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A giraffe with a short neck, a garden that uses positive acts to grow beautiful flowers and a reminder that kindness doesn’t have to be big.

All these are simply yet riveting stories created by students from schools all over Singapore as part of the annual Write for Kindness workshops.

The national creative writing competition, jointly organised by the Singapore Book Council and the Singapore Kindness Movement, brought 413 students from 50 secondary schools and junior colleges together to write a story or poem for preschool children.

Every year, the students impress with the originality of their stories and illustrations. This year was no different.

Here are some of their entries:

Winner (Poetry-Writing and Illustration): San Yu Adventist School — Kindness Starts Small

Matthew writes poetry and Jenita draws portraits in their spare time
Matthew writes poetry and Jenita draws portraits in their spare time. Image source: San Yu Adventist School

Once, when 16-year-old Jenita Kingston saw an elderly couple struggling to carry their bags, she immediately offered to help them even though she was carrying a heavy load herself.

They accepted and the couple’s gratitude stuck with her since.

It became the inspiration for an illustration, with fellow student Matthew Leeroy Kusuma Khou writing a poem, on their joint submission — Kindness Starts Small.

As its name suggests, it is about how kindness can be found in the most simple of actions.

When Matthew brainstormed ideas for the poem, he also decided to draw on his own experiences.

Poem by San Yu Adventist School
Image Source: San Yu Adventist School

Kindness should be in everyone’s hearts
towards every person, near or apart.
Showing kindness is never hard,
it can be done by showing some regard

Kindness can be done through a small action,
and doing it will show others affection
Showing kindness does not need any money,
and it does not make anyone grumpy.

When your friend is feeling under the weather,
tell them a joke to make them feel better.
When you need some help in your task,
all you have to do is to politely ask.

There are many ways to be kind to others,
and treat each other like sisters and brothers.
We should tell the people around us all,
that kindness forever starts small.

Lines like “When your friend is feeling under the weather / tell them a joke to make them feel better” were inspired by his own interactions with his classmates.

“When I see my classmates experiencing something unpleasant, I don’t want them to feel down for the whole day. I try to tell jokes to make them laugh,” he explains.

Both students went out of their comfort zone for this competition. Jenita normally draws in black and white, but she experimented with colour for their entry. Similarly, it was the first time that Matthew had written a poem for preschool children.

Their wish is that children in Singapore be more aware of their surroundings and be more sensitive to helping their classmates.

Matthew says: “It’s the sad reality that our tech-addicted generation tends to neglect those around us. I hope that readers will put down their phone for a while and help others in need.”

They also hope that their poem can teach readers that kindness is found not just in grand displays of philanthropy, but also in the seemingly unextraordinary actions.

Matthew shares that, when he was younger, he thought only wealthy people could do kind things like donating large sums of money. That discouraged him and left him believing that he wouldn’t have a chance to show kindness to others — until he realised that kindness can still be found in the small things.

Similarly, Jenita emphasises the appeal of small deeds: “Even the small things you do can be appreciated by others. It’s good to dream big, but the small things also matter.”

2nd Runner Up (Poetry-Writing and Illustration): Crest Secondary School — Kindness Starts Small

Bianca (left) and Yan Lin (right) worked together to illustrate and write the poem.
Bianca (left) and Yan Lin (right) worked together to illustrate and write the poem. Image Source: Crest Secondary School

Similarly, 13-year-old Crest Secondary School students Mah Yan Lin and Bianca Lim penned an acrostic poem (where the first letter of each line can be put together to give a hidden message) with the words “kindness starts small”, decorating it with colourful, eye-catching drawings.

However, they favoured a different, more practical approach to kindness, focusing on the small kind acts that preschoolers could do, such as opening a door for others or saying thank you.

Yan Lin adds that some children can be harsh, lashing out at others instead of choosing to be kind.

“We didn’t over-exaggerate. We tried to avoid the dramatic parts and be more down-to-earth,” she says.

Writing a poem wasn’t easy for the two Secondary 2 students. Bianca was shocked that she had no idea how to write a poem — let alone make it about kindness.

She confesses: “We didn’t know what words to use, and we didn’t know how to connect the sentences together.”

Inspiration came when they decided to use the phrase “kindness starts small” as a base for an acrostic poem, working with the letters to form the lines of the verses. To make the poem more engaging for preschoolers, they also added illustrations.

