PICTURES

Kampung spirit can be recreated if more people volunteer: Desmond Lee

The sweltering Sunday sun did not stop Jurong residents from going down to their community center to meet their neighbours, learn about popular religions and have a taste of foreign cuisines.

Such participation in community-building activities is necessary to recreate the "kampung spirit" of yesteryear, said Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee. More people should also volunteer with grassroots groups, he added.

"We can only recreate a kampung heartland if that's what you want your neighbourhood to be," said the Jurong GRC Member of Parliament at a community event called Jurong Spring Cultural Journey.

About 600 residents turned up for the activity, the first of Jurong Spring Community Centre's events to have an international flavour, featuring the cultures of groups including the Chinese, Thai, Spanish and Filipino.

Children flocked to booths to play Filipino Kulintang musical instruments while adults learned to sip and appreciate Chinese tea.

Such events give neighbours the chance to meet - the starting point of deeper relationships, Mr Lee said.

Housekeeper Ko Joo Leng, 39, a Jurong resident of eight years, agreed. "It always starts off small, but now I have breakfast with my neighbours and we shop for groceries together too."

Community-building is critical even in a mature estate like Jurong, said Mr Lee. Most of the neighbourly disputes he deals with are from newer blocks, where residents are younger, or blocks which see high turnover.

"There are always fault lines present - race, religion, language, new citizens versus old citizens - but it's not impossible to overcome them."

He cited the example of one particular floor, where residents have formed a "modern kampung'. "They are multi-racial, comprising young families and they all know each other - this rubs off on their young too."