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... stories, adventures and all things related to life in Singapore and Southeast Asia by AWA members

Cheers AWA! You're 88 years old!

by Suellen Lee

For the Chinese, the number 88 symbolizes prosperity, fortune and luck. AWA is officially 88 years old this year (it was founded in 1935!) and we are so grateful AWA is still around post-COVID. We were therefore inspired to reflect back on AWA's 88 years of history and legacy, and we hope you, too, will be inspired by the light that AWA has been to the Singapore and expats-in-Singapore community!

To start, let's take a little stroll down memory lane to review how AWA started, grew, and constantly adapted to the needs of the community here in Singapore over the decades. Here is a visual timeline of AWA's first 40+ years of history which takes us from pre-WW2 through Singapore's independence from the British Empire, to the Vietnam War to the 1980s!

For a more detailed, first-person-perspective of the early days of being in AWA, do check out this letter that Martha Smith, a member of AWA from 1949-1982, wrote to the Bamboo Telegraph (now AWA Magazine) in 1989 (reprinted here).

As Martha Smith recalls in her 1989 letter, life was very different before Singapore emerged as the cosmopolitan, internationally popular, urban city that we know today. The Ways and Means Committee organized AWA volunteers to fund-raising projects that not only benefitted AWA members, especially newcomers to the island, but also many charitable organizations in Singapore. They published cookbooks, shopping and decorating-in-Singapore guides and produced holiday handicrafts for the annual Christmas Bazaar.

One of the more special projects was the design of holiday gift wrap and gift card designs by talented AWA members! Unfortunately printing costs are prohibitively expensive these days and we just have to enjoy them here. We especially appreciate the depictions of Santa riding a rickshaw and Santa eating local hawker food!

Cheers, AWA!

Here's a Singapore Sling recipe featured in the 1983 cookbook publication, Seasoned in Singapore:

Last but not least ...

We recently asked AWA members to reflect on the question - "What does AWA mean to you and your life?" Here's what they had to say!

Although the AWA has become more of a social club over more recent decades, it was founded on a solid legacy of dedicated volunteerism as well as active and creative engagement with the needs of the Singapore community. As a previous AWA historian (unfortunately the name of author of the following quote from the archives cannot be found) noted:

"The strength of any organization comes from its members. It is easy to see that through the years there have been dedicated and willing workers to help carry on this work. The same problems seem to exist year after year, but with always an amicable solution. The “oldtimers” may vacillate in their interest from year to year, but they are always willing to offer assistance and advice when needed. This makes for a happy balance with newcomers who have fresh ideas from the States or other overseas posts."

Even as the AWA has evolved with the needs of the expat community and Singapore itself, it is special to know that 88 years on, the original purpose of AWA persists:

"To unite its members for promoting fellowship, furthering cultural interests and participating in the community activities of Singapore.”

Wouldn't you agree?


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AWA members are women who come from many countries and life experiences but they all have one thing in common — they have chosen to live in Singapore. Some members are new to Singapore,  while some have been here a long time or have returned to Singapore after time away. Our magazine - written and curated by AWA members - focuses on a diverse range of topics including wellness and family, travel tips, cultural events and information, and other helpful tips around navigating and experiencing life in Singapore to it's fullest. 

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