by Helena Cochrane (photography by Elena Boyce)
AWA Local Tours is a group that has been part of AWA for many years, and organizes two or three tours each month.
According to Jennifer Cormier, co-chair, the AWA Local Tours Group in some ways consists of two groups:
“Our Local Tours leaders form one group, while our AWA members who attend the tours form the second group.
Terry Young is my co-chair. We meet with guides certified by the Singapore Tourism Board to put together programs that will be attractive for our AWA members. From there, our tour leaders choose which tours they can volunteer to lead and act as the liaison between the professional tour guide and the AWA members who have signed up to take the tours. We have about five Local Tour Leaders. We meet monthly to discuss both past and upcoming tours and any ideas that we should consider for new tour destinations. We’ve visited the US embassy, settings from Crazy Rich Asians, and unsung corners of the city, with the authors of the guidebook Secret Singapore. ”
I asked Local Tours co-chair Jennifer Cormier a few questions to get her personal perspective on being a tour leader.
“In my role of coordinating for Local Tours, my favorite thing is when we have a full tour, and participants are happy and asking a lot of questions. Seeing people gather afterwards for coffee or lunch to make deeper connections fulfills our goals as tour organizers. Many of the tour participants become friends because they’ve met on the tour. It's so important to build a network as an expat, and having the AWA Activities makes opportunities for these connections so much easier. I can’t tell you the number of times I have walked away from a tour and felt so pleased that I belonged to something in this way.”
Jennifer notes that Local Tours provides a cultural link between the expat community and the rich local history and culture we are in.
“I love that Local Tours often take and teach me about parts of Singapore that I would not be able to get to without being in a tour group. My family is not really into going on tours, so the opportunity to go with a group all part of AWA is nice and comforting. I have made quite a few friends from getting around with Local Tours.”
Jennifer was gracious in answering a few more questions.
Can you elaborate on any changes you’ve been through as a result of participating in Local Tours?
I took on a leadership role with Local Tours which has given me, as a trailing spouse, a feeling of greater purpose and responsibility. I am proud when I’m able to talk with others about Local Tours and AWA because we do some really interesting and unique excursions.
Member Elena Boyce mentioned that the mutually supportive leaders of Local Tours met and overcame challenges posed by Covid restrictions in 2020, and 2021.
“This group gives an amazing opportunity to serve the AWA community. All the participants in the group are very supportive and 100% committed.
We were able to operate and provide service to the members during Covid. It was challenging and required a lot of flexibility to adapt to all the local regulations.
I personally appreciate all the help of our leader Terry Young, who was able to build us all up as a group and support us all the time. And also, Jen Cormier, who explains the details of our paperwork. The most important part was that we became good friends. These memories will stay with us forever.
One of my favorite tours during the pandemic was the Gratifying Graffiti Tour. There were so many regulations in Singapore at that time, that it was a relief to get together and learn about graffiti. We were able to create our own graffiti, like kids so happy to be free and naughty while creating our masterpieces.”
Jennifer cannot resist making one more pitch for her group:
”To register for local tours, sign in to the AWA website and check the calendar. They are updated quite frequently, so be sure to check often. Guests are welcome too."
”If you are uncomfortable signing up and attending by yourself, register a friend too!”
Since moving from Philadelphia in 2018, Helena has been active with AWA's Walking with Women, Writers' Group and International Vocal Ensemble, as well as with Urban Sketchers of Singapore. See her artwork on Instagram @helena_antolin_cochrane
Elena Boyce is currently working on her new photographic project, "Faces Behind the Makers" that aims to create awareness and revive an interest in Singapore's heritage trades. Find out more at www.photoimpressia.com