1,000 lend a hand with spring cleaning in Tampines

Volunteers at work in the home of a Tampines resident yesterday. It was part of an initiative called Project Refresh, which aims to encourage people of all ages to volunteer.
Volunteers at work in the home of a Tampines resident yesterday. It was part of an initiative called Project Refresh, which aims to encourage people of all ages to volunteer.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

A thousand volunteers spent yesterday spring cleaning - not their own homes, but 95 homes of residents in Tampines.

Ahead of Chinese New Year, the volunteers rolled up their sleeves and from 10am to 6pm helped to clean, paint walls, remove junk, or replace furniture for the residents, many of whom are seniors living alone or come from low-income households.

It was part of an initiative called Project Refresh, which aims to encourage people of all ages to volunteer. The initiative was started by Young NTUC, the youth wing of the National Trades Union Congress, in 2016.

Since then, it has been held about four times a year, before major festivals such as Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Deepavali and Christmas.

Yesterday's event - a joint effort by Young NTUC and North East Community Development Council - had the highest number of volunteers since the programme started. Taking part were students and teachers, employees from corporate organisations, grassroots volunteers, as well as Tampines residents.

Project Refresh has previously been held in North East District in areas such as Punggol and Hougang.

Tampines resident Wong Cher Khoon, 65, who lives with his wife, said he appreciated the effort by the volunteers to give the walls in his two-room flat a fresh coat of paint.

"I'm surprised and touched by the gesture, and it reminds me of the kampung days when we helped one another," he said.

The couple have five adult children.

Mr Wong, who suffered a stroke five years ago and uses a wheelchair, added: "Some of our neighbours are old and living alone, so cleaning their homes is a great help for them."

One of the volunteers, secondary school teacher Suhaimi Zainal Shah, 29, who helped to coordinate the event, said: "We decided to organise it near the festive period... and we hope it brings the residents joy, especially if they're lonely."

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is an MP for Tampines GRC and was guest of honour at the event, said these initiatives help Singaporeans understand the needs of the community better, in the process of developing a more caring and inclusive society.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2019, with the headline '1,000 lend a hand with spring cleaning in Tampines'. Print Edition | Subscribe