Making it possible for every young person…

Education is also a key enabler of social mobility. We cannot guarantee equality of outcome, but we seek to provide equal opportunity for every student. We thus…ensure that no child is deprived of educational opportunities because of their financial situation… – Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Education, on “Education for Competitiveness and Growth”

These words echo loud within the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC where many young people have been benefiting from its Community Scholarship programme.

One student is 18-year-old Ms Ong Boon Cheng from Toa Payoh East, who is pursuing a Diploma in Accountancy at the Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Now in the first year of a three-year course, Ms Ong was pleasantly surprised when she was successful in her application. The former Cedar Girls’ Secondary School student had spent almost a year at a junior college before she opted out because of many challenges at home which distracted her. Then last year her dad passed away. Her mother, a secretary, had to shoulder the burden of raising the family.

Ms Ong went on to complete the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry diploma in computerised accounting and business studies. But she knew she has to do more than that if she was to achieve her dream to pursue a career in the accounting profession.

“I applied for the scholarship and I felt so relieved when I got it. I realised that there are people out there who care for me and my family. The scholarship lightened the financial burden and made it possible for me to pursue my studies, ” said Miss Ong who has since stopped giving private tuition so as to devote more time to her studies. She has an elder brother, who is now working, and a younger sister who is still studying.

Today, Ms Ong has learnt to put the past behind her and to look forward. She offers her time as a volunteer with the Toa Payoh East Youth Executive Committee (YEC) putting in some 10 hours a month on average to help other youths.

“l have gone through a difficult phase in life and I can feel for others who face such circumstances, ” she added. “We organise activities to engage the youths, giving out subsidized tickets to Adventure Cove Waterpark, The Escape Artist. We also bring under privileged children for cable car rides, River Safari, Sea Aquarium etc. ”

Ms Ong takes charge of one of the three groups – the Programme Group in YEC; the other two groups take charge of Engagement and Publicity.

” It is quite hectic coping with my studies but I am encouraged by my friends and family. I really enjoy my subject and so that helps.”

As a former brownie and a Girl Guide in her school days, she is used to interacting with people. Currently she is also giving service in the polytechnic’s BP-NP Mentoring Club which was founded in 1996 to aid academically weak students in primary and secondary schools. She also serves in Ngee Ann Rotaract Club.

“I am currently embarking on a project called “tabs” to make prosthetic legs for the needy in Singapore with the help of the Prostheses Foundation in Thailand, ” she said.

Ms Ong finds volunteering self-fulfilling. It helps her improve her interpersonal skills and how to be a team player. “It’s a way to give back to society. ”

– This article first appeared in a Town Council newsletter.

Image from Pixabay.

Be a responsible neighbour in your neighbourhood

Living in a HDB estate is akin to living in a large extended family. That can be a lot of fun and lively, or an absolute nuisance, depending on what the resi-dents make out of it. We share walls and corridors with immediate neighbours. We share common facilities across the estate. Beyond our apartments, there are no clear boundaries. What we do at home or in the estate may affect our neighbours one way or another.

Being responsible to our neighbourhood creates a pleasant and harmonious environment for us all to live in. Keeping our volume levels low at home would make our neighbourhood a peaceful and quiet one. Cleaning up after our pets would also keep the environment clean for us and our neighbours.

Littering, especially bulky litter, is one of the biggest problems that ruins the living environment of a HDB estate. Sometimes, bulky items are placed along the corridors or disposed at common amenities like lift landings, creating obstructions and potential fire hazards. Residents can approach the Town Council for help to dispose such items.

We can, and we must take it upon ourselves to protect the well-being of our estate. Residents and Town Council need to work together to achieve the ideal neighbourhood. Here are some examples of simple things we can do to maintain or even enhance the quality of life at home:

– Do not obstruct the corridors and common areas with litter and bulky items. If you require assistance with moving them, call the Town Council at 6259 6700 or email them at prm@btptc.org.sg for assistance.

– Bag all your litter and throw them inside the central rubbish chute or bring them down to the void decks where there are numerous rubbish bins.

– Use public property with care; damaging or defacing common property is vandalism and perpetrators can be penalised by the law.

– Leash your pets when walking them, and clean up after them in common areas.

– Feed strays in a responsible manner and clear all leftover food away after feeding. Feeding strays is not illegal, but littering and dirtying public spaces is. Regardless, one should not feed pigeons as they spread diseases.

– Do not let down your guard on Zika and Dengue mosquitoes. Ensure that your house and corridor are free of stagnant water.

If you see someone not doing things right, speak to your neighbourhood grassroots group. Most people are reasonable but simply lack the knowledge or self- awareness. They would be grateful to be informed. Bishan-Toa Payoh is home for everyone.

– This article first appeared in a Town Council newsletter.

Image from Pixabay