Rekindling kampung spirit with 1,000 towels

The residents who helped conceptualise and create the I Wish You Enough movement: (from far left) Ms Nooraini Omar, Ms Anna Ong, Mr Lim Joo Beng and Ms Faridah Rashid.
The residents who helped conceptualise and create the I Wish You Enough movement: (from far left) Ms Nooraini Omar, Ms Anna Ong, Mr Lim Joo Beng and Ms Faridah Rashid.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

The spirit of gotong royong, a term widely used in the 60s and 70s to mean mutual help in the community, was well and alive in the kampungs of yesteryear.

And now, a group of residents in South Central Singapore are banding together to rekindle this community spirit - starting with 1,000 orange hand towels.

These towels have been hanging on the front gates of homes in the Redhill, Henderson and Lengkok Bahru estates since the start of the month.

They symbolise support for neighbourly acts of goodwill, such as sharing of food, chatting with a neighbour or looking out for one another's children.

In a Sunday Times feature on Oct 8 on Kampung Lorong Buangkok, it was reported that a resident had hung a bag of hamburger buns on his neighbour's gate.

Referring to the report, Ms Faridah Rashid, 45, who is part of the main organising committee, said that it is not about grand gestures, but rather, simple acts of kindness.

She said: "Anyone can show their support by hanging their own towels on their doors. Our orange towels are just a spark."

HELP AT HAND

Neighbours are like our 'first aid'. Some of us have family members living elsewhere, but our neighbours are always nearby and can help you with any difficulties.

MS NOORAINI OMAR, a Lengkok Bahru resident, is grateful for her neighbour's help with a bedbug problem.


LENDING A HAND

If she hired someone to get rid of it, it would cost a lot. Since I have the skills, I wanted to help where I can.

MR LIM JOO BENG, a pest control specialist and Ms Nooraini Omar's neighbour.

The initiative is part of the South Central Community Family Service Centre's first I Wish You Enough movement, which culminated in a mass potluck at Redhill Square yesterday.

Also at the event were Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim and Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Joan Pereira.

In an interview with The Sunday Times last week, Ms Faridah said that towels were chosen as they are "everyday household items".

They hope to tap social media and use word of mouth to create a "ripple effect" across the island.

She recounted how, while at the wet market earlier this year, the fishmonger had offered her a basket of fish heads at a good price, when she had wanted only two.

"I cooked a huge pot of asam pedas fish heads and told my neighbours on WhatsApp to come and get some," said Ms Faridah, who lives in a rental flat in Redhill.

In the two years since she moved there, she has grown closer to her neighbours and even picked up conversational Mandarin from them.

Lengkok Bahru resident Nooraini Omar, 35, is grateful to her neighbour, 55-year-old pest control specialist Lim Joo Beng, for helping her with her bedbug problem for free.

 

"Neighbours are like our 'first aid'. Some of us have family members living elsewhere, but our neighbours are always nearby and can help you with any difficulties," she said.

Said Mr Lim: "If she hired someone to get rid of it, it would cost a lot. Since I have the skills, I wanted to help where I can."

While they are hopeful of creating a "modern kampung" one day, Ms Nooraini said that they are prepared to face some rejections.

"We have to respect that some people would still want their space. But eventually, we hope they come on board. We are all human and we still need support sometimes. "

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 22, 2017, with the headline 'Rekindling kampung spirit with 1,000 towels'. Print Edition | Subscribe