Kembangan-Chai Chee National Day celebrations highlight inclusivity

Members of Singapore Hua Yuan Hui (in wheelchairs) and members of the public cheer before the flag-off for the brisk walk.
Members of Singapore Hua Yuan Hui (in wheelchairs) and members of the public cheer before the flag-off for the brisk walk. ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN
A display of the "SG51" formed using folded paper hearts at the Kembangan-Chai Chee National Day Observance Ceremony 2016.
A display of the "SG51" formed using folded paper hearts at the Kembangan-Chai Chee National Day Observance Ceremony 2016.ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN
MP Seah Kian Peng and Edwin Tong take the pledge during the Kembangan-Chai Chee National Day Observance Ceremony 2016.
MP Seah Kian Peng and Edwin Tong take the pledge during the Kembangan-Chai Chee National Day Observance Ceremony 2016.ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

SINGAPORE - A constituency's National Day celebration sought to demonstrate the inclusive society Singapore aspires to be - one that engages the disabled and disadvantaged.

About 1,500 residents took part in the Kembangan-Chai Chee National Day Observance Ceremony, which was also streamed on Facebook Live.

Among those who turned up at Kampong Kembangan Community Club in red and white to celebrate Singapore's 51st birthday were 150 people with disabilities.

For this year's event, organisers aimed to increase awareness of the disabled, mentally ill and disadvantaged.

The observance ceremony, which featured a combined marching contingent formed by students from Minds and Ping Yi Secondary School, saw Minds student Abdul Salam Afraar Sajith, 17, leading the pledge.

"I am excited. I practised for one or two days," said Sajith, who is autistic.

Apart from a mass community walk, the celebrations also included buskers with disabilities performing alongside young people from the Singapore Children's Society in a mini food and music festival.

There was also a para-sports showcase, which allowed people to try out activities such as wheelchair basketball and blindfold football.

For the first time, 23 voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs), social enterprises and agencies participated in the festivities, where food and beverages were prepared by their beneficiaries.

The community club also entered the Singapore Book of Records for the largest word formation made of origami hearts.

Residents in Neighbourhood Committees and Residents' Committees spent a week folding origami hearts to form the characters "SG51" measuring 7.9m by 4.5m.

Mr Seah Kian Peng, an MP for Marine Parade GRC who was the guest of honour, told The Straits Times he was heartened by this year's celebration's emphasis on the disabled and disadvantaged.

"Over the years, we have been moving towards a more inclusive society. People recognise that a better Singapore is a more inclusive Singapore.

"It is a work in progress, but just from today, we can see that it really brings smiles not just on their faces, but also in their hearts as well."

During the celebrations, the anchor Minister for Marine Parade GRC, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, sent a video message from Rio de Janeiro where he is supporting Singaporean athletes competing at the Olympics.

Mr Tan, who is Minister for Social and Family Development, is president of the Singapore National Olympic Council.

He said that inviting those with special needs to the celebrations this year, is part of a longer journey to ensure everyone feels a part of Singapore society.

"In fact just reach out to fellow Singaporeans, whether they are able bodied or special needs," said Mr Tan, "As long as you connect with each other, I think that's what makes it meaningful and what makes it home, because it's all about relationships."

fabkoh@sph.com.sg