SINGAPORE - Fifty National Servicemen (NSmen) and their families came together in Sembawang GRC on Sunday (Oct 15), for an appreciation lunch cooked with vegetables harvested from community gardens in their neighbourhood.
Over 170 of them were joined by Sembawang GRC's grassroots advisers, for a meal that included dishes such as salted prawn with basil leaves and kang kong with sambal, in Woodlands Galaxy Community Club.
The advisers present in honouring the NSmen were Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin, adviser to Canberra grassroots organisations Dr Lim Wee Kiak, and adviser to Admiralty grassroots organisations Vikram Nair.
Mr Ong said he hopes that such community initiatives can continue with an upcoming project called Sembawang Community Hub, which can be a congregation point for residents to grow their own produce, culminating in a farmers' market in the next few years.
He added that he hopes to make NS useful for the younger generation, in team-building and leadership training.
"We will also continue to make NS safe for everybody," added Mr Ong, who is also Second Minister for Defence, in his opening address on Saturday.
"I think the importance of NS is clear... Without strong defence, nothing else will happen," said Mr Khaw at the event as well. "The sacrifice by our NSmen all through the ages, now in the third generation, is wonderful."
Mr Vikram added that besides being the backbone of the nation's defence, NS is also a big melting pot, keeping Singaporeans open to understanding each other.
He said he is happy to see families coming together at the community lunch as well: "NS is not just about the man serving, but everyone else supporting him."
NSman Sylvester Lee, 28, who is a civil servant, said he is glad his family was present to witness the event: "In NS, you are put into different situations, and the challenges are real, because there are emerging threats from around the world now. It is a way to make yourself more prepared for any situation."
Sembawang Close resident Madam Nancy Ng, 74, said community gardening is a form of exercise for retirees like herself, and a way to bond with others living in the area.
"It's good for older residents to be around the greenery, and for children here to learn about the vegetables and fruit," she said.
The mother of two, one of whom is a son, said that she was happy for the fruits of her labour as a gardener to be used in honouring the NSmen.
Sembawang GRC's Community Garden Project began in 2014 for community gardens in the GRC to give back to the community.
That year, community gardeners contributed 250kg of vegetables to be sold at a farmers' market, and the proceeds were donated to Man Fut Tong Nursing Home.
In 2015, the community gardeners donated their harvests to vulnerable residents, nursing homes and volunteer welfare organisations.
Last year, the gardeners provided their harvest of vegetables and fruits as ingredients for more than 200 needy residents.