Showing posts with label Grassroots Activities. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grassroots Activities. Show all posts

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hari Raya Aidilfitri 2016

The month-long Hari Raya celebration is coming to a close. I always find it a blessing to be in Singapore where we not only get to celebrate our own ethnic festivals, but we also observe or, most of the time, participate in other ethnic celebrations. And as we get to know more about the traditions and cultures of another ethnic group, each year's festive celebrations carry a different experience.

Beyond the extensive *bling bling* Hari Raya light-up decorations lining the street from Eunos MRT Station all the way to Geylang Serai, it is the practice of traditions and cultural interactions that define the festival and which are what makes Hari Raya unique in Singapore.

Globally, a series of attacks threatened to undermine the sacred month for Muslims. These include the Orlando nightclub shooting, Nice attack, Atatürk Airport attack in Turkey and the suicide attacks in Saudi Arabia at the end of Ramadhan. In some parts of the world, the religion came under assault in the wake of the attacks. 

In Singapore, this year's Hari Raya happened to fall in July, the month of Racial Harmony celebrations. In form and/or in substance, Singaporeans are reminded by the world around us that the social fabric could very well be ruptured if we do not continue to safeguard racial and religous harmony.

I am fortunate to be able to participate in a series of activities during this period.

On 22 June 2016, Eunos and Kaki Bukit Grassroots Advisers and Grassroots Leaders joined Mr Amrin Amin, Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and residents of The Leo Dormitory in breaking fast (Iftar). It was my second time visiting the Dormitory, the first being an introductory visit before the Dormitory went into operation in 2014.

Ambassadors, appointed among the residents, assist in organising various activities for the residents of diverse nationalities. The month-long Iftar (break fast) is one such activity that the residents plan and execute themselves, with support from the Dorm's management.

In keeping with tradition, when communication technology was not as advanced, drum was sounded to inform the neighbourhood that it was time to break fast. 

Group photo with fellow Grassroots Leaders

On 25 June 2016, a brigade of motorcycles roared off to make over beneficiaries' homes, as part of the annual Ramadhan-on-Wheels (ROW) project by the Malay Youth Literary Association (4PM).

The same morning, Tabung Amal Aidilfitri (TAA) Trust Fund held its disbursement exercise at Eunos Community Club. Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli graced the event and presented cheques to Malay Muslim Organisations and beneficiaries. One of the ways that TAA Trust Fund collects its zakat (alms) is through the collection boxes located at Geylang Serai as well as shops across the island. The zakat collected in 2015 is disbursed to recipients in 2016.

These programmes encapsulate the spirit of Ramadhan, in assisting the less well-off among the community and sharing the festive joy with them.

On the same evening, Eunos CC Malay Activity Executive Committee (MAEC) and TAA Trust Fund jointly held the Majlis Iftar. The speaker was delivering a message in Bahasa Melayu when I heard "Hidayah". Turned over to Eunos CC staff Hidayah who was just beside me, and innocently told her that the speaker had called her name. Found out that in arabic language, Hidayah actually meant "Guidance".

To learn culture, it's always best to plug yourself in the midst of it. Also learnt about the significance of Ramadhan to Muslims that evening. Ramadhan is more than just a month-long of cleansing the physical body through fasting. It also involves the cleansing of the mind and soul, and a time of reflection. 

Fast forward to the eve of Hari Raya on 5 July 2016, where residents at Eunos Vista (Zone '7' precinct) organised the annual Kenduri together with neighbours. 

While we can sit back and LIKE neighbourliness stories posted online, such as the Sembawang family who break fast annually together with their neighbours along the corridor, we can also initiate or participate in such activities. I, for one, would set a goal of organising next year's Chinese New Year event with neighbours, and reach out to 2 Muslim families to open their house for their neighbours at Eunos Division next year! 

Had the best Mee Siam I ever eaten

Jalan Raya to a neighbour's place on 9 July 2016. I met Shaikh through grassroots activities. He is one of the Eunos Heights Community Gardeners, and I always joked that he had the best view of the happenings in the garden from his bedroom window. Had the pleasure to makan the awesome dishes plus the desserts, all made by the family. Enjoyed the catch-up and got to know more about the talented and hardworking family.


