Malay siblings help spread CNY cheer among neighbours

Decorations put up in corridor to show appreciation for support after dad's death

Mr Abdullah Abdul Rahman and his neighbours - (from far left) Madam Chen, 70, who declined to give her full name, Madam Mary Tay, 70, and Madam Rasida A. Rahman, 62 - taking a picture at the fourth-floor lift landing of their block in Tampines Street
Mr Abdullah Abdul Rahman and his neighbours - (from left) Madam Chen, 70, who declined to give her full name, Madam Mary Tay, 70, and Madam Rasida A. Rahman, 62 - taking a picture at the fourth-floor lift landing of their block in Tampines Street 11 this week. Mr Abdullah and his brother hope to capture the kampung spirit at the block by putting up Chinese New Year decorations at the lift landing and corridor.ST PHOTOS: GIN TAY
Mr Abdullah Abdul Rahman and his neighbours - (from far left) Madam Chen, 70, who declined to give her full name, Madam Mary Tay, 70, and Madam Rasida A. Rahman, 62 - taking a picture at the fourth-floor lift landing of their block in Tampines Street
Mr Abdullah Abdul Rahman and his neighbours - Madam Chen, 70, who declined to give her full name, Madam Mary Tay, 70, and Madam Rasida A. Rahman, 62 - taking a picture at the fourth-floor lift landing of their block in Tampines Street 11 this week. Mr Abdullah and his brother hope to capture the kampung spirit at the block by putting up Chinese New Year decorations at the lift landing and corridor.ST PHOTOS: GIN TAY

With its Chinese New Year decorations, fairy lights and flowers, the fourth-floor corridor of Block 117 Tampines Street 11 resembles a brightly lit village.

The items were put up by Mr Abdullah Abdul Rahman, 36, with his brother's help. The siblings hope to capture the kampung spirit at the block, which has many residents who are retirees.

The siblings, who live in a unit on the fourth floor, put up the decorations to thank their neighbours for supporting the family after their 83-year-old father's death last December.

Mr Abdullah said: "After my father died, we had to be at my sister's home to host visitors offering condolences as our flat did not have enough room.

"While we were away for a month, our neighbours kept the corridor in front of our unit clean and watered our plants. I wanted to show my appreciation and also bring the different races together to celebrate Chinese New Year (which falls on Friday)."

Mr Abdullah, who works as a sales assistant, puts up decorations for Hari Raya each year to share festive cheer with his neighbours. Most of his neighbours are seniors living alone or with their spouses.

His brother, Mr Azman Haji Mohd Salleh, 59, helped with the decorations, which include fresh flowers like orchids and hibiscus.

Mr Azman, who is unemployed, is the primary caregiver of their 82-year-old mother. The siblings share their two-room flat with her.

Last May, when blue lights were displayed at landmarks around Singapore as a tribute to front-line workers, Mr Abdullah changed the lights he had put up for Hari Raya Puasa to that colour as well.

"I know last year was difficult for many of the residents in our block. With the circuit breaker and regulations to stop Covid-19 in place, the seniors living here felt lonely, because they could not go about their regular routines," he said.

Ms Nancy Tan, a retiree who previously worked in the childcare sector, said the Chinese New Year decorations bring cheer to residents like her, especially after a hard year.

The 67-year-old, who lives alone, moved into the block seven years ago. She was among those who helped Mr Abdullah's family while they were away.

"We get along very well with Abdullah's family, especially his late father," she said.

"When Abdullah suggested putting up the Chinese New Year decorations, I was happy to agree. I feel safe knowing they are down the corridor if I need their help."

Mr Abdullah spent $100 of his own money, but also had help from shops nearby such as Sisters Flowers in Tampines Round Market. These shops provided him with festive ornaments and fresh flowers.

The siblings also bought boxes of mandarin oranges to distribute to their neighbours, and have prepared red packets for the children of shop owners who helped them with the decorations.

Next month, they will source decorations for Hari Raya Puasa, which falls on May 13 this year. They are not expecting many bazaar stalls this year amid the pandemic.

"One thing that is missing in many of our housing estates is the community spirit, but we have managed to retain that here," said Mr Abdullah.

"Whether it is at the market or in our block, the residents talk to one another, exchange dishes and help one another to shop for groceries.

"I want to safeguard that spirit for as long as I can."

Mr Abdullah Abdul Rahman (right) showing his Chinese New Year decorations to retiree Mary Tay, 70. The resident of the fourth floor of Block 117, Tampines Street 11, put up the festive items and plants to show his appreciation to his elderly neighbou
A colourful show of appreciation: Mr Abdullah Abdul Rahman (above) showing his Chinese New Year decorations to retiree Mary Tay, 70. The resident of the fourth floor of Block 117, Tampines Street 11, put up the festive items and plants to show his appreciation to his elderly neighbours for their help last year. Mr Abdullah, 36, puts up decorations for Hari Raya each year but this is the first year he is putting up Chinese New Year ornaments. He began his preparations in the middle of last month and the decorations went up last week. The colourful array has caught the eye of other residents living in the block and Mr Abdullah's neighbours said they enjoy the cheerful display and appreciate his efforts. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2021, with the headline 'Malay siblings help spread CNY cheer among neighbours'. Subscribe