20: Options for returning to Singapore

3rd: 03/29/20: Updates and Stay Home Notice (SHN) 

3rd extension: 04/05/20: Similar to 2nd and 3rd

4th: 04/12/20: Pharmaceutical Focus on Medications and Guidelines on the Usage of Masks

5th: 04/19/20: Keeping One's Mental Health

6th: 04/26/20: Covid-19 Fundamental Virology and The Hunt for a Vaccine

7th: 05/03/20: Impact of Covid-19 on US Immigration

8th: 05/10/20: Keeping the Singapore Hawker Culture Alive

9th: 05/17/20: Careers in Singapore

10th: 05/31/20: Cooking Singapore Food @ Home

11th: 06/14/20: Education and College Prep

12th: 06/28/20: Voting, Visas, and Venture Capital

13th: 07/12/20: Cooking Singapore Food @ Home 2 

14th: 07/19/20: Digital Initiatives at SF.gov

08/08/20: National Day-In-Place Event

15th: 08/22/20: The Economy

16th: 09/05/20: Resilient Relationships

17th: 09/19/20: Emergency Preparedness

18th: Skipped (due to 3rd extension not getting counted)

19th: 10/03/20: Food, Friendships and Farewells

20th: 10/18/20: Fitness Workout

21st: 10/31/20: Negotiating in the Real World

22nd: 11/15/20: SG Desserts | Tech Forum | Book Club

23rd: 12/06/20: Are Vaccines Ready?

24th: 01/30/21: US Taxation

25th: 03/27/21: Financial Planning

26th: 03/13/21: One Year Later

27th: 04/11/21: Stop Asian Hate | Self Defence

 

 

Synopsis:

Here's more detail about each forum:

1st: Covid-19: A very serious situation

This is serious. What are reputable news sources? Can the Singapore Govt help? Check with the Consulate in SF and SGN. Also, any tips for finding items like disinfectants that have become in short supply?

2nd: Options for returning to Singapore

To return to Singapore or not? A travel agent helped review flight options and the Consulate reviewed the changing visitor and entry policies at Singapore. The message for those who want to return: Don’t wait, act now. Policies changing, less flights available. 

3rd: Updates and Stay Home Notice (SHN) 

What’s it like on SHN? Live feedback from those who made it back home.

3rd extension: Updates and Stay Home Notice (SHN) 

The discussion was similar to sessions 2 and 3, update on flight options, entry policies, and how the SHN experience has been.

4th: Pharmaceutical Focus on Medications and Guidelines on the Usage of Masks

Searching for a medical professional directly involved in treating Covid-19 patients was not possible; rightfully those involved were too busy to talk at our Forum. We found a pharmacist who shared preventive advice especially around the wearing of masks, and a more general run-through on over-the-counter medication to alleviate symptoms should one get a cold (though not necessarily Covid-19). 

5th: Keeping One's Mental Health

For just about everyone sheltering at home, whether alone, or with family and kids, two mental health professionals shared how one can stay sane and healthy, including dealing with relationships and carving out routines.

6th: Covid-19 Fundamental Virology and The Hunt for a Vaccine

Our search for a medical professional led to a researcher at a major company. He gave an overview of what the scientific community knew about the virus, how it infects and spreads, testing methods, then shared how momentous the pace of the hunt for a vaccine is proceeding.

7th: Impact of Covid-19 on US Immigration

The proclamations and executive orders brought up many concerns with those directly impacted. We had an immigration attorney speak on an overview of the US immigration system, such as the different departments and types of visas, then interpret the nuances of the changes.

8th: Keeping the Singapore Hawker Culture Alive

For the 8th forum, we highlighted a vulnerable sector of the local community, those restaurant and food small business owners keeping the Singapore hawker culture alive, but suffering from the dramatic shift in the business landscape, and how our local community has been reaching out to help offer them means and ideas for transitioning their business model to the new reality.