A week later, had the opportunity to taste Malay cuisine again at fellow grassroots volunteers Jamal and Latifah's place. The Malay wedding at the void deck right opposite their block provided music and songs for our ears.

My Hari Raya "celebration" culminated with Muhibah Raya, organised by Eunos CC MAEC. Besides Sufie Rashid who dazzled the audience at the Hari Raya dinner, Aljunied GRC Grassroots Advisers Chua Eng Leong and Shamsul Kamar also peppered the programme with light-hearted entertainment. 

The key ingredient to racial harmony and social cohesion is the social capital and trust that exist across the ethnic communities. The People's Association grassroots movement consciously create platforms to bring people together. It is a never-ending process and we will always agree more can be done. One day, race and religion will see no boundary. Till then, let's take the initiative to appreciate each other's culture and be the catalyst to strengthen our unique social fabric.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Celebrating SG49 with the Community

Enjoyed a week's holiday in Vietnam and flew back just in time for National Day celebrations! At Changi Airport's Duty Free Shop, I wished the cashier a Happy National Day and she gave me the widest smile.

Took a quick shower and rushed to Eunos Community Club (CC) for the annual Eunos National Day Observance Ceremony. It is the first time in history that the National Day Parade is screened live at the CC and my first time emceeing on National Day.

The event kicked off with a performance by Tosh and Wei Liang, actors in the "Ah Boys to Men" movie, but not before a cool wefie.

The wefie uploaded by Tosh on his instagram

This is how it begun

To have war?

Immediately after the performance, National Day Parade was telecasted live at the hall. It was a touching moment when the founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew was on screen. All of us broke out in cheers and applause together with the many Singaporeans who were at the Floating Platform. 

And I guess singing National Anthem just gets more emotional each year for me, realising how blessed Singaporeans are in a safe, clean and green country, a small island that shines brightly in the international realm.

A segment of NDP 2014 acknowledged the workers of various professions and their contributions in nation building. For a moment, I thought that was a Labour Movement event. Nevertheless, it was a great showcase and recognition of the contributions made by workers of various collars.

And it coincided well with Prime Minister's message on recognising individuals based on their "skills, contributions and character" and not just educational qualifications.

Looking forward to National Day Rally!

Saturday, June 01, 2013

NACLI Community Leadership Digest Feature

Thanks NACLI for the feature in its biannual magazine to People's Association (PA) grassroots leaders, and to Alicia for penning my story.

Kick away the branches from the pedestrian walkways, so others will not trip on them”

This was one of the many little ways that Mr Fong Yoong Kheong’s late father would impart to him about caring for his community. The elder Mr Fong was a “kampong” community person.  He would greet all the neighbours and know them well, extending gifts of food and thoughtful trinkets from overseas trips.  Yoong Kheong was struck by how his late father was so deeply involved in the community, familiar with neighbours and showed acts of compassion like extending an RC event ticket to a lone old lady at the void deck so she too could join in the fun.

This same community spirit resonates in his son today.

One of the youngest Resident Committee (RC) chairman to be appointed,  Yoong Kheong stepped into community volunteerism when he completed his National Service (NS).  With eight months to spare before entering tertiary education, Yoong Kheong spent a lot of time in his neighbourhood, only to realise that he did not really know his neighbours or fellow residents.  Yoong Kheong did not stop there.  He went to Eunos CC and found that there was a youth club.  He joined, hoping to contribute back to the community and at the same time realise his aim of getting to know his community better.

While volunteering at the Youth Executive Committee (YEC), Yoong Kheong harnessed online media and set up a website, using various social media platforms to better connect them with the youths.  He was also one of People’s Association’s earliest New Media Champion, a title given to grassroots leaders who actively utilise social media to reach out to their community. 

Yoong Kheong is motivated by the knowledge that his effort and time spent goes towards meaningful causes. When he discovered that the Resident Community (RC) is an even better platform in outreaching and interacting with the residents, his late father supported his decision to embark on a bigger scope of grassroots work and even helped out at his events.  Together with his RC team, Yoong Kheong has launched several successful initiatives for the residents; such as Mental Wellness Mahjong, kidsREAD Programme, fund-raising Recycling Programme. The fund-raising Recycling Programme is an initiative that lets residents use recycling as a means to raise funds for the low-income residents within the community.   As a legacy to his late father’s positive influence, the Programme is also a platform for the RC to promote the kampong culture; empowering residents to help one another through their actions.  This kampong culture formed a foundation for subsequent initiatives that the RC would introduce, like the Simply Eunos facebook and website which operates as an online kampong portal, uniting all grassroots committees in Eunos in one place.

