SINGAPORE - On the first day of Chinese New Year, a group of Malay volunteers in Woodlands gathered to bring festive cheer, distributing goodie bags to elderly Chinese who live alone in rental flats and organising a "makan" session for about 300 residents.
Sembawang GRC MP Amrin Amin shared photos of the event at Block 802, Woodlands Street 81, in a Facebook post on Sunday (Feb 18).
About 25 Malay volunteers who live in Woodlands turned up to help organise the session, which was attended by residents of all races and ages, Mr Amrin told The Straits Times on Tuesday (Feb 20).
They were joined by about 50 motorcyclists from four biker groups, who helped to distribute packs of food such as chicken rice and beehoon to 100 homes.
The recipients were mainly elderly Chinese who live alone, as well as those who are less mobile, although the volunteers gave out food to Indians and Malays too.
Mr Amrin had met some of the leaders of the biker groups while on his house visits, and invited them to participate in the charity event, which they did so heartily, he said.
This was the second time such an event was organised on the first day of Chinese New Year for the Woodlands residents, Mr Amrin said.
However, it was the first time the bikers got involved with the distribution of food. It was also the first time volunteers helped spring clean the homes of some elderly residents.
About 30 volunteers spruced up the windows, toilets and living areas of eight homes on the Sunday leading up to Chinese New Year.
"We started on a small scale with eight houses, all from rental blocks in Woodlands," said Mr Amrin. The work was done by Malay volunteers, which he had requested for as he did not want to disturb Chinese volunteers who were preparing for or celebrating Chinese New Year.
Joining in the festivities were 16 men from a local van drivers club called Abam Abam Van Singapura, along with some of their wives.
The club said on Facebook that the event was a blessing "as we got to know more people who shared the same passion that we have in the name of charity".
Project engineer Khairil Anuar, 32, the leader of Abam Abam Van Singapura, told ST that the event went well.
"It was a good charity event. I feel good doing it as I am also residing in Woodlands," he said.
Mr Muhamad Faiz, 30, who helped organise the events as co-chairman of Woodlands' Malay Activities Executive Committee, said the residents really enjoyed the makan session.
"I believe that food is a great tool to bond people together. And having Mr Amrin prepare the prata, it's a special treat for them," he said. "Those staying alone shouldn't be left out during this joyous occasion. We'll probably do it again next year, it'll probably be bigger next year."
Mr Amrin told ST that sharing food is a good practice that he hopes to encourage, and one that he has grown up with.
"I think most of us grew up in that environment where during the festive season we exchanged goodies," he said.
"I'm very heartened by the response, in particular by different groups of people coming together. This is what we've talked about - the kampung spirit. When our Chinese friends are busy celebrating Chinese New Year, another group can come in to help and spread the cheer."
Mr Amrin said Mr Ong Lai Seng, one of the residents who was at the makan session and whose flat was cleaned by volunteers, told him: "Here, everyone is good, Malay, Chinese, Indian all good."
He said it was a "demonstration of good neighbourliness, of racial and religious harmony, a compassionate society taking care of the elderly and the needy".
"It's a mass effort. It showcased the best of what we want to do," he said. "Now that's the Singapore spirit," he wrote in his Facebook post.