Boon Lay residents enjoy carnival games, activities, as part of community festival

President Halimah Yacob (second from left) was the guest of honour at the last day of the Community YOUthCare Festival. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - The final day of a community festival in Boon Lay on Sunday (June 12) saw 75 children and 50 youth volunteers from the neighbourhood enjoy a day of carnival games, perfume-making and football.

The three-month-long Community YOUthCare Festival was organised by the People's Association (PA) Youth Movement and held at the Boon Lay Community Club.

President Halimah Yacob was the guest of honour and, together with National Development Minister Desmond Lee, who is MP for West Coast GRC, read to children and attended a mental health workshop for teenagers.

At the event, PA presented a $250,000 cheque to Madam Halimah for the President's Challenge, which aims to provide support for low-income families.

Madam Murni Arsahat's two youngest children, Ashryn Abdul Faki, seven, and his sister Shaqueena, five, were at the carnival.

The pair folded origami frogs and flipped them into cups in exchange for sweets from the youth volunteers.

"I'm glad they had this chance to be here and play for a day. If not, they will be at home playing on my phone," said Madam Murni, 40, a mother of four.

Madam Jenny Yeo's 11-year-old son Jeremiah Lee donned a Liverpool jersey as he played football with his friends at the event.

"It's good for him to make friends with other kids who live in the neighbourhood," said Madam Yeo, 42, who works in human resources.

PA's youth network in Boon Lay also run the ongoing The Heart of Care @ Boon Lay initiative, which comprises weekly activities and programmes for residents.

They include reading and mathematics programmes for children from low-income families, mental wellness workshops for young people, and sports and heritage activities to bring the community together.

The youth network has helped more than 180 children from 96 households since 2018.

Madam Murni, a housewife who lives in a two-room rental flat in Boon Lay, said the educational programmes for her children, aged between five and 18, have been helpful.

She added that the volunteers continued conducting the educational programmes virtually during the Covid-19 pandemic.

President Halimah Yacob (centre) and Minister Desmond Lee (right) at a reading session at the Community YOUthCare Festival. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Mr Chia Zhao Wei, a Boon Lay resident, has been volunteering with the youth network since 2016 and is now its chairman.

The 28-year-old said it has been a meaningful experience.

He added: "I've seen the current Primary 4 and Primary 5 batches of pupils since they were in kindergarten so it does really resonate when I see that they are doing better.

"Even if they are not doing well academically, they are becoming more confident and growing to be upright people."

Mr Lee said the pandemic affected each community differently, but he noted that grassroots organisations in Boon Lay had rallied others in the neighbourhood to support low-income families.

"The pandemic has focused our minds and attention on the more vulnerable, to better understand the challenges they face so that we can give them more holistic support," he said.

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