To better himself in the service of the community, Yoong Kheong has always actively taken up the grassroots development training offered by National Community Leadership Institute (NACLI), the community leadership development arm of the PA. He sees the value in the training of new grassroots leaders to learn from the best practices of other organisations/committees and be equipped with up-to-date skills and knowledge, so they can contribute more effectively to the community.

But it does not stop there.  Yoong Kheong wants to do more.

He feels that as volunteers, organising and implementing projects is not enough.  And that is why he is today part of the inaugural Master Programme in Community Leadership and Social Development  (MCLSD) jointly offered by the PA and SIM University.  With a full subscription on board, the programme offers its current undergraduates a wide spectrum of knowledge in these fields.  As a chosen student of this programme, Yoong Kheong believes that through the combination of theory (MCLSD) and practice (volunteering), he can discover and share new insights and strategies on how to enhance resident-helping resident culture, providing platforms for forging a closer community.

Monday, May 06, 2013

NACLI Leadership in Community Programme Study Trip to Beijing

28 October to 3 November 2012

National Community Leadership Institute (NACLI) runs the 6-month long Leadership in Community Programme (LCP) for People's Association (PA) Grassroots Leaders from various constituencies across Singapore. One of the highlights of the programme is the Study Trip. I was fortunate to be part of the 3rd batch of LCP which conducted a study trip to Beijing.

Day 1 - 28 October 2012

LCPians bade farewell to our families at the Changi Airport Terminal 1 in the morning.

LCP 3!

The flight from Singapore to Beijing took about 6 hours. At the Beijing Capital International Airport, we met our local guide - Xiao An - and tried the subway.

Our Guide - Xiao An

We were greeted by a Raffles City building when we exited the subway station.

After our Dinner

After dinner, we checked into the Park Plaza Science Park Hotel. In the vicinity of the hotel was a street filled with local eateries and street-side hawkers which operated late into the night. Some of us had some barbeque snacks as we immersed ourselves in the late night chill, seated on wooden stools.

It was interesting to see people having their haircut at salons past midnight. Someone suggested probably it's because many worked overtime and had to return home late.

Day 2 - 29 October 2012

Our schedule was a tight one. Morning call could be as early as 5.30am.

LCPians at the entrance of the hotel

Tram Bus

Dedicated lane for bicycles and motorcycles

The first programme item for the day was the Lecture by Mr Lu Bin, Director-General, Socialised Elderly Care Committee on Aging population in China and its Response Measures.

China is ageing before it could prosper (未富已老). Its policies on ageing is centred upon the traditional values of Chinese society of Filial Piety and the mindset of bearing more children for them to take care of one in one's late years (养儿防老). However, the values were increasingly being threatened with increasing Chinese having to travel across cities to work.

Mr Lu shared that China is now experimenting the concept of Regional Centres (区域中心) which would provide training for social workers and support to eldercare service providers. China intends to provide 20 Regional Centres within the next 5 years. The centres would play a role of connecting the family, community and institutions, as well as strengthening networks for effective mobilisation of help to the elderly.

Funding of elderly services could also be drawn from commercialising the sector, for instance, the sizable population of elderly would provide potential for targeted marketing of products, senior tourism, and traditional handicrafts that could be sold.

Mr Lu summed it all up by saying that seniors require all the things that youths and middle-age groups require. Hence, by fulfilling the needs of seniors, everyone's needs can be fulfilled.

An extensive Q&A session commenced after the lecture.

Presentation of token of appreciation by Mr Patrick Teo, Assistant Dean (Grassroots Leadership Programme), National Community Leadership Institute (NACLI)

After lunch, LCPians visited the Chao Yang Men Street Community Centre of the Dong Cheng District Community.

