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Updated: March 2009


Overview | World Vision's history in Singapore| World Vision in Singapore today


The smallest country in Southeast Asia, Singapore is one of only a few countries that is also designated as a city state. Officially referred to as the Republic of Singapore, this country consists of a total of 63 islands, the majority of which have extremely small areas and are uninhabited. The main and largest island is located on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, separated from Malaysia by the Johore Strait. To the south, the Singapore Strait and the Maine Strait separate this island nation from Indonesia. The landscape of Singapore is covered in lowlands, and the central plateau serves as a nature preserve. This tropical country experiences frequent thunderstorms, and persistent rains bring monsoons, lasting from December to March in the northeast and from June to September in the southwest. Singapore has no agricultural sector, and the only natural resources are fish and deepwater ports.

With one of the highest population densities in the world, this small, growing country is home to a diverse collection of ethnicities and cultures. Chinese (76.8 percent), Malays (13.9 percent), and Indians (7.9 percent) are the largest people groups. Though English is the government-mandated language of the school system, Mandarin, Malay, and Hokkien are widely spoken, along with Cantonese, Teochew, Tamil, and other Chinese dialects.
Singapore's flag 

Country statistics 
Population4.382 million
Land mass241 square miles
People per square mile19,045.64
Life expectancy81.89 years
Under age 5 mortality rate2/1,000
Literacy rate89%
Access to safe water100%
Average annual incomeUS$29,320
Buddhist 42.5%


Originally known primarily to Malaysians, and those living in the surrounding area, Singapore became important to the British in 1819, when Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles arrived and established a trading post on the island. In 1824, Britain purchased Singapore from a ruler in southern Malaysia, and two years later it was combined with Penang and Malacca to form the Straits Settlements. These settlements became a British Crown Colony in 1867.

Following a brief Japanese occupation during World War II (1942-1945), Singapore was returned to Britain just before the Straits Settlements dissolved and Penang and Malacca formed the Malayan Union. Left as a separate Crown Colony, Singapore became self-governing in 1959 and joined the independent Federation of Malaysia in 1963. Singapore remained a part of Malaysia for only two years, forming the republic of Singapore in 1965 after disputes with the central government led to separation. Today, Singapore remains a republic with a parliamentary style of government.

Beginning in the early 19th century, Singapore experienced growth and prosperity, thanks to its central location between major Asian trading partners. As trade expanded, Singapore became one of the world’s foremost ports. Today, trade continues to be the most vital force behind Singapore’s flourishing economy. With few natural resources, manufacturing and services account for the majority of the country’s gross domestic product. Singapore manufactures and exports large amounts of electronics and information technology products, and it imports mineral fuels and foodstuffs.

Between 2001 and 2003, this free-market economy faced the threats of a global economic recession, a technological slump, and slowed spending and tourism due to the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Though the economy temporarily suffered, Singapore’s recovery was strong, and the country has seen significant growth in recent years. Despite its small size, this country has a gross domestic product that is on par with those of the four largest Western European countries.

Though this nation has freedom of religion, the government closely monitors religious sects. Education is provided for 10 years; those seeking further schooling enroll at universities or technical schools.

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World Vision’s history in Singapore

During the late 1970s, World Vision’s efforts to assist the Vietnamese boat people led to the establishment of a small field office in Singapore. World Vision expanded operations in 1980 by assisting the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in running a medical clinic at the Hawkins Road Refugee Camp in Sembawang. By the end of 1983, World Vision had established a national office in Singapore.

In 2004, contributions from generous donors in Singapore totaled $5.33 million, benefiting nearly 13,700 boys and girls in 16 community development programs located throughout Asia and Africa.

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World Vision in Singapore today

World Vision donors in Singapore help sponsor children in projects around the world and support disaster response and hunger relief. Youth in Singapore help raise awareness to fight hunger through programs similar to the 30 Hour Famine.

For more information on World Vision’s work in Singapore, please contact the United States office.

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