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Every week, I trawl what’s happening in Singapore – online or in the physical – to look for what people are talking about, and share a hot take, Singapore Kindness Movement-style.

But this week, I’m going to change it up a little.

This week, I was meant to write about Kindness Day SG, World Ageing Festival 2023, the Ridout Road kerfuffle and Npark’s Festival of Biodiversity happening this weekend.

And most of it is already written. You can read it below if you’d like. But I’d like to start with this instead, if you don’t mind.

Saying goodbye

Yesterday, I said goodbye to a friend.

I first heard about Jane Koe from the Singapore National Stroke Association (SNSA) in 2021. She was meant to be part of a three-profile feature that we were doing on the non-profit organisation.

But after meeting her, Janice, the writer, texted me excitedly to tell me. “There’s no way can I keep Jane’s story short. She has such a full life!”

And a full life she had.

Jane finally succumbed to her cancer on Tuesday (May 23), at age 71.

At her wake, Janice and I met one of her sons Darryl, his wife Yong Lin and two of her sisters-in-law whose names, I confess, I couldn’t hear – the hall was so buzzing with conversations from visitors.

As I listened to the chatter and watched the bittersweet smiles of the people around me, I was hit by a thought, that even in her passing, Jane was still bringing people together.

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I didn’t know her as well as some of the other people in her life, but the stories that I heard last night were the same: “She was always so encouraging”, “she always liked my posts”, “people would joke that she was my top fan!”

That’s the effect that Jane had on people.

She was the caregiver for her husband Alan, a stroke survivor, but she was also part of SNSA’s executive committee. And she was always so enthusiastic about getting people – stroke survivors – to talk about their lives.

She would also text me every now and then to tell me what a nice article we had just published on The Pride – something that I appreciated, simply because it’s just so genteel and old-school. People don’t do that nowadays.

She always insisted on calling me Mr Solomon, even though she was way more senior in age, life experiences and ability to me!

I last met her in January when she came to visit me at my office. Before leaving, she insisted on taking a photo with me. I almost never take photos, but I agreed, because frankly, it’s hard saying no to her.

Jane Koe was a tireless champion for others. Image source: Solomon Lim

I found out later that she shared that photo with her family chat, talking excitedly about meeting me. It was very Jane, to put the spotlight on other people, even when she is the real star of the show.

I believe that’s how we should live our lives too – to raise other people up, and to find joy in that endeavour.

For all her joie de vivre, Jane is certainly a star. And the world is a slightly less bright place now that she’s gone.

Goodbye, Ms Jane, you will be missed.

Still with me? Okay. Here are some of the other things happening in Singapore this week.

Kindness Day SG

(From far left): Taking photos with a Kindness Cubbie; playing giant Jenga; and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Mr Edwin Tong, and SKM’s General Secretary Dr William Wan taking a selfie with Singa. Image source: Singapore Kindness Movement

Last Saturday was Kindness Day SG, a day to commemorate all things kind in Singapore.

Organised by the Singapore Kindness Movement, the day-long series of events including interactive storytelling sessions, music performances and games at PLQ Plaza.

Children were entertained by Singa and the Kindness Cubbies and left with goodie bags and a picture with their favourite character. Adults weren’t left out either, as there was a photobooth run by special-needs group These-abled Can Volunteer, one of the several SKM member organisations, called Ground-Up Movements, or GUMs.

Participants taking a family photo at the photobooth. Image source: These-abled Can Volunteer

More than 2,500 visitors played games and filled up bingo cards to redeem prizes at booths run by GUMs like Blossom World Society, The Morning Greeters, GenLab Collective and HAY.WeCare.

“My friends and I enjoyed an afternoon of heartwarming conversations and fun!” said one participant visiting friends from HAY.WeCare, a mental well-being community.

After an afternoon of exciting programmes (which included a noisy game of giant Jenga), the inauguration ceremony began at 6pm. Ten new GUMs were inducted into SKM, along with five social enterprises that promote kindness, called OKIEs (Organised Kindness Initiatives and Enterprises) and four VoLKs (Voices of Loving Kindness), individuals who use their platforms to advocate for kindness.

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Commenting on this year’s theme, “Amp Up Your Kindness”, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong said: “The phrase ‘amp up’ also calls for us to overcome our fears of being awkward or rejected and dare take the initiative to spread kindness.”

“For those of us for whom greeting others, showing consideration and appreciation towards others is already a way of life, why not amp up your kindness to the next level?”

World Ageing Festival 2023

The World Ageing Festival end tomorrow.

The five-day event that started on Monday at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre is organised by social enterprise Ageing Asia.

We spoke with Ageing Asia founder Janice Chia and the 44-year-old said that she wanted “to build an ecosystem with businesses, industries, and academia in the business of ageing.”

The festival, which features 100 speakers and 100 exhibitors from 50 countries, includes a product exhibition, an active ageing seminar and the 11th Asia Pacific Eldercare Innovation Awards.

General Secretary of Singapore Kindness Movement Dr William Wan moderating a panel discussion at the World Ageing Festival X SUSS Geronpreneurship Innovation Festival. Image source: Singapore Kindness Movement

This year’s theme, “Celebrating Life and Longevity”, focuses on the changing the mentality  of younger generations towards seniors who prioritise health, independence, and purpose.

Janice said that with people living longer, the challenge is to keep them out of the healthcare system as long as possible – to be contributing consumers to society.

“We don’t want people to think that everything about ageing is all about care and weakness. We want people to see that older people are going to change the future too,” Janice told The Pride.

Ridout Road

After weeks of online mutterings on social media, the Government has come out to address issues over two residential properties at Ridout Road rented separately by Law Minister K Shanmugam and Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan.

Although it took a while for the Government to address the issue, I believe this is the best way forward. It’s best to deal with allegations in the open, rather than letting rumours and speculation run rampant on social media.

The independent review of the properties was requested by the ministers themselves and will be completed “expeditiously”, said PM Lee.

I’m looking forward to hearing more about how this matter is dealt with.

International Day for Biodiversity

To celebrate this year’s International Day for Biodiversity (May 22), Nparks has organised a Biodiversity Festival this weekend that is packed full of workshops and talks that will make you appreciate the rich biodiversity of our urban society.

It may not be as quirky as spotting Mr Froggie outside a mall, but the workshops and activities this weekend will certainly entertain and educate the whole family.

There are workshops by local environmental groups like Singapore Wildcat Action Group at Heartbeat @Bedok from 10am to 8pm as well as many other interesting activities on marine conservation, origami, and even Singapore’s spider diversity!

Additional reporting by Jayden Tan and Lydia Nabilah

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