Compassionate spirit

Bringing fun and games to many lives

Ms Lin Shiyun (centre, in blue and white top) started Let's Go Play Outside! for children from low-income families in Toa Payoh Lorong 1, where there are some blocks of rental flats and a park with two playgrounds (below). Initially, the activities w
Ms Lin Shiyun (centre, in blue and white top) started Let's Go Play Outside! for children from low-income families in Toa Payoh Lorong 1, where there are some blocks of rental flats and a park with two playgrounds. Initially, the activities were more arts-based but later, after she roped in other adults as facilitators, the activities included soccer and obstacle courses.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Ms Lin Shiyun (centre, in blue and white top) started Let's Go Play Outside! for children from low-income families in Toa Payoh Lorong 1, where there are some blocks of rental flats and a park with two playgrounds (below). Initially, the activities w
Ms Lin Shiyun started Let's Go Play Outside! for children from low-income families in Toa Payoh Lorong 1, where there are some blocks of rental flats and a park with two playgrounds (above). Initially, the activities were more arts-based but later, after she roped in other adults as facilitators, the activities included soccer and obstacle courses.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

There are play activities in museums and arts centres that are free for children. But many children from low-income families do not go for these, for various reasons.

Freelance arts producer Lin Shiyun, 35, realised this after conducting an art workshop in 2011 at the Chinese Development Assistance Council, a self-help group, and met disadvantaged children who said they rarely had play time with their parents.

"Parents don't have the time to take them out as they are busy looking after other children in the family. They also don't have the money to travel to town for such activities," she told The Straits Times.

So, instead of taking children to town to play, she decided to bring play activities closer to them, in their neighbourhood.

She shared her idea with someone from a support group for single parents, then took up the person's suggestion to implement her idea in Toa Payoh Lorong 1, where there are some blocks of rental flats and a park with two playgrounds.

She then started the project "Let's Go Play Outside!" in July last year, organising activities attended by about 20 children every Saturday. Most of the children are from low-income families and are in primary or secondary school.

I want to emphasise that it isn't difficult to help because anybody can do it, as long as you want to. If you had a bubble gun and just blew bubbles, for instance, you could make a lot of people happy.

MS LIN SHIYUN, 35, who started the project "Let's Go Play Outside!" in July last year.

"I think it's important the activities are held regularly, not like a festival, where you come and disappear, then come again a year later and disappear again," said Ms Lin, who has a four-year-old son.

Initially, the activities were more arts-based, and involved painting and stencilling, for instance. Later, she roped in other adults as facilitators, and the activities became more varied and included soccer and obstacle courses.

The children do not need to pay a cent. The project was funded by Ms Lin herself before she received a grant of $14,400 from the National Arts Council in February to develop the work for eight months. The money is used mostly to pay facilitators and artists.

Many children from low-income families have low self-esteem, and activities such as the obstacle course stations help them to overcome this a bit, she said.

"One girl took an hour to decide to play with the gym rings, and the facilitator was very patient in encouraging her. After she went through that, her self-esteem grew," she said.

Eight-year-old Muhammad Seann Ryan Muhammad Razmi said he feels his character has improved since he started taking part in the sessions last year.

"I used to be quite rude to people and I'd keep shouting, but I think I'm now more respectful of my teachers," he said.

"I like the art and obstacle courses as they're fun and interesting. They also make me more active."

Meanwhile, Ms Lin has sometimes had to discipline the children or break up fights among them.

When asked what is her greatest challenge in running the project, she paused for a few seconds, then said: "It's actually not so difficult; the only difficulty is whether you can be here every week.

"I also want to emphasise that it isn't difficult to help because anybody can do it, as long as you want to. If you had a bubble gun and just blew bubbles, for instance, you could make a lot of people happy."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2017, with the headline 'Bringing fun and games to many lives'. Print Edition | Subscribe