39,000 pre-schoolers dream big to give back to the community, five times the number in 2015

This year's initiative, called Start Small Dream Big was officially launched by Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development, at the National Trades Union Congress' My First Skool pre-school in Jurong West on April 12, 2018.
This year's initiative, called Start Small Dream Big was officially launched by Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development, at the National Trades Union Congress' My First Skool pre-school in Jurong West on April 12, 2018.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
File photo showing pre-schoolers sweeping and clearing rubbish at a playground in Toa Payoh Central.
File photo showing pre-schoolers sweeping and clearing rubbish at a playground in Toa Payoh Central.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - 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 also 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 over $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 on Thursday (April 12).

"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.

Parents turned up for the launch, including healthcare executive assistant Ruby Rajesh, 36, who said her six-year-old daughter Reina was "so excited" about the day's event that she "didn't sleep" the night before.

"It's good to start at a young age because they grasp the information faster. It's easier to teach them," she said.

Reina was one of the children helping several elderly people invited from the NTUC Silver Circle who joined the event to pot plants in recycled bottles and joined 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 undertake with their children.

"What makes us human is the ability to empathise, to care and show concern for others," said Ms Thian Ai Ling, 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 be shared with all pre-school centres.

The pre-schools are working with the Early Childhood Development Authority to publish several hardcopies besides the online version.