9th: Careers in Singapore

For those who have worked in the US, how should they approach looking for a career transition to Singapore? The Managing Director of a career consulting and recruitment agency in Singapore presented on the current job situation and advice to job-seeking candidates from a recruiter's and hiring company's perspective.

10th: Cooking Singapore Food @ Home

Missing Singaporean cuisine? How about cooking it at home! In possibly the most humorous session to date, two master chefs shared their recipes with a video demonstration to help you create these two authentic Singaporean dishes: Hainanese Chicken Rice and Kueh Dar Dar, at home.

11th: Education and College Prep

All about education, from a non-profit seeking working professional volunteers to help with the mentorship of students, to a college prep advisor detailing how challenging it is today to get admitted to prestigious US colleges, then tips for students and parents of students on what colleges are looking for.

12th: Voting, Visas, and Venture Capital

This forum originally started with the intent to bring on board a venture capitalist, but days before broadened to a packed session with an alliterative title. 

Voting was related to the pending Singapore General Election particularly around overseas voting, visas to the recent proclamations on H1-B and related visas and then finally venture capital (meant to discuss economic impact of Covid-19, but shortened more to a snap of how the VC landscape is changing). Only the Visas and Venture Capital portions were recorded.

13th: Cooking Singapore Food @ Home 2 

Back to a favourite! Two master chefs again, two authentic Singaporean dishes: Carrot Cake and Brisket Rendang, but in a first, both did it live, one from Singapore and one from the Bay Area! Also, an online grocer shared how they have simplified the ordering process by offering preset bundles of ingredients ready to pair with recipes of Singaporean dishes.

14th: Digital Initiatives at SF.gov

A Singaporean, who is a Director of Product Management at SF.gov, a digital initiative by the City of San Francisco to make key government resources available online, talked on the resources available, and the story behind how some of those service were developed.

15th: The Economy

A well-requested topic was on the impact of Covid-19 on the global and Singapore economy. We had a Singaporean economist, who is an Associate Professor of Economics at a Business School, share his perspectives on the economic implications of Covid-19. 

16th: Resilient Relationships

We invited two social media influencers/coaches to talk about building and strengthening professional and personal relationships in these times, using online resources such as video calls and social media. 

17th: Emergency Preparedness

Sparked by the wildfires at that time, our speaker shared a useful set of guides for setting up a go-bag and what resources to use to keep in touch with the relevant authorities.

18th: Skipped (due to Forum 3 being counted twice)

19th: Food, Friendships and Farewells

Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival over tea and mooncakes, we watched a sambal cooking video, then shared our memories and wishes in a poignant farewell for our outgoing CG.

20th: Fitness Workout

Right after all the rich mooncakes it was apt to burn it off with a heart-pumping fitness workout by professional personal trainer, preceded by a pep talk on the benefits of exercising.  

21st: Negotiating in the Real World

Trick or Treat? Negotiating is a lot more than bargaining for candy. We were pleased to have the author of several books on negotiation to teach us more on how to get to a "win-win" negotiation, wherever the topic.

22nd: SG Desserts | Tech Forum | Book Club

Presenting how to make two forms of Singaporean desserts including Muah Chee, about interviewing Singapore's Prime Minister at the SG Tech Forum, and getting to know a book club in San Diego focusing on Singaporean literature.

23rd: Are Vaccines Ready?

With the imminent emergency approval for two mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccines, what should we know about interpreting the efficacy results and potential benefits?

24th: US Taxation

It is sometimes said there's nothing as certain as death, and taxes. Our speaker, who has worked the gamut of clients from students to ultra high net worth, goes over the situations where a tax advisor might be rather helpful, and also particular topics of interest to the community, such as on foreign income and asset reporting.

25th: Financial Planning

Our pre-event survey revealed that the top interest was on minimising taxes on capital gains on investments and income. Our speakers, one a licensed financial educator and the other a financial advisor, came prepared with detailed slides on the topic.  

