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I’ve lived in Clementi for the past couple of years and one thing I’ve realised is that it’s more than important to develop bonds with our neighbours.

Since I moved into my Clementi HDB block, I started a library of free books at my corridor lift landing. My neighbours and I also decorated our common space together and sent it for Singapore Kindness Movement’s HoodChamps’ corridor decoration competitions.

Over the past year, we have come in third for National Day and Christmas and second for Chinese New Year!

Recently, I met one of my neighbours, Stella Llewellyn, who offered to donate her mother’s upcycled denim tote bags for residents to carry any books they might want to pick up at our free library.

It took me a moment to realise how well-designed the bags were! They were made with such experienced hands and I felt that more people needed to see her work.

So I thought… Why not start a little fundraising project together? Both of our mothers can sew. This was a great idea!

My mother, Lim Lee Huah, is just your regular 70-year-old housewife. When she has the energy, she is more than happy to do some sewing, especially since after Covid-19 hit.

When she was 6, her mother (my grandmother) passed away and so my grandfather taught her how to use the sewing machine from a very young age.

Tan Sze Wei and her mother Lee Huah.
Tan Sze Wei and her mother Lee Huah. Image source: Tan Sze Wei

When she became a mum herself, she used to make patchwork blankets for me when I was younger. Now, she does it for my children. She stopped after she realised that making these blankets was very time consuming. But since the circuit breaker in April 2020, she wanted to do something for others the way she knew how: Sewing.

My mother is someone who always needs her hands to be busy doing something.

She did other things as well, sewing masks for the Mask Sewn With Love project for the needy during the pandemic.

Nowadays, if she isn’t busy around the house, she has started making blankets again, this time for charity.

She’s a sewing veteran who uses her skill for others now. Just like Stella’s mother.

That was why I thought it’d be nice for both our mothers to do something. Stella and I can handle the logistics!

Stella Llewellyn and her mother Cecila.
Stella Llewellyn and her mother Cecila. Image source: Stella Llewellyn

Stella’s mother, Cecilia, is a 74-year-old retired seamstress. Despite being retired, she still keeps up with her sewing by upcycling old fabrics from her friends.

Both she and my mum constantly try to find new ways of upcycling.

Cecilia told me that she would love to try upcycling batik, whereas my mother, interestingly enough, wants to try incorporating food wrappers (cleaned, of course!) like coffee powder sachets into her creations.

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Funnily enough, even though Stella and I are Clementi neighbours, both our mothers have not met: My mother lives in Yishun and Stella’s mother in Jurong.

Even more funny, even though they have made 20 bags together so far, both mums haven’t met each other!

My mum told me that she does want to meet Stella’s mother, to get to know “another friend good in crafts”, as she calls her, in the work they do together to sell for charity.

We intend to sell these bags (and patchwork blankets!) on Giving.sg to raise funds for charity. Since it’s World Kindness Day on Sunday (Nov 11), we’ve decided to donate those funds to the Singapore Kindness Movement. We hope we can raise $1,000 at least.

Starting small charity projects with neighbours!

Starting small charity projects with neighbours!
Some of the denim tote bags made so far. Image source: Stella Llewellyn

Both our mothers have another goal in mind. They want to encourage more people to learn how to sew, even if it’s just to thread a needle to fix a button or do a simple hem for a dress.

Some might say that as neighbours, it is unnecessary for us to start an initiative. But we disagree. This is something we can do to raise funds to help others and at the same time, upcycle used items like jeans into cute bags.

I’m sure we can find our own small projects, with our neighbours, to give back to others and not just those around us. Join Stella and me on our journey with our mothers to help out as much as we can!

Tan Sze Wei

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