SINGAPORE: He was then a Permanent Resident, but Mr Han Dong voluntarily signed up for National Service (NS), simply because he felt that it was the "natural thing to do".
"It wasn't because I wanted to get citizenship," the 23-year-old National University of Singapore student, who emigrated here with his parents from Hebei, China when he was six, told TODAY.
"We chose to remain as PRs during that period of time. I just didn't see myself as an immigrant because I came here a long time ago."
He obtained citizenship in 2009, while he was serving NS.
And when he was still in junior college, Mr Han got involved in grassroots work.
"It started when I was just trying to fulfil my Community Involvement Programme hours but I found the work very meaningful, and I haven't looked back since."
For instance, residents have become closer after attending activities that he and fellow grassroots leaders organised, said the vice-chair of the Sembawang Youth Executive Council and member of the Sembawang Zone 'B' Residents' Committee.
Some neighbours have even formed their own interest groups, such as in brisk walking, taichi, and soccer workshops for youths.
He added: "Personally, being involved in grassroots work also helped me relate to the Singapore identity more because I could play an active role in shaping how the community is."
Of the People's Association's 31,800 grassroots leaders, 20 per cent are new citizens and permanent residents like him.
The PA's new Integration Council, which was launched on Saturday at the Integration Carnival 2012 at the Singapore Zoo, will coordinate grassroots efforts to get new immigrants integrated with the local community.
Earlier this week, the Singapore Hua Yuan Association opened its second New Immigrant Outstanding Contribution Awards to candidates of all races, regardless of their countries of origin, to recognise their contributions to Singapore.
In addition, the association - with the Tan Kah Kee International Society and support from the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and the National Population and Talent Division - is giving out Friends of Immigrants Awards to Singaporeans who have helped to foster social integration between locals and new immigrants.