About 1,000 volunteers come together to spring clean homes of needy Tampines residents

Volunteers helping to refurbish a home in Tampines as part of Project Refresh, on Jan 20, 2019.
Volunteers helping to refurbish a home in Tampines as part of Project Refresh, on Jan 20, 2019.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Volunteers helping to refurbish a home in Tampines as part of Project Refresh, on Jan 20, 2019.
Volunteers helping to refurbish a home in Tampines as part of Project Refresh, on Jan 20, 2019.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat (centre) together with (from left) Tampines GRC MPs Cheng Li Hui, Baey Yam Keng and Desmond Choo, speaking with a resident, on Jan 20, 2019.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat (centre) together with (from left) Tampines GRC MPs Cheng Li Hui, Baey Yam Keng and Desmond Choo, speaking with a resident, on Jan 20, 2019.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat carrying Ashlynn Wong, eight, to complete a mural depicting volunteers in a home, on Jan 20, 2019.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat carrying Ashlynn Wong, eight, to complete a mural depicting volunteers in a home, on Jan 20, 2019.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A thousand volunteers spent their Sunday (Jan 20) spring cleaning - not their own homes, but the homes of 95 families in Tampines.

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

The initiative, known as Project Refresh, is meant to encourage people of all ages to volunteer.

It was started by Young NTUC, the youth wing of National Trade 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.

Sunday'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 from schools, employees from corporate organisations, grassroots volunteers and Tampines residents.

Project Refresh has also previously been held in the North East district in areas like Punggol and Hougang.

Tampines resident Wong Cher Khoon, 65, who lives with his wife, said he appreciated the effort by 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 where we help each other," he said. The couple have five adult children.

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

One of the volunteers, Mr Suhaimi Zainal Shah, who helped to coordinate the event, said: "We decided to organise it near the festive period so it's like spring cleaning and we hope it brings the residents joy, especially if they're lonely."

The 29-year-old secondary school teacher also brought along 20 students from his school to help clean and declutter a few homes.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, who was the guest of honour at the event, said such initiatives are meaningful, as they help Singaporeans understand the needs of the community better, in the process of developing a more caring and inclusive society.

"There are needs in our community that are growing increasingly complex and I think that it is important that we have this partnership between the Government and our people, and to mobilise our entire community to better understand (society's needs)," said Mr Heng, who is also an MP for Tampines GRC.