Latest SG Cares mural honours pioneers in social service sector

Singapore Red Cross volunteers Wan Fook Kum, 78, and Doris Yeoh, 62, at the third part of the SG Cares mural project at Chong Pang Amphitheatre yesterday. Mr Wan helped out during the Hotel New World collapse.
Singapore Red Cross volunteers Wan Fook Kum, 78, and Doris Yeoh, 62, at the third part of the SG Cares mural project at Chong Pang Amphitheatre yesterday. Mr Wan helped out during the Hotel New World collapse.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

When Hotel New World collapsed in 1986, the Singapore Red Cross (SRC) had yet to train its volunteers in disaster management.

Despite the lack of training, SRC volunteers consoled families of victims, provided psycho-social support to the best of their abilities, and handed out biscuits and drinks at the disaster site and mortuary.

The collapse of the six-storey building on March 15, killing 33, was one of the worst disasters in Singapore's modern history.

One of the SRC volunteers on the scene was Mr Wan Fook Kum, then a 45-year-old teacher.

"We talked to them, comforted them, whatever help they needed, we helped them out," he said.

He retired from teaching in 2001 but is still an SRC volunteer.

Yesterday, he shared his memories of the tragedy at a mural project for SG Cares' Celebrating Our Culture of Care, at Chong Pang Amphitheatre.

SG Cares is a national movement to build a more caring and inclusive society, and its four-part mural project is part of Singapore's bicentennial celebrations.

Each part of the mural commemorates different elements of the nation's legacy of care and contribution over the past 200 years.

Over the weekend, around 400 people will make paper flowers in the shape of Singapore's national flower, Vanda Miss Joaquim, for the third instalment, which honours pioneers and organisations that provided social services when the sector was still in its infancy.

The first part of the mural, created in March, honoured community and religious groups that helped early settlers in Singapore. The second part, created in May, focused on pioneers of healthcare, education and uniformed groups.

The SG Cares office plans to move the mural around different locations.

In 1963, Mr Wan joined the SRC after he witnessed a serious road accident and was unable to help.

"Before you volunteer, you must be committed and know what you are in for. You do not ask the organisation what they can do for you, but what you can do for the organisation. That is the most important thing," he said.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said of the project: "Our social service sector was built on the pioneering work of community groups many years ago. Some of them are still active today and have expanded their services to cater to evolving social needs.

"The SG Cares movement strengthens ties between government agencies and community organisations, so that we can coordinate our efforts for greater impact, and foster a more inclusive society."

Other pioneer organisations recognised yesterday included Far East Organization, Mistri Trust, and PPIS (Singapore Muslim Women's Association or Persatuan Pemudi Islam Singapura).

The fourth part of the mural, which honours corporations and ground-up groups that are championing volunteerism, will be created on Aug 17 and 18.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 14, 2019, with the headline 'Latest SG Cares mural honours pioneers in social service sector'. Print Edition | Subscribe