Monday, 9 September 2013

Community Exposure reflections (Block Party on 23 Aug '13)

As a "rather privileged" citizen in Singapore, I have been living my own life, not interacting with the full spectrum of Singaporeans. ExCEL is an eye-opener for me, because although I might have imagined the existence of people living in different conditions, ExCEL brought me into contact with them.

To be honest, I did not actually have any expectations of ExCEL prior to the session, because I really did not know what to expect. However, going down there, and actually meeting these people has made me want to know more about them. I did not have the chance to really interact with them closely, but what I had observed was a myriad of circumstances and backstories unknown to me, all playing a part in their interactions with each other. I saw a woman basking in the atmosphere of the block party, others who asked me kindly for extra goodies to give to their grandchildren, and some who were there for reasons beyond me, neither participating nor looking like they were enjoying themselves. I saw event helpers who were there purely through the good in their heart, and others who look like they enjoy socialising with one another. None of these observations could allow me to place judgements on them though, as they were just one-off happenings that could, in itself, have their own backstory.

I hope that future sessions in ExCEL will bring me closer to people, allowing me to better understand them, and perhaps even allowing me to help them if they need it.


Even though this is just a short half-day event, I have learnt a lot from this experience. Despite Singapore being a relatively affluent country, there is still a percentage of low income families and less fortunate group of elderly.  

Something that Mr Marc Lim has left a very deep impression in me. He mentioned that Singapore is the first and only country that managed to develop from a third world to a first world country in a single generation. The elderly are the ones who made this development possible and yet, they are the ones being marginalised.

It made me realise that Singapore has under-appreciated this group of people who has worked so hard for the country. We are ignorant of their efforts and have taken their presence for granted. We ought to be more grateful for their efforts and help to improve their standard of living . Even though our efforts may seem minute, it definitely had a significant impact on their lives.    

This activity has also allowed me to  understand that we are very fortunate and we should always count our blessing and be appreciative of what we have. In addition, we should offer help to the less fortunate wherever possible.


Although I've had experience interacting with the elderly, it was quite some time ago, and this time, low income families were involved. It reminded me of what it is like for these less privileged group of society, who is very much in need of our help and should not be forgotten as the country progresses.

What struck me most was a short interaction with an elderly lady. I think that it was a pity that I could not speak dialect well when she had asked us for help. Initially, we simply assumed what she needed because we did not understand her dialect well enough. I felt a little helpless, though Clarissa did step in to help. I think that we all should learn to connect with these elderly more, so that we understand them better. It is only when we know what they really need that we can actually help them because blindly guessing would not be of any good to them.

I feel that perhaps I'm living in a too sheltered environment, where my friends and myself are from the same background. I really hope that at the end of this excel community journey, I will get to know people from the community and their problems, and truely understand the problems they are facing.


We started the evening with a sharing by Mr Marc Lim, regarding the characteristics of the residents in the district. Even though I knew that some residents there were not well-to-do, the statistics presented by Mr Lim and Mr Chan were quite insightful. Knowing the socio-economic status of the people certainly allowed me to empathise with them better.

Following that, we attended a block party organized for the residents in lieu of National Day. Since I had attended similar events before, I did not take away anything unexpected but it was still a good reminder nonetheless; a good reminder that there are many other less-privileged people in Singapore. Furthermore, until Mr Lim shared, it never came across to me that it was through this celebration that they hoped that the residents would reflect about the country. I feel that it is indeed a good platform to do so.

I wish I had interacted more with the residents though, to find out more about their background as well as their lives. It is through these interactions that we will have a deeper understanding of their circumstances and how we can help. Hence, I hope the future activities will provide a better opportunity for interaction, so that I can gain a variety of perspectives.


The first session of the community EXCEL program was definitely a fruitful one. All of us had a chance to learn more about the less fortunate in Singapore and how we as individuals can help them. Personally, I am really thankful for the opportunity provided by the council to step out of our comfort zone and reach out to Singaporeans who may have been neglected by the society. Being a leader is not just about giving orders and being authoritative, it is also about emphathizing with others, putting ourselves in the shoes of others. And I think this is exactly the purpose of this community EXCEL program - to teach us the meaning of empathy. The Block Party also allowed me to gain different perspectives from different people – the grassroot leaders, church ministries and even the residents themselves. I think this is the first step to empathizing with people as we get to understand each individual/organization’s point of view, concerns or problems. I have learnt quite a fair bit from this session and I really look forward to MPS in the future. Once again, I’m really thankful to have this opportunity. :)

