600 young volunteers, including university students, spread festive cheer in the north-east district

Volunteers Ashley Lee (centre) and Lee Yong Quan (left) prepare festive crafts with a resident of Thye Hua Kwan Nursing Home in Hougang on Dec 14, 2019. PHOTO: NORTHEAST CDC

SINGAPORE - It may have been their day off but on Saturday morning (Dec 14), 600 young volunteers rolled up their sleeves to paint homes and distribute presents to spread some festive cheer as part of Project Refresh.

The initiative was started in 2016 by the National Trades Union Congress' youth wing to encourage people of all ages to volunteer.

About four times a year - typically before major festivals such as Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Deepavali and Christmas - volunteers visit vulnerable seniors who live in their own homes and also drop by nursing homes, to decorate the place and bring some cheer to residents.

The visit on Saturday was conducted in collaboration with North East Community Development Council, which serves Tampines, Pasir Ris-Punggol and Aljunied GRCs, as well as Hougang and Punggol East.

Some volunteers, which included university students, visited public flats in the north-east area to spend time with seniors.

Meanwhile, others helped to decorate a nursing home and work on festive crafts with residents.

In total, they visited 33 flats, three senior activity centres in the area and the Thye Hua Kwan Nursing Home in Hougang.

Ms Ashley Lee, who was with a group of 150 volunteers at the nursing home, said she first took part in Project Refresh as an undergraduate two years ago, and has continued to volunteer after starting full-time work.

"That shouldn't stop," said the 23-year-old systems analyst.

"It doesn't take a lot of commitment, and besides spending time with family and friends in the festive season, you get to make people around you happy."

Mr Victor Lye, advisor to Aljunied GRC Grassroots Organisations, and Tampines MP Desmond Choo, Mayor of the North East District, present a festive goody bag to a beneficiary at Thye Hua Kwan Nursing Home in Hougang on Dec 14, 2019. PHOTO: NORTH EAST CDC

Tampines MP Desmond Choo, who is Mayor of the North East District, said the turnout was good.

"We wanted to do something that was simple. We wanted to create opportunities (to volunteer) for younger people across all segments of society," said Mr Choo, who is also NTUC's assistant secretary-general.

"Many people found that it was not so easy to find a place they could contribute meaningfully, purposely... so we said let's do something about that."

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