Happy Kindness Day everyone!
It’s the time of year where Singapore is covered in yellow, from bright gerbera standees to buses and with our very own Singa as well.
This day is a celebration and a reminder for people to spread kindness, even through these tough times.
This year’s theme is “Make Life Brighter”, encouraging us to show our appreciation to the kind people around us and these ground-up movements (GUMs) inducted by the Singapore Kindness Movement today do just that.
These initiatives spread kindness throughout Singapore by showing appreciation and being a pillar of support to others.
“There is so much creativity within the children that could be cultivated”
Abhishek Bajaj, 29, a graduate student at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, started as a community worker in different neighbourhoods with Beyond Social Services in 2017, conducting monthly art sessions.
One of the communities he served at before he left the organisation in 2018 was in Kebun Baru. The strong bonds he had with the community, coupled with his desire to create a space to engage children on the weekends, led him to set up 6th sense with architect Jezamine Chua, 26 and art teacher Manisha Nishad, 28, in 2019.
“At 6th sense, we believe in seeing each person develop holistically, living a life of purpose, balance and meaning to them,” Abhishek tells The Pride.
The team conducts fortnightly Saturday evening sessions, befriending seven to 14-year-olds in the Kebun Baru community, immersing them in art inspired by nature or from their own imagination. They also engage in free play around the blocks and at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.
During the new heightened alert measures, they are conducting zoom sessions, helping them to prepare for their exams.
The team has also been focusing on meeting their digital needs by ensuring all of them have the necessary data cards and laptops.
He adds: “Our focus is on playing an enabling role in the community for them to achieve their goals and dreams.”
The team believes that children need to have their own voice and practice it actively and choose art to help them express themselves. During sessions, the children engage in nature-based activities such as making rafts, nature fashion shows and playing with yarn and clay.
“We hope to impress on our children that play doesn’t need to be expensive and can be built on what is commonly available in nature. That they can express themselves through their creativity, by building on each other’s ideas and resourcefulness,” explains Abhishek.
Abhishek, Jezamine and Manisha plan to create resource kits based on their experiences, to reach children in other neighbourhoods, as well as expand their work in areas such as sports-based sessions.
They also hope to expand their volunteer team, to have a regular presence in Kebun Baru.
Abhishek shares that one of the ways to support the 6th sense is getting in touch with them, to help with funding, resources or volunteering.
“We believe that once you have those ties built (with the community), you can create spaces of learning through iteration.”
Fruit Basket Day
We often refer to Singapore as a safe, clean and green city. We have a relatively low crime rate, clean roads and well-kept greenery around the city.
While we enjoy our environment, have we ever stopped to consider thanking the people responsible for keeping us safe, and our surroundings clean and green?
One evening , Ranbir Singh, 49, and his family were returning to their condominium after a visit in 2018, when it struck them how lucky they were to live in such a pleasant environment.
“So many people contribute to creating this environment: The security guards, the gardeners, the cleaners. All of those members of the community are doing so much, contributing so much to make our living so much better,” Ranbir tells The Pride.
He wanted to do something to appreciate them, to let them know that it’s not just a job and what they were doing was impacting people in a positive way. This led to him to start a “Fruit Basket Day” in their condominium community.
He says: “We need to recognise and share our appreciation for those who make our environments good for us.”
It’s a simple but heartfelt set-up. The family places baskets at two distribution points in the condominium every Friday, and residents can place any fruit into the baskets between 10 am to 2 pm. The management staff would then distribute the fruits to the service staff.
Out of all items, why fruit? In short, it’s for sustainability.
Ranbir says it’s because they didn’t want to do an act of appreciation only once a year.
“The staff does so many things for us on a daily basis, remembering once a year or only during holidays like Diwali or Christmas, is not enough. We wanted to show them more often how we appreciate them.”
“The thing about fruit is, they’re healthy, easily available and there are no religious restrictions either,” explains Ranbir.