Poem by Crest Secondary School
Image Source: Crest Secondary School

They hope that preschoolers will not only enjoy the creativity of their poem, but also ingrain it and apply it to their daily lives.

Yan Lin concludes: “After reading the poem, we hope that they’re inspired to show kindness.”

Winner (Story-Writing and Illustration): NPS International School — Mellie’s Marvelous Garden

Millie’s Marvelous Garden focused on the simple kind acts that children of any age could do.
The team who came up with Mellie’s Marvelous Garden focused on simple kind acts that children of any age could do. Image Source: NPS International School

NPS International School’s team – made up of 15- to 17-year-olds Atreyi Roy, Menaha Gagroo Jain, Shreya Allencherry, Vatsal Dudhaiya, Sarah Menezes and Surabhi Sunkad – emerged as the winners with Mellie’s Marvelous Garden.

A picture book combining traditional and digital media, Mellie’s Marvelous Garden features a little girl named Mellie who wants to know why her parents continue to be kind, even when it is tiring and thankless.

Eventually, she learns the benefits of kindness — and her garden blooms beautifully.

With such a creative story idea, the team had difficulty keeping their story to its 500-word limit. They eventually applied a “show, don’t tell” approach, replacing words with vibrant illustrations of kind acts.

In the story, Mellie’s mother, who teaches Mellie about kindness, shares these words of wisdom: “When someone does a kind act, the world becomes more beautiful. The flowers must have grown because you did something kind.”

PRS International School
Image Source: NPS International School

The kind acts in the story were inspired by the team’s own parents.

“Our parents are our biggest inspiration. We’ve all seen our parents being kind to people and learnt from them,” Vatsal says.

Just as they have been influenced by their parents, the teenagers hope to inspire the preschoolers reading the story.

Surabhi hopes that the story will not only help students apply kindness to their daily lives, but also help them express kindness and create a more inclusive group of friends.

Shreya adds: “Young children still might not understand what kindness is even after being told about it. Hopefully, after reading our story, they can grasp our concept of kindness.”

Runner Up (Story-Writing and Illustration): Chua Chu Kang Secondary School — Spot Saves the Day!

When Muhammad Danialle (third from left) suggested that the main character should be a giraffe with a short neck, everyone agreed immediately.
When Muhammad Danialle (third from left) suggested that the main character should be a giraffe with a short neck, everyone agreed immediately. Image Source: Chua Chu Kang Secondary School

Chua Chu Kang Secondary School’s entry, Spot Saves the Day!, is not your ordinary superhero story. It features Spot, a giraffe with a short neck, as its protagonist.

Because giraffes are instantly recognised for having long necks, Secondary 2 students Miesha Karim, Lyan Chiang, Nur’Atika Sudirman, Syaza Hannah, Valerie Lee and Muhammad Danialle Abdul thought that having a giraffe with a short neck would be “something interesting and unusual”.

Featuring a short-necked giraffe also helped illustrate the sensitive topic of body-shaming in a way appropriate for preschool children.

Illustration by Choa Chu Kang Secondary School
Image Source: Chua Chu Kang Secondary School

The story was inspired by the students’ own experiences with body-shaming. They all have been made to feel insecure because they didn’t fit in, called names for the clothes they wear, or have tried to change in an attempt to please others.

Nur’Atika was most affected — she often has to explain to others why some of her fingers are shorter than others.

“I’ve been judged for how my fingers look, and I have to explain to people that I was born with these fingers. When people ask about my fingers, I feel quite insecure,” she says.

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Instead of treating others based on their outward appearances, the students hope that they can learn how to treat their friends more fairly — based on their personalities.

Muhammad Danialle says: “No matter how tiny, plus-sized or scrawny we are, we can still help others. I hope that body-shaming doesn’t become normalised in our society.”

Not only do they hope that preschoolers will learn to accept one another’s appearances, they also hope that preschoolers will learn to accept themselves exactly as they are.

Valerie says: “We hope that preschoolers can accept the parts of themselves that make them unique, and they won’t make others feel bad because of how they look. ​​After all, we’re all the people, and we’re all the same on the inside.”

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Top Image: San Yu Adventist School, NPS International School, Chua Chu Kang Secondary School