39,000 kids dream big to give back to the community

Above: Children from My First Skool kindergarten in Jurong West and seniors from the NTUC Silver Circle senior care centres potting plants in recycled bottles.
Above: Children from My First Skool kindergarten in Jurong West and seniors from the NTUC Silver Circle senior care centres potting plants in recycled bottles.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Start Small Dream Big sees nearly a third of pre-schools here taking part in community service initiative this year

From this month, 39,000 children from more than 670 pre-schools will be participating in an annual initiative that encourages them to be involved in community service through everyday acts of kindness.

This is almost one-third of all the pre-schools in Singapore.

The number of children involved this year in Start Small Dream Big is almost five times that of the first edition in 2015, which saw 8,000 children from 150 pre-schools raising over $100,000. Last year, 34,000 children from over 550 schools raised more than $200,000.

Following a virtual debut on April 6, the pre-schools will launch their own activities throughout the month to mark the initiative.

One pre-school decided to stage a fashion show on environmental awareness, with a catwalk featuring costumes made from recycled plastic bags. Another reached out to elderly residents in its neighbourhood with traditional games and food hampers.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee attended the launch at NTUC's My First Skool kindergarten in Jurong West yesterday.

"A good pre-school system should not only prepare our young for our national education system; importantly, we want pre-schools to be holistic and inculcate values, active citizenry, compassion and caring for others," said Mr Lee.

He added that he was encouraged by how "attitudes have continued to improve because of the initiative", citing a parent's story about their child going around the estate wanting to pick up litter to throw it away or recycle it.

Among parents who turned up for the launch was healthcare executive assistant Ruby Rajesh, 36. She said her six-year-old daughter, Reina, was "so excited" about the day's event that she found it hard to sleep the night before.

"It's good to start (community service) at a young age because the children grasp the information faster; it's easier to teach them," she said.

Reina was one of the children helping several seniors from the NTUC Silver Circle senior care centres who were invited to pot plants in recycled bottles and join the children in singing.

Start Small Dream Big started in 2015 as part of SG50 and for the 15th anniversary of the President's Challenge, an annual series of fund-raising and volunteer activities. Participating schools implement community service projects over a period of six months.

For this year's theme, "Caring for Others Together", My First Skool is creating a children's storybook featuring children learning life skills through acts of compassion.

The book will cover four themes: caring for my family; caring for my friends; caring for the community; and caring for the environment and animals. It will be written in the four main languages, and come with an educators' guide to suggest service learning activities that parents can do with their children.

"What makes us human is the ability to empathise, to care and show concern for others," said Ms Thian Ai Ling, the deputy general manager of My First Skool. "We're trying to look at how children can grow up in a holistic, gracious society where they learn to care about people."

The book will be completed in September and shared with all pre-school centres. The pre-schools are working with the Early Childhood Development Agency to publish several hard copies besides the online version.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2018, with the headline '39,000 kids dream big to give back to the community'. Print Edition | Subscribe