26th: One Year Later

One year ago, the whole world as we knew it rapidly changed. For some, it started earlier, but there was no mistaking by March of 2020, things were not going to be normal for the rest of 2020. One year later. Have you looked back? What are you looking forward to? How have you fared? We marked one year later with a retrospective on the past year and on shared motivating thoughts and support for everyone in the community.

27th: Stop Asian Hate / Self Defence

With a diverse panel from across the coasts, we listened to experiences of racism or anti-Asian sentiments, from subtle and perhaps unexpected, to harsh and challenging. The discussion was followed by a focused and fun session on self defence by one of our members with a martial arts background.

 

 

 

Thoughts from March 2020:
 
  1. Thank goodness, it turned out the SF Bay Area did not become a calamity zone. 
  2. The number of cases in Singapore skyrocketed, she went on a Circuit Breaker, but most cases are in the foreign worker dormitories and testing and treatment have ramped up.
  3. Consensus that a gradual re-opening, though not back to normal, will be phased in, over the next 4-8 weeks.
  4. Testing is not widespread, but not as constrained. Even masks are starting to become available, though toilet paper maybe less so.
  5. Pharma companies are co-operating like never-before, to roll out a vaccine in record time.
 
We have rallied together as a community to:
 
  1. Help those have been laid off (you know, if you have)
  2. Help find supplies for those who need them
  3. Help coordinate restaurant deliveries
  4. Share tips for keeping kids enriched while at home
 
What’s next:
 
SingaporeConnect, in partnership with the Singapore Global Network, will be shifting the cadence for these Covid-19 Forums to every fortnight (2 weeks). We have received much feedback and suggestions for topics. But what we need, most, and always will appreciate, are volunteers to step forth and make something happen for your community. Now is the time, more than ever, to help all of us be.

Why did we start the Forum Series:

For many of you, the weekends of 3/1 or 3/8 were possibly quite normal. Even if you were concerned about the situation in other parts of the world, the SF Bay Area you've come to appreciate to still looked very much like it maintained a sense of normalcy.

The weekdays of 3/9 to 3/13 saw everything around us changing rapidly. Rapidly, schools closed, working from home became the norm if possible. We saw the tsunami change about to hit upon our community and held our first Covid-19 forum on 3/15, attended by 70, to mainly do two things:

a) convey the seriousness of the health emergency and stay safe

b) find those vulnerable (students, local businesses, elderly) and ask if there were any more in our community which we should get together to help

Along the way, we shared tips on finding sanitising wipes and groceries.

The weekdays of 3/16 to 3/20 cemented unprecedented changes to our way of life. Shelter-in-place. No gatherings. Social distancing.

Our 2nd forum on 3/22 was even more well attended, hitting the 100 participant cap rapidly. The key message became:

If you can return to Singapore, or are want to, better do it fast, as with the fall in global travel, and rise in border restrictions, flights are going away fast. Students who are here on their own are strongly advised to return to be with a stronger support environment, until school resumes. Those staying, be prepared to hunker down, while keeping in touch with the Consulate and the Singapore Global Network. They are your links to the Singapore Government, for updates, advice, interpretation of the latest rules, and emergency assistance if needed.

Generally, Citizens and Permanent Residents will always be welcome home to Singapore, but for those of you with mixed families, due to challenges with a high influx of potentially infected, there may be restrictions, declarations, or approvals required. We also touched upon more resources available for those staying here, and volunteer efforts to help businesses, and give you a taste of home food.

The 3rd forum continued the main discussion of the 2nd forum, especially with call-ins from those who had returned to Singapore recounting their experience with the travel process and the stay-at-home (SHN) in a hotel process.

From the 4th forum onwards, we started speakers to share their personal expertise on a range of topics. It's now taken a life of it's own - like a virtual town hall for not just the SF Bay Area Singaporean community, but even attracting participants from around the US and Singapore.