Volunteers spruce up homes of vulnerable Indian community members ahead of Deepavali

Volunteers sprucing up the home of Madam Govindamal Mariappan.
Volunteers sprucing up the home of Madam Govindamal Mariappan.ST PHOTO: MOHD KHALID BABA

SINGAPORE - A group of over 50 volunteers from the Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda) and Young Sikh Association fanned out across the island before midday on Sunday (Oct 25), armed with pails, brooms and assorted cleaning equipment.

Their mission: To help clean the homes of some of the vulnerable members of the Indian community, ahead of Deepavali on Nov 14.

Under a new initiative known as Project Shine, the volunteers scrubbed windows and cleaned bathrooms, mopped floors, wiped surfaces and helped beneficiaries with any concerns they had.

At one rental unit in Bukit Merah, for example, volunteers helped Madam Jayakodi, 73, remove and dispose of a wall fan.

Speaking in Tamil, Madam Jayakodi told The Straits Times through a translator that she usually does the cleaning herself ahead of the festive season each year.

"I'm happy that there are people coming to do it this year, because it takes the load off," she added.

Project Shine is part of Sinda's annual Project Give campaign, which is hosted by the self-help group every year during Deepavali to encourage the spirit of giving back to society.

But amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Sinda decided to introduce more community-centric programmes and ground-up initiatives, including Project Shine.

Speaking to The Straits Times on the sidelines of a clean-up at Bukit Merah, Sinda chief executive Anbarasu Rajendran said Project Give was started many years ago, with fund raising being a key component.

"But along the way, it has evolved, and we are looking (to cultivate) a collective social belonging in the Indian community," he said.

This also includes getting the young people involved in community outreach, said Mr Anbarasu.

One volunteer from the Young Sikh Association is Mr Gurnihal Singh, 24, a Nanyang Technological University undergraduate.

He said he decided to volunteer for Project Shine to help members of the community who are often overlooked.

"Not only do we have Covid-19, but dengue cases are also on the rise. Many beneficiaries do take the effort to clean their houses, but there may be some nooks and crannies that they are unable to reach," said Mr Singh.