National Day supplement

Celebrating Singapore's community spirit: Spreading the qi of community bonding

Madam Jumiah Yunus teaches qigong every day in Tampines.
Madam Jumiah Yunus teaches qigong every day in Tampines.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Madam Jumiah at her Tampines Avenue 5 unit on July 24, 2017.
Madam Jumiah at her Tampines Avenue 5 unit on July 24, 2017.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

The Straits Times will run a National Day supplement on Aug 9 profiling Singaporeans who display various shared values of the Singapore Spirit. Here is a sneak peek of one segment focusing on individuals who embody the community spirit.

SINGAPORE - It is 8am on a rainy Wednesday, and a group of about 20 adults is focused on their qigong movements at an amphitheatre next to Tampines Park.

Leading them through the 90-minute session, a series of gentle body exercises, is Madam Jumiah Yunus, 73.

"It's raining, so there are fewer people... Usually there are around 50," she told The Straits Times.

Her students - Chinese, Malay, Indian - are mostly Tampines residents in their 40s to 80s. The sessions, which take place four times a week, are Madam Jumiah's understated way of fostering a stronger community spirit.

Madam Jumiah, who also holds qigong sessions at Palmspring RC in Tampines on weekends, said her interest in qigong started in 2007 during a trip to China to visit her pregnant daughter-in-law, who was then living in Shenzhen.

Every morning, Madam Jumiah said, she saw people practising qigong, and she was intrigued.


However, she slipped and had a bad fall in China, resulting in a pinched nerve that caused intense pain in her left arm and leg about four months later when she returned to Singapore. While recuperating, she started attending qigong sessions, with her friends' encouragement.

After about four years, she became good enough to conduct her own sessions. She modified some of the original moves to allow seniors to stretch their bodies more.

"I told myself, after retiring I can't become a couch potato. Now I'm meeting new people regularly," Madam Jumiah said.

She said the regulars at the qigong sessions are good friends, and they visit the market together and sometimes meet for meals.

One regular is Madam Khoo Yan Lan, 72, who communicates with Madam Jumiah through a smattering of English, Hokkien and Mandarin.

"We say hi to each other... If they are carrying heavy stuff, I'll help them. I also help them when they cross the road," Madam Khoo told The Straits Times before dashing off for coffee with another student at the end of the session.

Madam Jumiah, a retired nurse, also offers her neighbours and qigong students health advice - for instance, encouraging them to eat in moderation.

"We're happy. We laugh, joke, tell stories. In the morning we start out happy... We are all like one family," said Madam Jumiah, who lives with her husband, younger son and her nine-year-old granddaughter in their Tampines flat.

Besides teaching qigong, she also makes it a point to be friendly to anyone in her neighbourhood, even those she does not know personally.

"I can't remember names very well. But I still acknowledge them, try my best to be human, not like a robot. I break the ice every time. I don't care if they are man, woman, old or young."