The community spirit in Singapore
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The community spirit in Singapore

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Bird enthusiasts from Boon Lay View organised a 'parrot gathering' for residents in October through Facebook. There are currently plans to form an RC interest groups for bird lovers in the area.

When 36-year old Kor Chun Heng brought supper home one night and found that he was missing chopsticks, he blasted a text on the neighbourhood Whatsapp group, asking if anyone had a pair to spare.

“Straightaway, someone brought chopsticks to my unit, with a box of tissue paper. At 2am,” says the resident of Boon Lay View, a cluster of build-to-order (BTO) flats launched last year.

It is a story reminiscent of the old kampong days. Gone are the attap and zinc-roofed houses, but residents of certain housing estates have brought back kampong spirit with a modern twist – the camaraderie is now facilitated through the means of social media platforms like Whatsapp and Facebook

For instance, the Facebook group, Kampong Boon Lay View currently has 898 members, who post about any subject under the sun, ranging from requests to borrow items, to lobangs for good deals. 

It all started when Kor got his keys to his flat last year. The homeowner lamented the missing community spirit among the younger generation these days, and decided to start a Facebook page for the incoming residents to interact.

“All the uncles and aunties always greet each other in the lift or along the corridor, and are more than willing to lend a helping hand to each other when needed,” he says.

“But I don’t see or feel the same thing with the younger generation. My wish was that if we can start a Facebook page for the estate and continue to let it grow, we can really bring back the old kampong spirit,” added Kor.

Keeping the spirit alive

Community spirit has always been a big part of Singapore’s communal living, stretching back to kampungs that used to dot the island.

With the population growing rapidly since the 1960s, kampungs could no longer support the increased demand for housing. As a result, the Government had to ramp up the building of public housing.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the population live in HDB flats. One drawback, however, is that getting to know each other is a lot harder compared to the kampung days.

That’s where technology comes in, with social media acting as the new medium for residents to interact, says Partheebun Saravan, chairman of the Boon Lay View Residents’ Committee (RC).

In fact, these days, many residents join their new estate’s Facebook group before they receive their keys.

“I knew my neighbour before she got the keys, even before she shifted in. We already broke the ice and were actually eager to meet each other,” says the 30-year old.

Getting to know each other early on has helped draw the residents closer together and they have organised multiple events in their estate.

“Social media is a facilitator – it makes things more convenient. In today’s world, your phone is like your third arm,” says Dr Ho Kong Chong, an associate professor at the sociology department of the National University of Singapore. 

The group has bonded so closely that the constituency’s grassroots advisor Mr Liang Eng Hwa made a provision for them to form an RC in 2012, even though they did not meet the minimum requirement of units needed to set up one.

"When we go for constituency meetings, people look at us as the RC that can organise major events and is so close knitted," says Segar Meadows RC chairman Jason Ong, 34.

Segar Meadows residents at their Halloween event last year organised by the residents committee

Segar Meadows residents at their Halloween event last year organised by the residents committee. The Segar Meadows RC is reputed to be one of the most closely knitted committees in the area, with its close bonds facilitated through social media platforms. 

In modern-day Singapore, where the pace of life is increasingly quicker, forging bonds within the community is more important than ever.

“We live in a high-density environment – there is high potential to have conflicts. If the residents all know each other, a sense of belonging is there, and people will be socially responsible,” says Mr Liang.

Indeed, despite being together for less than a year, most residents at Boon Lay View have fully bought into the community spirit.

About 50 residents recently came together on 15 October for a ‘parrot’ gathering organised by bird enthusiasts around the area, where families interacted with pet parrots and macaws. There is also a plan being mooted to set up a bird interest group.

Indeed, for these residents, staying in a HDB flat is more than just the four walls – it is building a community together, whether it is online, or off.

Says Mr Liang: “We can have all the nice infrastructure, but it is no use if the soul is not there. People are still the most important.” 

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