SINGAPORE - Over porridge and cups of hot soya bean drink, about 40 senior residents of Haig Road Estate in Geylang Serai sat around the seniors' corner of Block 22, catching up with one another.
The monthly breakfast sessions, where residents take turns cooking for each other, are not only a good excuse for neighbours to meet, but have also been an invaluable source of feedback about any issues within the community, said Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef, who is adviser to Marine Parade GRC Grassroots Organisations.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday (March 31) about programmes in her ward ahead of a visit by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing on Sunday, Dr Fatimah said such feedback has resulted in improvements to the estate, such as widening the space between bollards for wheelchairs to pass, and the installing of more outdoor benches at the right spots.
"When some of the older residents walk back from the market to their block, they may feel tired and want to sit down," she said.
"They will tell us which are the strategic locations, and so certain chairs and benches that have been installed were based on their feedback."
The breakfast sessions, which have been taking place regularly since 2014, are one example of how residents in Geylang Serai work with various groups to take care of the community, said Dr Fatimah.
Besides residents cooking for each other, members of the merchants' association often donate fruits and drinks, while some of the raw ingredients, like rice, are contributed by the various clan associations and religious groups in the constituency.
At these sessions, some residents are also identified and trained to become "grassroots ambassadors" to engage their fellow residents about government policy changes, and help mediate between parties should disputes arise.
One such ambassador is 62-year-old housewife Ng Geok Thuay.
Well-known for her glutinous rice dumplings and ang ku kueh, Madam Ng spends time visiting vulnerable senior citizens at their homes, and accompanies them to hospital for their check-ups.
"Ever since my two sons started work, I've had more free time and so I've been helping out more around the community," said Madam Ng.
"I've always been quite extroverted, and it makes me happy learning new things and lending a hand."
Mr Chan's visit to Geylang Serai this Sunday is the first ministerial visit since last year's general election. He will go to a hawker centre and a mosque, and will also be chatting with youths at a dialogue session.