-Chen Si

In the past, I always believed in the strongest of the fittest. One’s success is determined by one’s hard work. That view of mine has changed slowly over the time. I still think that hardwork is a crucial factor of success. However, EXCEL opened me to the idea that one’s environment contributes a lot to one’s success (let’s just use income to measure success). The idea of adaptability is also reinforced in my mind. Hence, we cannot be too quick to judge those that are low-income. It is important to step into their shoes and throw away all preconceived views. We owe our success to these pioneers. However, I find it hard to do this but with time I believe it will be easier.  I hope that there will be more platforms to interact with the residents. The majority of our time was spent on chit chatting or usage of smart phones. I hope that by the end of the journey I will have the ability to communicate with people of different lifestyles, better understanding of the workings of our society and be able to positively impact the people I talk to in any way possible


I have always been keen to study the socio-economic political environment I am in, and form my personal view on how the society functions. Gaining better knowledge of the people occupying the various rungs on the social ladder is part of my attempt to fulfil the above objective. That is what I hope I will take away from the programme, and I would say the first session was a good start of my immersion in that particular community.

Prior to that, I have attended a similar event which included performances for the elderlies. Although I found the programmes of that night familiar to what I have experienced, there were still an abundance of learning points to be picked up from my observations of the people: the organisers, the participants alike. 

Firstly I will talk about the audience. Most of them are senior citizens. At first glance, I sensed something different about them. I must admit that this can be a predisposed opinion, formulated unconsciously in my mind after Mr Lim had introduced to us the social problems of the neighbourhood. But when I looked into their eyes, and tried to feel what emotions are governing their mind at the moment, I thought many of them lacked “energy” in the look of their eye---not physical energy, but the vibrancy of spirit. Yes, we would say senior citizens are generally less active than younger people, but definitely in those elderlies I detected a stark difference from some others I have met in my life whose actions all seem radiant with energy. 

This view was challenged when I saw them stand up to sing patriotic songs and wave the flags. My initial interpretation classified that as a display of patriotism and enthusiasm (although they sang without much expression on their face). However, further analysis reminded me that the possibility also exists that it was the karaoake-like atmosphere that could have served as the main motivation for their passionate response. So are they the people who see life as purposeless, and are merely going for these events to dispel the loneliness, or still have the feelings for the community and life?

Both hypothesises are simplistic, and still largely unfounded. I would seek to vindicate each of them further in later time spent in the community.

-Bo Ning

Albeit having only spent a day with the residents, my perspective of Singaporeans has been broadened. I used to think that advancing from a third world to a first world country means that all Singaporeans are getting more affluent. However, I was proven wrong upon learning that there are still Singaporeans stuck in the cycle of poverty. I am now more aware of the socioeconomic landscape in Singapore, and that there is a group of Singaporeans whom need help. I wish I could have helped them emotionally. I understand that many elderly living in the area are unhappy as they are living in one room flats where it is mandatory for them to have a flat mate for each rented unit. The block party could have brought some joy to the elderly, but my heart sank when it dawned upon me that they would be returning to their lives when the party ended. Such short lived happiness is merely temporary and I wish that I could bring joy to the elderly so they could live the rest of their lives happily. I did not have the chance to interact much with the residents either, although I would like to listen to their life stories and in turn provide companionship to the elderly too. At the end of the entire journey, I hope to be able to empathize with others and to learn more about the residents. Being exposed to something totally out of my comfort zone, I also hope to attain the ability of adapting to my surroundings and thinking critically of events going on around me. More importantly, I hope to make an impact on the residents' lives to let them know that they are not forgotten by society amidst the nation's progress.


I imagined the program to be home visiting to know the living conditions of the people. To my surprise, we are needed to help out in the block celebration of National Day Parade. Besides the duty assigned to us, a few of us actually attended to this elderly who had trouble walking, but wanted to queue for the free snacks available. It was regretful that I could not understand her at first as she was speaking in dialect. But later found out that she could speak some Mandarin.

It's really important for the leader to know the language/dialect his/her people speak to communicates effectively. The MP indeed knows her audience, as she gave her speech in both English and Chinese, in which she said in Chinese first so as to capture her audience's attention. She's indeed people leader.


I wish I could have talked to more residents who participated in the event.

I talked to a few of the residents briefly and I learnt more about their backgrounds based on observation and the brief conversations that I had with them. The residents, especially children and elderly, are very happy to take part in the celebration and watch the performances because they rarely get a chance to do so. 

However, unlike the children who cheered and went around to explore the food booths, the elderly would not show their joy physically, they rarely put a smile on their faces.

I think this is because of the dull and repetitive routines in their everyday life that deprived them of opportunities to celebrate, smile and laugh. Slowly and unknowingly, they are used to putting on an emotionless facial expression.

Hence, I wished I had interacted with them, not just listen to their stories but also share mine with them to picture a more colourful life for them.

I hope I would be able to empathize more with people who are not as fortunate as me.

I also hope that I would be able to be more out-spoken after interacting with the residents.


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