Free condom dispenser

Calling for military enlistment

"Serve the People"

Interaction with the local Residents' Committee Chairperson

The Chao Yang Men street comprises 3 Hutongs. The Community Centre provides support services for elderly to age at home. Volunteers patrol the community throughout the day and question visitors on their purpose of visit. The volunteer patrol programme is so successful that the street had not seen crime for the past decade.

Dance performance by residents with Special Needs

Unique cultural song performance by elderly (Volunteer on patrol with red armband on)

LCPians get to learn singing the cultural song

Handicrafts for sale

LCPians try out some local toys

List of services

Tour along the Hutong

Complaint Box

Publicity Window

Reminder for families to be cautious of cults (such as Falungong)

Our LCPians making balloons for children

In the evening, we enjoyed an Acrobatics show and passed by the Olympic Water Cube and Bird Nest.

The Bird Nest

Water Cube

Day 3 - 30 October 2012

We took a coach to Tianjin in the morning.

We attended the Lecture by Mr Tang Zhong Xin, Nankai University on Community Building and Organisation system in China.

Tianjin handicrafts

After lunch, the delegation visited Qing You Xi Li Community Service Station of Nan Shi Street, Tianjin He Ping District.

The Residents' Committee Chairlady greeted us

The Lou Men 楼门 culture was briefed to us. In some of the apartments, residents take ownership of the stairwells, hence negating the need for cleaning service providers. Residents also proudly decorate the walls with their photographs and artworks. Furniture at the void deck was also contributed by residents.

Members of the Chinese Communist Party who are residents, would have their names publicly stated so that others could watch over them.

Next, we did a house visit to one of the apartments. Most of the government housing were under 99-year lease.

Followed by a dialogue with the District Secretary.

The return trip to Beijing was via the high-speed rail.

At the Tianjin Station

BBQ Supper along the street

 Day 4 - 31 October 2012

LCPians gathered at the Xia Guang Li Community Centre to await the visit to an Eldercare facility.

Family Planning info booth

The Eldercare facility catered to 18 elderly who do not have family members or caregivers at home during the day. Every morning, a minibus would fetch them to the facility for them to spend their daytime together with their elderly peers.

At the facility, there is a communal room where seniors could play mahjong and card games, as well as enjoy massage on a massage chairs. The TV also provides entertainment to them.

There are 9 bedrooms, each of which is shared between 2 seniors. The bedrooms are only used for daytime naps and resting of the elderly.

Just adjacent to the bedrooms is a Community Health Service Centre, which provides outpatient medical services to elderly.

Well decorated walkways

We had the opportunity to interact with the elderly over at lunch at the canteen, which is one floor above the Xia Guang Li Community Centre. The canteen provides food to elderly staying around the community as well as the seniors of the Eldercare facility. Food is also delivered to immobile elderly. To be financially sustainable, the canteen is patronised by other workers as well. 

This visit left me a deep impression as it presents a sustainable model that could be operated to serve elderly residents within a community.

Healthy choice of food prepared specially for elderly

Lunch was followed with a dialogue session with Director of the Eldercare Facility.

We pulled over at Silk Street to do some shopping of souvenirs.

Posters bearing support of China's sovereignty of "Diaoyu Island" are a common sight

On our way to visiting Tiananmen Square.

After dinner, LCPians had a debrief session at our hotel.

Day 5 - 1 November 2012

To the Great Wall of China~

We found a Kopitiam.

Inverse painting of souvenir

Visit to a typical residence in a Hutong:

Calligraphy using water on common walkway

Interesting yoghurt drink


Day 6 - 2 November 2012

Visit to Forbidden City to understand the history and culture of China.

Ancient "clock"

Interesting drawings on environmental awareness

Next, we visited Loving Heart Home, a self-help group for HIV/AIDS community. HIV/AIDS individuals are employed to help their community.

Day 7 - 3 November 2012

Activities aplenty early in the morning at the entrance to the Temple of Heaven.

Taiji Sword play


Tourists welcome to join in the activities

If you enjoyed the activities, you can also purchase chaptehs and other toys from the folks

Multiracial Emperor maybe?

Some groups were singing communist folk songs. When they knew we were a group of foreigners, we were asked to go into their midst and join them in dancing as they sing Chinese songs with Western melodies.