Hort Park 275_Yr2012 Serving Chinese communities

Colonel Hary Haran giving a briefing before a community excursion. His practical help and heart for the community is clear to the elderly uncles and aunties in spite of having to communicate with them in a mix of Hokkien, Malay and English. All photos courtesy of The Salvation Army.

No one, including Colonel Hary Haran himself, would have believed that he would someday be serving in The Salvation Army, much less become its Territorial Commander for Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar.

“Much to everyone’s surprise, I exchanged my air force uniform for this Salvation Army uniform,” Colonel Hary said with a grin, touching the left sleeve of the uniform he now wears with pride.

Colonel Hary was doing well in his 16-year career with the Republic of Singapore Air Force when he decided to leave the service on a fateful Friday in 1993. 

That day, he had pondered the question: Is God changing me to be better?

The “Indian pastor” among the Chinese community

Col Hary was commissioned as an officer in The Salvation Army in late 2004.

“Much to everyone’s surprise, I exchanged my air force uniform for this Salvation Army uniform.”

One might expect that, given his military background, he would be somewhat stern and conventional, but it turned out that he would be someone who continually delighted the people around him.

“I go out of my way to show God’s love to the suffering humanity. Love has no barriers, so I go on breaking social barriers!” he declared.

Col Hary was affectionately known as “the Indian pastor” at the Balestier Corps’ Kallang Bahru outpost where he used to serve the predominantly Chinese community.

He had a regular and enthusiastic group of Chinese elderly whom he interacted with in a mixed bag of English, Malay and Hokkien.

It was a community he served with much love and dedication, often going out of his way to render assistance especially to the aged there.

Colonel Hary (far right) with the elderly he served in 2012.

“On Tuesdays, they would come to me with their problems and I would take them to see the Family Social Services.

“He had an enthusiastic group of Chinese elderly whom he interacted with in a mixed bag of English, Malay and Hokkien.”

“Then I would gather those with medical issues, take them to the hospital and speak to the social workers to try to get their bills reduced.

“On one Friday each month, I take them out for outings around Singapore.

“Once, during the Covid-19 period, we received a rice donation and I brought some packs to homes of residents who needed food.

“Their neighbours were curious and asked them which provision shop I was from that did doorstop deliveries,” he said mirthfully.

“There is no barrier; just carry the love of God,” he added. 

65 Cups of coffee

Col Hary’s service of love, which also included securing free tuition for children from low income families and accepting invitations from residents to pray for the children’s school examinations in their homes, was clearly appreciated by the Kallang Bahru residents.

Many of them rushed to buy him a cup of coffee whenever they met him.

Colonel Hary (front row, middle) with some of the staff at The Salvation Army.

“There was one day when at least 65 of them showed up with one coffee each for me! I had to ask the staff to help pour the coffee into big flasks for everyone to share,” he recalled.

His selfless acts saw him steadily rising through the ranks to take on the role of Chief Secretary in 2020.

He was  subsequently promoted to the Army’s Territorial Commander of Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar in November 2022.

Colonel Hary (far left) leading an intergenerational outing with The Salvation Army.

“We thank the pioneers for the hard work of laying a strong foundation of The Salvation Army, establishing a permanent presence here in Singapore. That’s the past that shaped today.

“We are continually adapting to ensure we are relevant,” he added.

Caring for vulnerable groups

One of the significant changes introduced in recent years was in the Children and Youth Group.

The Salvation Army is supporting the sizeable migrant worker population and the growing number of single parents.

In the past, the Army helped to take children and youth out of difficult situations, be it court protection orders, juvenile cases or poverty-related cases.

They would be housed together in one location, which meant they were away from their families for extended periods of time.

The Salvation Army focuses on providing professional help such as counselling and mentoring to work out differences within their families, with the goal of reconciling the children and youth with their loved ones.

For those under court protection orders, The Salvation Army provides longer term assistance by connecting them to foster parents so that they can grow up in a homely, healthy environment.

“We have an interim placement assessment centre where we assess their difficulties within a short period while they’re under our care, and then put them into placements,” said Col Hary.

He stressed that The Salvation Army must stay relevant to evolving needs such as mental health and resilience.

Col Hary regularly helps out at The Salvation Army’s youth group.

In recent years, The Salvation Army also added new vulnerable groups to care for and support, including the sizeable migrant worker population in Singapore and the growing number of single parents.

“”The Salvation Army must stay relevant to evolving needs such as mental health and resilience.”

Even as The Salvation Army Singapore commemorates its 88th anniversary milestone this year, Col Hary said there is much more work to be done.

He and his team have mapped out a number of areas to look into.

These range from looking into cyber-security for improved mobile and home-based services to harnessing technology for better user experience.

The team is also brainstorming greater engagement with donors, volunteers and caregivers, and studying the productivity of its officers.

One thing is clear – underlying all that they do is the intention to show love, care and compassion to the community, especially those who need it the most.

The Salvation Army is celebrating its 88th year with Love Beyond 88. The celebration is dedicated to all their donors, partners, beneficiaries, companies and staff past, present and future, who have tirelessly joined them in this movement through the years to pay it forward with love. 


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About the author

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army aims to provide a rallying cry for everyone to “Love Beyond.” Their message is simply that when we love beyond walls, brokenness, and pain, we can provide hope and help for the vulnerable.