iDEA JAM 2014

A little help goes a long way

This article was first published on Sept 16, 2014

Regardless of your age, you can do your bit for a cause you believe in. Debra Ann Francisco reports

Volunteering is an extremely rewarding activity. Besides making a difference to the community, you also learn skills and lessons beyond those taught in the classroom.

Read the extract of a news story below which appeared recently in The Straits Times. Then, have fun with the group and individual activities that follow.

When it comes to promoting awareness of the environment among the young, Ngee Ann Polytechnic could be considered one of the pioneers – it started doing so more than 20 years ago.

Today, topics on the environment are taught at the polytechnic. Its Clementi Road campus is also home to technology centres which come up with projects to improve sustainability efforts.

Yesterday, the institution received the President’s Award for the Environment – Singapore’s highest environmental accolade – from President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana.

The other two recipients of the award this year are the Institute of Technical Education and Mr Eugene Heng, chairman of environmental group, Waterways Watch Society (WWS).

Organised by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, the annual award recognises individuals and organisations for their contributions towards the environment. There were 26 nominations this year.

For Mr Heng and his volunteers, at least two hours are spent every weekend picking up flotsam along waterways.

Plastic bags are the most common trash item. They also pick up styrofoam boxes, cans, shopping trolleys and television sets.

The group makes its rounds on boats and bicycles to monitor the waterways and alert the authorities on areas which need attention, such as those polluted by oil spills.

WWS, which has 370 volunteers, also conducts workshops for students to better understand how drains, canals and rivers are connected to reservoirs. While every drop of water can be treated to drinking water standards, it is vital for people to stop littering because litter is transported from the catchment areas and waterways to reservoirs when it rains.

“We have a nation that runs things very well and supplies water so efficiently. People tend to forget it’s a gift. They tend to abuse it and take it for granted,” said Mr Heng.

While he feels that enforcement officers need to be more visible and be at the “right place, at the right time”, he says educating the public on the consequences of littering is still more important.

“The Government can do only so much,” he added.

At Ngee Ann Polytechnic, a major part of its green efforts involves teaching the right values on protecting the environment. All students are required to take a module in which they learn about climate change and environmental degradation.

Said Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s principal, Mr Clarence Ti: “As parents and educators, we want our students to not only have good values and learn a trade, but also be meaningful contributors to society.”

“Three win S’pore’s top award for green efforts” by Carolyn Khew, ST, Sept 3