Over 80% of Singaporeans live in dense HDB estates, but despite living in such close proximity to neighbours on all sides, it’s safe to say that most of us stick to paiseh smiles and polite nods when we bump into them. But even in our fast-paced society, these seven heartwarming neighbourhood stories prove that it isn’t hard to be kind and caring in our day-to-day.
Image credit: Lawrence Wong
Many of us bring festive cheer into our homes when we put up red banners during CNY, hang traditional ketupat ornaments and lights for Hari Raya or mark Deepavali with colourful rangoli. But for the Carpenter of Marsiling, Mr Tan Koon Tat, his massive handmade structures are all about recreating that neighbourly mood all year round – no matter the festivities.
Inspired by the oil lamps lit during Hari Raya and the firecrackers during Chinese New Year, a young Tan became a carpenter by trade, fashioning festive decorations of all sorts. From peacocks for Deepavali to mosque facade for Hari Raya, Mr Tan also constructed a life-sized log cabin for Christmas to bring his neighbours closer.
Intricate decorations Mr Tan put up in his estate for Hari Raya in 2018
Image credit: Marsiling Zonefive
To this day, the 60-year-old crafts large-scale handiworks in his neighbourhood all year round, creating intricate, eye-catching and high-quality designs for his neighbours to appreciate, admire and snap photos with.
Check out our full video interview with Mr Tan Koon Tat
Image credit: Collike
Covid-19 brought with it Zoom meetings, home workouts and panic buying – especially when it came to toilet paper and surgical masks. But when stocks in Singapore ran low, residents in Punggol showcased their next-level neighbourliness, starting a pay-it-forward initiative in a lift where they left sanitisers and masks for fellow neighbours to use.
Together with these essentials, residents left heartfelt anonymous notes for fellow neighbours, encouraging them to keep safe especially if they work in high-risk areas.
Stocks of masks were snapped up within 10 minutes
Image credit: Yen Vy Vu Tran
There must be something in the water at Punggol – as it’s also where a mask giveaway initiative was kickstarted by Yen Vy Vu Tran and her husband Adrian Tan. The couple, along with six friends, gave away a total of 4,000 masks to residents in Punggol. Moved by the overwhelming response, they proceeded to initiate a second giveaway of 13,000 masks.
Image credit: Irfan Musthapa via Muslim Youth Forum Singapore
Touched by the sight of a passer-by sweating profusely while arranging the slippers outside Al-Mawaddah Mosque in Buangkok, a worshipper approached the man for a chat. Through a brief conversation, he found out that Uncle Steven lives nearby in Hougang, and tries to come by every week to help arrange the slippers at the mosque’s entrance.
Image credit: Aaron Wong
Hearing the heart-wrenching cries of dismay of his neighbour who returned home to a burnt-out flat, Aaron Wong put up a plea for help via Facebook post. In it, he called on willing souls to contribute what they could to the low-income Telok Blangah family who lost most of their possessions in a raging fire.
Netizens contributed everything from encouraging notes and supermarket vouchers, to household appliances like ceiling fans, while others chipped in for her door and window.
Image credit: Yani Yani
Within 24 short hours, Wong was overwhelmed by the show of support as donations of furniture, appliances and supermarket vouchers poured in from all over the island. In fact, professional electricians, painters, plumbers and contractors also came forward to offer their expertise to help the rebuilding.
The post garnered over 2,400 shares, with more than 400 comments mostly from netizens looking to do their part.
Image credit: Aaron Wong
Image credit: The People’s Association
For 69-year-old Mr Osman, volunteering at the Marine Terrace Breeze RC has been rewarding as he makes new friends and helps neighbours – even as he supports his 22-year-old granddaughter who was diagnosed with brain cancer.
When he learnt that a fellow Marine Parade resident had lost his job and was unable to travel long distances following an illness, Mr Osman stepped up to help to wheel the 76-year old to the vaccination centre himself.
Image credit: The People’s Association
The slopes and obstacles on the way were quite a challenge for the elderly Mr Osman, but his kind actions still went above and beyond. Out of concern for his senior’s safety, Mr Osman even shared his phone number in case of emergencies.
Image credit: Priveen Raj
Like many Singaporeans, Mr Priveen Raj relied on our tireless food delivery riders as we hunkered down at home during the pandemic. But when he saw a delivery rider struggle to cycle through a heavy downpour one day, Mr Priveen opened his house for riders to take a break and seek refuge – especially on rainy days.
Noting it was the start of the rainy season, Mr Priveen offered his hospitality via Facebook post to riders in the Yishun area: “Please feel free to drop by our place. We will share what we have.”
While just a handful of riders took up his offer, his small initiative was successful in spreading positivity and awareness. His gesture toward the essential group of individuals was well received by fellow Singaporeans who offered words of encouragement – for both him and our food delivery riders.
Yeo shares that the food pantries are left unmanned, providing dignity for those who need the items.
Image credit: Unmanned Free Food Pantry – UFFP
Inspired by heartwarming stories of free food pantries overseas, businessman Ken Yeo took it upon himself to reach out to lower-income neighbourhoods that have been particularly affected by the ongoing pandemic. With kids aged seven and nine in tow, Yeo and his wife, Joey Lim set up Unmanned Free Food Pantries in rental estates like in Jalan Kukoh, Spooner Road and York Hill.
Set up on nifty cardboard “tables”, each Unmanned Free Food Pantry features essentials like rice, biscuits, bread and canned food neatly repackaged and laid out by the Yeo family. Each costing around $100, the pantries are set up in low-income neighbourhoods around Singapore.
Taking place each year on 21st July, Racial Harmony Day has been marked by dressing up in various ethnic costumes during our school days. But racial harmony is more than just a day of just donning vibrant saris, vivid cheongsam and baju kurung.
We all have a part to play in living together harmoniously, and we can do that by learning to understand, accept and care for fellow Singaporeans.
Be inspired by these heartwarming stories in the neighbourhood: whether you use your artistic skills to spread festive cheer throughout the year or keep a constant eye out for neighbours in need. For this Racial Harmony Day and beyond, let’s treat each other with neighbourly trust and respect as we build a more inclusive, caring and united Singapore.
Cover image credit: Yen Vy Vu Tran, Marsiling Zonefive, Unmanned Free Food Pantry – UFFP
This post was brought to you by #SGinHarmony, an initiative by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), with support from community partners.
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