A group of more than 10 Bukit Timah residents rolled up their sleeves and spent Sunday morning (July 19) helping to trim some 1.5 hectares of overgrown grass around Housing Board blocks in Toh Yi.
Many are newcomers who had moved in just two months ago and hope to show their appreciation for the warm welcome they received from their new neighbours.
In fact, these newcomers are migrant workers housed at the former Ngee Ann Polytechnic staff apartments at 90, 92 and 94 Kismis Avenue, a five-minute walk from Toh Yi Drive.
One of them is Mr Natesan Muniaiah, 32, a worker from India who has been in Singapore for eight years. His employer, Woh Hup, had agreed to the initiative as had King Wan Construction, which employs some of the other workers.
Mr Natesan is currently staying at Block 92. He told The Straits Times he was glad to have a chance to give back.
"It is a Sunday, but we are very happy to volunteer to do this as we are staying in the area."
Some 1,030 migrant workers in essential services moved into the apartments in early May.
They were greeted with care packs by the residents, who have since continued to give them food and other supplies.
Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Sim Ann, who is MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, joined Sunday's initiative.
"I was very touched by how positively the workers responded to the community's efforts to welcome them and that they are willing to come out and help us even on their rest day," she said.
Her sentiments were shared by resident Nancy Tan, 73.
Upon seeing Ms Sim and the workers toiling under the sun near her home in Block 8 Toh Yi Drive, Ms Tan came out with offerings of water and chilled drinks.
As a survivor of dengue fever, the potentially deadly disease carried by mosquitoes, Ms Tan said she was worried that overgrown grass could gather water and become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
"The grassy areas around here are where children sometimes play. So I was very happy to see them cutting the grass this morning," added the resident who has lived in Toh Yi for three years.
Ms Sim shared that Toh Yi was prioritised under the initiative as the area is a cluster of 22 dengue cases, one of seven clusters in her Bukit Timah ward, which together have over 40 cases.
She also said it has been hard to maintain the estate's landscaping during the pandemic as workers in many horticultural firms had not been cleared by the authorities to resume work.
But Mr Edward Chia, a fresh face and her recently-elected teammate, managed to use his business network to secure help, she said.
Mr Chia, who was at a similar Sunday morning grass-cutting exercise in his Zhenghua ward, said he was thankful for the volunteers who stepped forward to support the community effort.
He also thanked "fellow SME owner and friend" Michael Teh, who runs Nature Landscapes, the firm that he contacted to help with the grass-cutting.
"This can-do spirit and ownership really exemplifies the best of our community," said Mr Chia.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.