Marsiling residents volunteer to be community's 'eyes and ears'

Madam Halimah kicking off a futsal match yesterday at Woodlands Recreation Centre, flanked by Mr Lim Hock Chee, the vice-chairman of the Marsiling Citizens' Consultative Committee.
Madam Halimah kicking off a futsal match yesterday at Woodlands Recreation Centre, flanked by Mr Lim Hock Chee, the vice-chairman of the Marsiling Citizens' Consultative Committee.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

The sounds of gunshots and shrieks pierced the air yesterday morning at Block 20 Marsiling Drive.

But no one was hurt - it was actually an emergency drill simulating a terror attack at a cafe that would leave the owner injured and cause a customer to have a heart attack. Residents were told to "run, hide and tell" in such crisis situations.

The drill was part of Marsiling's Emergency Preparedness Day, organised as part of the nationwide SGSecure movement launched in September.

At the event, Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC MP Halimah Yacob also launched the Mata-Mata Kampong programme. Under the scheme, residents from some 130 blocks in Marsiling will volunteer to be the community's "eyes and ears" and provide help to neighbours, especially needy families and the elderly.

Stressing the importance of social resilience in keeping Singapore safe and secure, Madam Halimah, who is Speaker of Parliament, encouraged residents to get to know one another regardless of race or religion.

"For people to want to protect Singapore, they must feel that they are being protected and taken care of. And it's not just in terms of having policemen and weapons, but also the feeling deep inside of being cared about by someone else," she told reporters later.

So far, more than 300 residents have taken part in the pilot phase of the scheme, which started in rental blocks 3 and 4, Marsiling Drive. The aim is to have at least 600 block representatives by the end of this year, said Madam Halimah, who initiated the programme.

The volunteers attend first-aid courses and help to relay information such as crime updates to residents. They also inform the constituency office of residents' needs.

Madam Jainah Awang, 68, who looks out for residents in Blocks 3 and 4, said she and other volunteers often bring food to elderly neighbours living alone.

"In my 16 years living here, I've seen elderly residents here who pass away alone, so I thought, why don't I volunteer and help others?" she said, adding that her neighbours are like family to her.

Undergraduate Jerry Toh, 27, said the programme also benefits volunteers like himself who get to "learn life skills such as what to do in emergency situations".

Later in the morning, Madam Halimah attended a futsal tournament organised by Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC's Indian Activity Executive Committees and the People's Association's Narpani unit, where she kicked off a game for the Marsiling Ladies Team.

Such events help residents bond and "develop confidence and trust in one another", so they feel part of a bigger community, Madam Halimah said in a speech.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2016, with the headline 'Marsiling residents volunteer to be community's 'eyes and ears''. Print Edition | Subscribe