Club of former neighbours to honour Singapore's silent heroes

It started as a football club in 1964 to keep boisterous lads away from trouble but today, its main focus is to celebrate those who go about doing good deeds without fanfare.

The people behind the Hillview Civilians Club are a group of former neighbours who are passionate about helping others.

Since 2014, the club has been honouring people for their good deeds with the Silent Heroes Awards.

The award celebrates ordinary Singaporeans and permanent residents for their extraordinary contributions in helping to improve the lives of others, without expecting recognition or reward.

So far, a total of 17 people have receivedthe awards.

Among them is Ms Siti Noor Mastura, 26, who won the award last year for her project Back2Basics, which provided more than 40 needy families with halal groceries.

Club president M.P. Sellvem, 60, said: "We are happy with what we have, and we want to give back to society. This is the attitude we want to instil in our children."

The awards are divided into five categories for individuals and four categories for organisations.

The organisers look out for those who have shown significant concern for the elderly, the sick or the disadvantaged, as well as individuals with serious long-term disabilities who have worked towards achieving their goals.

There is also a Pioneers of Promise category, which recognises Singaporeans from the Pioneer Generation who use their skills to raise awareness about social issues, promote harmony, and encourage youth to work towards their goals.

Nominations for this year's awards close on Saturday, and the ceremony will be held at the Shangri-La Hotel on Aug 27. The costs of organising the awards - $150,000 this year - are largely borne by sponsors and club members.

"We really want to give our silent heroes an experience they will never forget," said Mr Arjun Khara, 35, co-creator and one of the people who came up with the idea for the Silent Heroes Awards.

The club has come a long way since its founding 52 years ago, in a kampung near Dairy Farm Road.

"Buddha found enlightenment under the bodhi tree, but our club was started under a rambutan tree," said Mr Sellvem. The shady tree was where young boys from the kampung would gather and mingle.

They called themselves Civilians United Football Club in the late 1960s. The "civilians" in the club's name was to differentiate themselves from the airmen from the then RAF Tengah, an airbase for the British Royal Air Force at the time, and soccer matches were often held between the club members and the airmen.

In the 1980s, many of the members moved to Hillview estate, and the club was renamed Hillview Civilians Club.

"We didn't have much money but we chipped in to buy our jerseys. We all wanted badly to win and grow stronger as a club," Mr Sellvem said. The older boys would also pitch in to train the younger ones, as they could not afford a coach.

This spirit of community involvement endured, even as age caught up with the founding members and they stopped playing soccer eventually.

Today, the club organises activities like free educational seminars for members of the public, and these are heldevery two months. It will also be holding a free wine appreciation seminar on July 23 at the Civil Service Club in Bukit Batok.

There are about 80 members still active in the club today, and about 20 per cent of them are children of the founding members.

"The different generations within the club help each other. For instance, the younger members will teach the founding members to use social media," Mr Khara said.

The younger members have also formed their own football team, coached by Mr M. Segaran, 55, who joined the club in the 1970s.

The club is also where members make new friends and pick up new skills. Mr Sellvem's daughter Sudha, a 28-year-old psychologist, said: "Young people have the chance to organise events and become more effective communicators. These are skills they can use in the workplace."

• Members of the public can go to www.hillviewcivilians.club to make a nomination for this year's Silent Heroes Awards. Nominations close on Saturday and the awards ceremony will be held at the Shangri-La Hotel on Aug 27.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2016, with the headline 'Club of former neighbours to honour Singapore's silent heroes'. Print Edition | Subscribe