Ranbir shared how this initiative has helped the resident foster a sense of community as well. In the past two years, up to 80 percent of the community have participated in Fruit Basket day.
Service staff members tell him how fondly they remember the fruit baskets even after they leave the condominium, says Ranbir.
He hopes to expand his initiative to other communities but first wants to implement it in other condominiums as well as schools.
“I have reached out to where my children study, and the school likes the idea as well,” he says.
He advises people who want to set up similar initiatives within their communities to keep such tokens of appreciation simple. That helps to create a more long-term, sustainable initiative.
“It’s simple but it leaves an impression,”
Autoimmune Diseases Singapore
In 2016, during a stressful period with work, Nicole Chan, 31, started feeling pain in her knees. It spread to her jaw and finally to her wrists. These symptoms progressed quickly and within three months, she had difficulty walking, dressing herself and couldn’t even hold cutlery while eating. She finally was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that presents as joint pain.
There are many types of autoimmune disease, Nicole tells The Pride, with people having different experiences and ways of handling it. One thing in common they share, however, is feeling anxiety or a related mental stress, sometimes even before experiencing physical symptoms.
Nicole herself struggled with her mobility issues.
“Although my mobility has improved over the years, I am not able to participate in high impact sports as it is very painful. I need to ensure that I don’t overdo anything or get too tired or it may trigger a flare-up,” Nicole shares with The Pride.
She also struggled with taking her medicine on time.
Nicole says: “Brain fog is a real thing when you have an autoimmune condition. I even tried to set reminders on my phone but I ignored it so much that I think it has stopped trying to remind me!”
Despite these difficulties, Nicole says that she has been very fortunate to remain independent despite her condition and this is all due to the support from healthcare staff.
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They always ensured that she had the necessary information and resources needed. They would remind her to take her medication on time. Her doctor had even referred her to a medical social worker who helped her get a medical subsidy.
“They treat everyone with kindness and make visits more bearable even as they are busy and working in a stressful environment themselves. This is so important to us, especially when we are still going through the roller coaster of managing our symptoms. It might sound like they are just doing their job, but without them, we would not be able to work, look after our families and enjoy the little things in life,” shares Nicole.
Her appreciation for these healthcare professionals led her to become one of the more active members of the Autoimmune Diseases Singapore support group.
The group was founded by Be Kind SG’s Sherry Soon in 2013, and transitioned to a closed Facebook group in 2015. Nicole joined in 2016 after her diagnosis, looking for more information and guidance about her condition.
In 2018, Nicole started organising more activities for the 300-plus members because she wanted to share more on her experience and what she has learnt.
Last year, for National Day, the group produced a music video to thank the healthcare staff who take care of them, and distributed more than 1000 care packs to clinics around Singapore.
“While not all of us have close relationships with the doctors, nurses and clinic staff, we appreciate the little things they do for us. For me, the staff at the Autoimmunity & Rheumatology Centre at SGH are always so kind and friendly; they make the check-ups so much more pleasant,” says Nicole.
The group members also hope to raise awareness about autoimmune disease by sharing their own experiences with them on social media.
They want to continue to provide a positive and safe space for members, develop community resources with healthcare professionals and continue appreciation projects for healthcare staff.
Nicole hopes that Singaporeans would be more open to learning about the different autoimmune diseases, especially since many autoimmune diseases don’t have obvious physical symptoms.
Instead of making assumptions about those with autoimmune conditions, they can learn to be empathetic by being a listening ear or helping them with small actions like running errands.
Nicole adds: “I want to remind Singaporeans to treat everyone with kindness, especially the healthcare workers.”
Let’s help spread kindness
These three ground-up movements are just a few out of the many good-hearted people showing appreciation and helping others in Singapore.
Kindness does not always need to be a huge gesture.
It could be giving a piece of fruit, saying thank you or spending a few hours of your weekend to help spark someone’s creativity.
For Kindness Day SG, take these initiatives as a motivation to spread gracious living and empathy, either in your own community or in areas you feel passionate about. It’s a step towards a kinder Singapore.
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