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The SDP’s ground work is in full swing! The party hosted our first ever block party for residents of Ghim Moh housing estate. The gathering was organised by the party’s GO! (Ground Operations) team and the Community Service Subcommittee.
Young and old came to the get-together and both guests and organisers had a great time chatting over drinks and food. (Watch video below)
The children were especially excited with the jigsaw puzzles, donated by a supporter, that were given out. They immediately tore open the wrapping and insisted on putting together the puzzles there and then. They even started chatting with party members about school and family. One child sat on one of our member’s lap, deep in conversation about her new haircut.
The older folks gathered round the table, reminiscing about old times. One elderly couple in their eighties proudly informed all that they have been residents of the area since 1967, a good 45 years. The wife insisted on being called nenek (grandmother) because, she said, “Saya sudah lapan puluh empat.” (I’m already eighty-four years old.)
Several residents brought along their grandchildren whom they look after while parents are at work. They casually strolled through the party, chatting to neighbours and cracking jokes. One energetic grandmother bantered with party members that we should have arranged a disco as she likes to dance.
Block 16 overlooking the children’s playground was the perfect setting for the party. In the cool of the evening, residents and neighbours caught up with one another while other guests were content to just sit quietly not saying much, soaking in the convivial atmosphere. Other residents sought advice from Community Services members’ about various social problems.
One resident told us he was very hurt by a demand letter from a local hospital. Having recently been bereaved of his mother, the hospital sent him a final demand for bill payment accompanied by a threat to use a debt collection agency to recover the sum. The gentleman has been unemployed for the last twelve years as he was looking after his mother who had renal failure. “Where will I find $4500 to pay up so fast,” he said quietly.
Other members complained that cleanliness in their blocks is substandard and when they use the staircase handrails (an important assistance for the elderly), their hands are black with dust. Our members promised to take these matters up.
Many of the residents complained about their high utilities bills. Several families consisting of two or three members said that their bill is regularly in the region of $120. They exchanged ideas on how to seek help and assistance, guided by our members.
The Community Services Subcommittee is developing a wide range of knowledge about voluntary assistance schemes.
“This is a great example of gotong royong,” said Dr Vincent Wijeysingha. (Gotong royong is a Malay concept that encompasses neighbourliness and community help.)
“Policies over the years have isolated people and injured the community spirit,” added Mr Bryan Lim, GO! subcommittee facilitator. “We hope that our block parties – which will be a regular feature on the SDP landscape – will help to rebuild community through small gatherings such as these.”