Little 'red box' of dreams for the Little Red Dot

At St James' Church Kindergarten yesterday, some of its pupils' community projects and dreams for Singapore were presented as craft work displayed in red boxes at the kindergarten's campus in Newton
At St James' Church Kindergarten yesterday, some of its pupils' community projects and dreams for Singapore were presented as craft work displayed in red boxes at the kindergarten's campus in Newton.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

The wine-coloured briefcase that was used to hold the notes, letters, drafts and cassette tapes of Singapore's late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew has come to symbolise his dedication, and ambitions for the nation.

The briefcase, which Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat referred to as "the red box" when he wrote about it last year, has been adopted in several initiatives for children. These were launched yesterday to coincide with Mr Lee's birthday, which falls on Sept 16.

In one initiative, little red cardboard boxes that look like Mr Lee's briefcase will be given out. Each contains items such as a storybook that touches on compassion and a journal that teaches graciousness.

About 20,000 of these boxes will be given out on Children's Day - on the first Friday of October, or Oct 7 this year - to pre-schools taking part in the Early Childhood Development Agency's Start Small Dream Big project, where children work with their centres and parents on community projects.

Yesterday, St James' Church Kindergarten also marked its inaugural Red Box Day, an annual effort to showcase its children's community projects and encourage them to dream big for Singapore.

Its senior principal, Ms Jacqueline Chung, said symbols were important as a teaching tool. "The red box is a way of introducing to children this very abstract concept of the future of Singapore and how we can contribute to it," she said.

"It's not just about Mr Lee. It's about his hopes and dreams, which, we hope, will continue in the hearts of the children."

Some of the pupils' community projects and dreams for Singapore - ranging from a car-less nation to spacious hospitals for seniors - were presented as craft work displayed in red boxes at the kindergarten's campus in Gilstead Road in Newton yesterday. Earlier this year, some 1,000 of its pupils raised about $16,000 for charity in one day by selling handicraft.

Also launched at the kindergarten yesterday were a Red Box Activity Book and an educators' guide for the activity book. They complement another children's book, What's Inside The Red Box, which was launched last year and focuses on what Mr Lee did for Singapore.

The guide was developed by teachers from the kindergarten, while the books are published by The Straits Times Press and sponsored by Mapletree Investments. Some 6,000 copies of the activity book and guide will be given to pre-schools in the Start Small Dream Big project.

At the launch yesterday, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said: "What we have in Singapore today is very much a result of (Mr Lee's) efforts over the years - all the different slips of paper that cumulatively added up in the box."

He added that the projects launched yesterday help to start children on the journey of caring about other people's needs.

Business development manager Ruchika Saluja, 36, said she is glad her son took part in community projects at St James' Church Kindergarten. He had made handicraft to raise funds for the Singapore Association for the Deaf.

"Kids in Singapore are generally quite privileged, so it is good that he learnt about social needs and was encouraged to give back to society," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2016, with the headline 'Little 'red box' of dreams for the Little Red Dot'. Print Edition | Subscribe