In one of the community walks in November 2017, SCC workers found out that the children in Leng Kee Park were organically celebrating their friend’s birthday in their own little ways. Through interaction with the children, it was found that their aspiration was to be able to continue celebrating each other’s birthday. Following a few rounds of conversations with the children, the celebration of individual’s birthday evolved into a monthly birthday pot-luck party where children who regularly frequent the park brought along $2 worth of snacks to share with their friends.
This monthly celebration soon caught the attention of the adult residents in Lengkok Bahru, who were curious by the lively gathering of the children around food and the fun they were having. When the parents of the children involved in the birthday parties learned from SCC workers about their children’s aspiration for the birthday celebration, they started to show interest and supported subsequent birthday parties through various contributions. These include re-packing pre-loved items from Goodwill Xchange into birthday gifts, working with the children to organise activities during the party, and preparing delicious food and birthday cakes for the party. The children also invited residents in the community to the birthday parties, making the celebration a great platform for connecting and bridging people from different backgrounds.
Community birthday party in December 2017 held at Leng Kee Park
The platform also provided SCC with an opportunity for learning conversations with the adults and parents of the children. In one of the conversations, the parents shared their concerns for their children playing alone in the park at night without adult supervision, and the possibility of them mixing with ‘bad company’. Seeing the birthday parties as a great way in looking out for the children and also to engage them meaningfully, the parents committed to a bi-monthly community birthday celebration for the children. Supervision groups were also formed by some of the parents themselves by way of supervising their children, such as coaching them in soccer and sending them to compete for tournament as a means of teaching them good values and increase their self-esteem.
One and a half year later, what started off as a monthly birthday celebrations for the children had “grown bigger” to include celebration of festivities such as Hari Raya and Deepavali.
“Previously, I used to just say hi and bye to people in my neighbourhood, now I would say we know each other much, much more.” said Norliah, a resident of Lengkok Bahru, who volunteered to wrap presents from Goodwill Xchange for the children birthdays.
Norliah’s sentiments resonated with the other parents as many agreed that they now know more people in the community and were more connected. The parents commits to growing the group by including and welcoming more people who are willing to come onboard to do something for the children in Lengkok Bahru.
Core planning group for the Community Birthday parties meeting up to reflect on their journey.
“I have been living here for 9 years, but I do not even know my neighbours’ names. Now I can say that I not only know their names but also more about them.” exclaimed Halimah excitedly.
Our learning journey with the Lengkok Bahru residents in this instance has informed us that the communities, by nature, have a strong desire to connect with one another and contribute. With a little bit of encouragement and encouragement, a small spark could lead to great things done by the community, as evident by the story above.