Causes Week 2021: Boon Lay kids transform their community through art

Causes Week, which is into its 10th iteration, runs this year from Dec 21 to 25. It shines a light on various individuals and groups, and shows how they are making a difference through their chosen causes within the community, for children and youth, in sports and arts, among others.

Ms Lin Shiyun, founder of arts non-profit company 3Pumpkins, started Tak Takut Kids Club in July 2019. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Every Wednesday at 7pm, a group of between 20 and 30 children, sometimes more, gather in a first-floor shop unit at 176 Boon Lay Drive. The lights are dimmed and music starts playing.

Nine-year-old Eddrisha Ryyana takes the stage to belt out Hero by Cash Cash and Christina Perri. The Boon Lay Garden Primary School pupil has been preparing for the performance for two weeks. The audience of children screams and cheers for her.

This space belongs to arts non-profit company 3Pumpkins' Tak Takut Kids Club. From 3pm to 8pm daily, except for Sundays and Mondays, the club is open to the community.

Its founder Lin Shiyun, 39, says: "Any child can come in and out of this space. We don't have strict membership as we want to lower entry barriers, especially for those who do not meet typical social service requirements but need social support."

Ms Lin, a creative arts producer, decided to start the club in July 2019 after a year of community engagement at a playground in the area, which has many rental flats. She felt from her interactions with children at the playground that they needed a permanent space of their own they could always visit.

Today, she runs the club alongside three full-time staff and 10 volunteers. It has involved some 100 children aged between seven and 17. On a daily basis, about 40 children move in and out of the space.

On Tuesdays, the club is an open space for the children to engage in activities of their own. On Wednesdays, it transforms into a performance space. Thursdays are for outdoor activities, while outdoor dancing is on every Friday's programme.

Fund raising and arts-based development are integrated at the club. Ms Lin explains that the children are not treated as beneficiaries, but that they should be aware of the costs of running the space, feel motivated to support it, and be empowered to do something for it.

She believes that arts-based activities inspire the children at the club to discover themselves and their community, while at the same time giving back to it. "I believe that the arts allow the children to express themselves as well as listen to others."

This philosophy gave rise to This Is Me! and This Is Us!, two annual fund-raising projects the community engages in through art.

This Is Me!, a yearly magazine sold to the public, features artwork by the children and teenagers at the club.

This Is Us! is an initiative where members of the public send in their photos for the children to transform into artwork for a small fee. It aims to raise $40,000 via community effort.

Remote video URL

The estimated cost of running the club till 2024 is $1.27 million. Thus far, it has received $930,000 from the Singapore Together Movement and the Quantedge Foundation. It is aiming to raise the remaining $340,000 on its own.

Tak Takut also encourages its children to contribute to the community in other ways they are enthusiastic about. For example, Hua Yi Secondary School student Lucas Lee, 14, organises Facebook live sales of donated items, baked goods, radios with customised programmes and more via his page, Lucas The Show.

He says he has hit his initial target of $700 and is hoping to raise more money for the club.

Remote video URL

The club's general manager Imran Mohamad, 46, says: "Lucas is totally himself when he goes live. No script required, he's simply canvassing for support, his style.

"This is when you know that these children really want to empower themselves and help the organisation."

For more details, go to 3Pumpkins' website or write to 3Pumpkins.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.