Story by Jonathan Tan, LabourBeat/ Photos by Jonathan Tan, LabourBeat and Young NTUC
Saturday mornings in Yio Chu Kang tend to be quiet affairs with residents strolling to the market for groceries and then adjourning to the coffeeshops for a leisurely breakfast.
Things were different on 1 December 2018, when over 250 volunteers from the unions, grassroot organisations, Young NTUC’s youth networks and students from ITE East and ITE Central added some vim and vigour to the neighbourhood by setting up pop-up pasars (markets) in five locations.
Organised by Young NTUC in collaboration with NTUC Income OrangeAid, the U Heart Pasar Fiesta community engagement project aimed to bring some festive cheer to 1,7000 under-privileged families and seniors living in the district. With the support of 20 unions and NTUC Income OrangeAid, the volunteers raised nearly $80,000 worth of funding and food supplies for the engagement.
Forging A Community Spirit
Unlike traditional food distribution activities that go door-to-door, Young NTUC opted to foster more interaction and engagement by having the beneficiaries come ‘shop’ for what they like at the pop-up pasars. Each beneficiary received a trolley bag to ‘shop’ while volunteers took on roles like befrienders and ‘stallholders’ to assist them through the shopping process.
“I think that this is a very refreshing idea because we usually go from door-to-door distributing the food. The interaction time is very short. This is more fun and interactive for both volunteers and residents because they can now choose what they want.
“As the stallholder, I will be able to share with them the options which have the Healthier Choice symbol or even no sugar. This knowledge will be good for them in future when they go grocery shopping. This is more meaningful than just giving them the items,” said 32-year-old Hannah Looi (pictured right) from the Singapore Insurance Employees’ Union.
“Being able to make the residents smile, and give them a better day, is a good thing. I feel happy that I’ve been able to do just that and make a small difference to this group of less fortunate seniors, many of whom are living alone,” she added.
“My plan was to talk to the residents and find out if they have made their choices of groceries that they would like to pick. I will also try my best to answer any questions they may have and find out if they need any additional assistance, such as job searching or picking up new skills.
"To me, I’m just a Singaporean helping another Singaporean. I find it meaningful to be able to reach out and help someone who might need a little bit of support,” said 35-year-old Leon Chua (pictured below).
The Young Housing Development Board Staff Union leader took on the role of a befriender and got to engage with the beneficiaries.
One of the beneficiaries felt the event was “a bit more fun, and a bit more engaging”.
“We got to know the volunteers a little better. Being able to choose what we want and need is also much better than being given something which we might not use. I think this is a good choice. It is also nice to know that there are people we can communicate with because sometimes, we might not know who to talk to if we have questions,” said Mdm Aisha (pictured above left with Leon), a beneficiary.
“I think that this is a good thing, and I find it meaningful to be able to spend my weekend giving back and help in doing a good deed,” said 28-year-old Monteiro Mohd Azhar (pictured above) from the Metal Industries Workers Union.
“It is heartening to see the Labour Movement network coming together and joining forces with community partners to make a difference in the lives of under-privileged residents. We are grateful to our volunteers from the unions and grassroots, who have volunteered their time and actively contributed towards raising funds for the purchase of daily necessities. Young NTUC’s partners – NTUC Health, FindJobs, NTUC LearningHub, NTUC Membership and Growthbeans – were also present to engage residents and help them understand how they can improve their employability as well as source for new employment should they wish to do so,” said NTUC Deputy Secretary-General Dr Koh Poh Koon. He is also advisor to the Yio Chu Kang Grassroots Organisations.
Young NTUC Executive Secretary Desmond Choo added: “Initiatives like Pasar Fiesta enable our youth union leaders to rally other like-minded individuals to do good for the community. Since Young NTUC U Heart’s inception in 2016, we have provided them with the platform to inspire and attract others who believe in a common cause, and support them towards putting their plans into action.”