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Project Refresh: Volunteers Spread Goodness for the Christmas Season

The 150 volunteers who turned up at Thye Hua Kwan Nursing Home were among 600 Project Refresh volunteers who gathered to refurbish residences, senior homes and senior activity centres in the North East CDC

On a rainy Saturday morning, a team of 600 Project Refresh volunteers descended on eight different locations across the North East CDC as part of the 16th edition of Young NTUC - North East CDC Project Refresh. Armed with good intentions, various skills and determination, they decluttered, cleaned, painted and furnished 33 low-income homes in Hougang and Paya Lebar; and enhanced the common spaces of two senior homes and three senior activity centres.

Despite the persistent rain, Project Refresh volunteers carried out the refurbishment of the garden with good cheer 

“This is the first time we are having a hybrid model of Project Refresh where we work on both residential homes as well as senior homes and activity centres. In the past, it was either residences or senior homes,” said Jeslyn Chua, Senior Executive, Youth Development, who is part of the organising team. 

Mayor of North East District and NTUC Assistant Secretary-General Desmond Choo (right) was on hand to help spruce up garden with planters

Of this joint effort with the North East CDC, guest-of-honour Desmond Choo, Mayor of North East District and NTUC Assistant Secretary-General, said: “We have brought in schools, members of the public and community partners to contribute. This is community building. Community building is inclusive, it is about tapping on skills, competencies and resources wherever you are to solve problems collectively.”

 
BATU: Union Pitches In 
 
To give the residences a makeover, the expertise and resources of corporate partners like BUILDERSmart Pte Ltd, Commune Lifestyle, Hua’s Foam Wasaly Spring Mattress Pte Ltd and System Care Pests Control Services were sought. From painting supplies, cleaning items, personal care products to furniture and bedding accessories, the sponsors provided them all.

Planters were added to the Thye Hua Kwan Nursing Home garden and bald patches filled in with grass to create a lush oasis for the residents

At the Thye Hua Kwan Nursing Home, who was one of the beneficiaries, union volunteers from the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees’ Union (BATU) were called upon to take the lead in re-turfing and beautifying the garden. Planters were added along the footpath and barren patches were filled in with grass. 
 
“Our residents come down to care for this garden daily. It gives them a sense of purpose. Families who visit also bring the residents to the garden. It is a way for them to get out of the wards. So, it is better to have a nicer garden,” said Joel Leong, Assistant Head Operations of Thye Hua Kwan Nursing Home.
 
Polas Saidur Rahaman, a supervisor from Prince’s Landscape Pte Ltd., was among the volunteers from BATU who lent their skills to the cause.
 
“BATU invited us to come and do this project. It makes me happy to make people happy by helping with the planting,” said Polas.
 
“We have an interest in landscaping work. So, we have done a lot of such volunteer work.” 
 
Meanwhile, at the Jamiyah Home for the Aged, volunteer mural artist, Elissa Ludher, worked alongside youth volunteers to create murals in the library and resting corner to brighten up the spaces.
 
Even the 650 festive gift sets distributed in keeping with the season of giving were the result of the efforts of partners within the community. Corporations, schools, unions and grassroot leaders came together to pack the gifts which included daily essentials like towels, tote bags and medicated oil as well as cookies baked by stay-at-home mothers who are part of the North East CDC Heartbaker programme. This gave the mums a chance to put their new-found baking skills to good use while earning additional income for their families.
 
Touching Different Lives

In keeping with the season, volunteers taught the residents of Thye Hua Kwan Nursing Home to make Christmas-themed craft
 
This edition of Project Refresh also went beyond the external. Engagement activities with residents of the homes and seniors at the senior activity centres were also organised. Volunteers taught the elderly to make Christmas-themed crafts and put up Christmas trees to celebrate the season. 

Residents welcome interactions with volunteers

 
“Many of our residents get lonely, depressed or bored. Their families visit them infrequently so volunteers who engage them in activities are crucial. It makes them feel loved and cared for. The energy and vibe created by these volunteers have a ripple effect. Even after these volunteers leave, the residents continue to be more willing to be engaged,” explained Mr Leong.
 
SISEU: Union Volunteer Devotes His Time 

Lee Yong Quan (left), helping a resident make Christmas-themed craft

 
Lee Yong Quan from the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees' Union (SISEU) used to volunteer when he was in his teens. But the demands of national service and work soon proved overwhelming, which was why he welcomed the opportunity Project Refresh provided.
 
“Project Refresh makes it easier to volunteer because it takes care of everything and allows me to just concentrate on helping people. I saw how just doing this little bit made the residents feel their voices mattered,” shared Mr Lee.
 
“If you do [volunteer work] from the heart, however small the contribution, they can feel it.”
 
Veteran volunteer April Tan who has done volunteer work both at home and abroad building libraries and painting murals said: “This is a very good initiative in the way that it brings together people of all ages and encourages people to have a spirit of volunteerism. If we are in the position to give, why not give back to society?”
 
That youths are rising to the occasion is a heartening trend.
 
Said Mr Choo: “It is always very uplifting to know that younger people are taking greater ownership of the issues around us, and they genuinely want to care and do more for the less privileged. As long as we continue this movement, we will have a next generation of Singaporeans who will go on to do even better work to serve Singaporeans and Singapore.”
 
 
Past Project Refresh in 2019
 
Launched in 2017, there are four editions of Project Refresh every year. 2019 saw youth volunteers from various unions like HDBSU, SISEU and BATU as well as educational institutions such as Nanyang Technological University and Nanyang Polytechnic chipping in to help. 

Residents of Tampines GRC got a home makeover thanks to Project Refresh volunteers

 
In January, a record-breaking 1,000 volunteers cleaned up some 90 homes in Tampines and gave out handmade Chinese New Year decorations. 
 
Volunteer freelance artist Kelly Atlier (5th from left) from the UFSE network conceptualised the mural for the Ling Kwang Home for Senior Citizens
 
In May, at the 13th edition of the Young NTUC – North East CDC Project Refresh, 200 volunteers went to five Social Service Agency (SSA) Homes with brooms, mops and paint brushes to liven up the common areas. 
 

Volunteers from SISEU de-cluttered, cleaned and painted homes in Kaki Bukit

 
In August, another group of volunteers went to Kaki Bukit to clean up and re-furnish the low-income homes there. In the three years that Project Refresh has been around, over 2,700 volunteers have helped to clean up 301 homes and five SSA Homes across 11 divisions.