'Grassroots volunteering can revive kampung spirit'

SINGAPORE - The kampung spirit of yesteryear can be recreated if more people volunteer with grassroots groups and join community events, said Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee.

A kampung heartland can be recreated only "if that's what you want your neighbourhood to be", said the Jurong GRC MP at a community event called Jurong Spring Cultural Journey on Sunday.

About 600 residents turned up for the activity, the first of Jurong Spring Community Centre's events to have an international twist, featuring cultural activities of groups including the Thais and Spaniards. Children tried out Filipino Kulintang music instruments while adults took sips of Chinese tea and learnt to appreciate it.

Such events give neighbours a chance to meet - the starting point of deeper relationships, Mr Lee said.

Housekeeper Ko Joo Leng, 39, a Jurong resident of eight years, agreed. "It always starts off small, but now I have breakfast with my neighbours and we shop for groceries together too."

Community-building is critical even in a mature estate like Jurong, said Mr Lee. Most of the disputes between neighbours that he deals with are from newer blocks, where residents are younger, or blocks which see high turnover.

"There are always fault lines present - race, religion, language, new citizens versus old citizens - but it's not impossible to overcome them."

He cited the example of one particular floor, where residents have formed a "modern kampung". "They are multi-racial, comprising young families and they all know (one another) - this rubs off on their young too."


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.