National Day Rally 2021: Neighbours of all races are like family in Whampoa block

The Goh, Rajendran and Tan families live on the sixth storey of Block 115 Whampoa Road. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION
The Goh, Rajendran and Tan families live on the sixth storey of Block 115 Whampoa Road. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Her neighbour was busy with her grandchildren, so Madam Violet Sim, 72, took the woman's domestic helper to get her second Covid-19 shot earlier this month.

Such acts of kindness are common among residents living on the sixth storey of Block 115 Whampoa Road.

The 10 households, who live in four- or five-room units, have lived there for decades.

IT administrative staff Alastair Tan, 57, and his wife Madam Catherina Phee, 56, a housewife, were among the first to move in when the estate was first developed in 1993.

The couple has gone out of their way to make new neighbours feel welcome, including Madam Sim and her husband Jeffrey Goh, 77, who moved into the floor in 2011.

For instance, Mr Tan came up with the idea of a "floor party" about seven years ago, where neighbours would gather in the common corridor to share food and get to know one another better.

He and his wife organise the party several times a year, though these stopped during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Said Mr Goh, a retired senior executive producer: "It is important to have good and friendly neighbours. It is like a family."

This sentiment was shared by retired driver Singavalu Rajendran, 63, who gives traditional snacks to his Chinese neighbours during Deepavali, and they return the favour during Chinese New Year.

His wife, administrative staff Mageswari Govindasamy, 63, added: "When we or our neighbours are away, we trust each other to help look out for our homes."

Madam Sim helps to water the plants in the corridor if her neighbours are away, and even washes the common lift lobby regularly with recycled water from doing her laundry.

"When the lift lobby is clean, everyone is happy," said Madam Sim.

(Clockwise from left) Madam Mageswari Govindasamy and her husband Singavalu Rajendran; Mr Alastair Tan and his wife Catherina Phee; and Madam Violet Sim and her husband Jeffrey Goh. PHOTO: MCI

This "true high-rise kampung spirit" was highlighted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday (Aug 29).

He spoke about how Singapore was a truly multiracial and multi-religious nation, and of the many heart-warming interactions that happen every day.

Another example he raised was the friendship between Mr Mohammed Khairul and Mr Toh Ah Chye.

As Mr Toh had a stroke two years ago, he needed help to get his Covid-19 shots, PM Lee said.

Mr Mohammed Khairul volunteered to take him, and the duo have become good friends.


PM Lee noted that such positive stories - such as when people of different races interact daily at coffee shops or on the sports field, or when those of different religions worship in temples, mosques and churches along the same street - seldom go viral.

"These things happen daily. They are the norm in Singapore, and they are precious," he said.

"Long may that continue."

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