My Newsradio Scripts

These are my old radio news scripts on Singapore's current affairs when I worked as a broadcast journalist.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

In Your Neighbourhood#8- Chek Jawa

Broadcast Date : 02/01/02

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong called for greater social cohesion and citizen involvement in the governance of the country.

Prior to Mr Goh's speech, many other leaders have spoken and many feature articles written about this need for greater citizen participation in Singapore.

In the literal backwaters of Singapore, a place named Chek Jawa may yet prove to be the chrysalis this much hoped-for the fledgling civil society.

Hi welcome to In Your Neighbourhood with me, Chong Ching Liang.

This week, we looked at how an obscure corner of Pulau Ubin is rescued.

Public works and plans aren't made over night.

Usually these plans are made way in advance, sometimes over a decade ago.

But unfortunately, sometimes, when these plans are announced nondescriptly, their implications skipped people by and aren't noticed until it's too late.

That was the pattern that condemned the National Library building in Stamford Road.

When Singaporeans discovered the National Library is really to be demolished, a public frenzy happened.

Letters after letters were sent in to the media and government offices in the hope that a stay of execution would be granted.

But to no avail.

That refreshing burst of civic energy yielded nothing and the more cynical of observers feared the disillusioned masses would give up on the civil society.

But wait!

A little treasure trove of biodiversity in Pulau Ubin has restored some modicum of faith.

Biologist N. Sivasothi, a researcher with the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity

"So at the eleventh hour, the very exciting news that came out of this press release was they want to protect the marine life. They have suddenly said 'Ugh, Okay! We have received a lot of input from the public and from groups and from individuals, lets examine their concerns. Lets see how we can work this out lah.'"

Chek Jawa is granted a stay of execution.

How valuable is the place?

President of the Nature Society of Singapore, Dr Geh Min.

"Yes, well, its not as valuable to nature. Its valuable to everyone in Singapore. Its the very very rich biodiversity of this area. Probably the only one of its kind left. Unless we discover another one, which is highly unlikely."

The shorelines of land scarce Singapore has been decimated by reclamation and its lucrative port trade.

In Chek Jawa, microcosms of marine life that used to dot Singapore coastline miraculously survived, a breathing time capsule.

Dr Geh Min again.

"Its got many different habitats there and they're all relatively unspoilt. Its got sand and mud flats, its got mangrove, its got rocky shore. All of these habitats are home to, oh! It's such a rich diversity of marine life I can't begin to describe it. Just standing there and looking around, you just see so much."

Nature Society has played a pivotal role as the non-governmental organisation, or NGO, representing nature lovers but Dr Geh Min refused full credits.

"Well of course we would like to take some credit but I really think that this is an example of how quickly and how sensitively the government responded to publicly feedback. And of course, Nature Society and other NGOs are public voice."

Unlike a couple of years ago, this time round, the public outpouring of love and affections managed to save a nation's heritage.

Dr Geh ruminates on what worked this time.

"well, there would be two decisive factors. One, it was really the realisation of the rich biodiversity which they actually took the trouble to go down and see for themselves, including I believe, the Minister himself and many of the top decision makers. But the second factor was the fact that the public, and I am not just talking about the NGOs and nature groups, I am talking about individual members of the public. There was obviously so much interest in the area and of course the media help."

The biggest lift the save-Chek Jawa campaigners received is the unexpected support from even non-nature buffs.

"Just looking at some of the photos made everyone wants to rush down to that place and they did. And the government is very sensitive to this. They realise that Singaporeans enjoy nature, place a lot of value in it. Apparently, this causes the change in decision to reclaim the land."

Ironically, the mad rush to Chek Jawa is caused by Singaporeans thinking that it's their last chance to see the place.

For Chek Jawa, its existence is still under threat but at least, experts are being sort now to maximise its survival.

"Yes, I think they are moving the reclamation further west but this is still, I believe, open to feedback and recommendation and they will be consulting. It's still an on-going process from what I understand from the next two weeks. Anyone who has a reasonable opinion on how best to proceed with the reclamation so as not to damage Chek Jawa, is free to give their two cents worth."

Is Chek Jawa worth all the efforts? Biologist Sivasthoty again.

"Some of us, I mean, we have been cracking our brains, have we seen a place like this in Malaysia? We are not sure yet. You know? So it's interestingly unique, and of course for Singapore, it's practically a national treasure lah."

It is a treasure in more ways than just being a nature reserve.

Chek Jawa now is the metaphor for what Singaporeans can achieve if they activate their sense of civic duty.

This is Chong Ching Liang, for Newsradio 938.

Related websites:
Virtual Tour of Chek Jawa
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity
Nature Society of Singapore
Newsradio 938


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In Your Neighbourhood#7- Charity starts at Home

Broadcast Date: 21/12/01

You know the festive cliché: Giving is better than receiving.

But would you mount a personal drive to donate old clothes to a charitable course you encountered overseas?

Hi welcome to In Your Neighbourhood with me, Chong Ching Liang.

This week, we look at a donation drive that started from an individual and result in some very happy street children in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Sharon Lim is a freelance writer.

In the course of her job, she went to Cambodia and what she saw and the events of the times started her ruminations.

"We were there like almost straight after September 11th so there was a lot of hoo-ha in the media and it just got me thinking. As much as I am sadden by all those people who died and how horrific it is all, I look at the children in Cambodia and I think what's it to them? They don't even have a roof over their head, a decent meal. Even one meal is perhaps all they can get."

In the course of her research on street children, she came into contact with a non governmental organisation, Mith Samlahn.

It was started by a remarkable Frenchman, Sebastien who contributed a huge part of his life to helping the homeless children.

He provided Sharon with a friendly push.

Did Sebastien inspire her?

"Yes! It was so inspirational because here he is, supposed to have just taken one year off, has stayed seven years, practically married to his job."

Well, having a brainwave is one thing, implementing the plan is another.

Sharon on what she faced initially.

"Well in the beginning, it was a bit difficult because it was a Catch-22 situation. On the one hand, I hadn't gotten approval from Silkair, so I wasn't sure how much I could collect and at the same time I didn't want an avalanche of things to come to me and then there would be a storage space and there would be a transport and logistics problems . I approached it by just talking to a few people and telling a few people whom I knew would have the most items that I was looking for ie. Children clothes, toys and shoes."

Kudos to Silkair for donating the luggage space.

Next step. Volunteers.

In a society where time is becoming relatively scarce, this might prove to be a thorny problem.

So planning must be done.

"There was also the consideration that the number of volunteers I could call to help me pack, the number of days that I could get them to pack. The number of people I could call on to help me transport it. You know that sort of things. Logistically that took a little bit of planning and it did take a little bit of raised heart beats. But it all turn out okay as I thought as, as I knew it would in the end."

As the planning unfurls, friends and acquaintances started to rally around Sharon.

Peter Ho, a timber business owner, didn't even know Sharon before this donation mission.

He tells of how he sought a more proactive role.

"First thing that came to my mind was that it was rather ineffective because the question I asked myself was that how is she going to go around? She is going to go to like Tampines, just collect two t-shirts and then go to another friend in Clementi to collect a box of shoes. Then she will spend a lot of time driving around Singapore. So I just talked to her and see if I can help more than just carrying all these stuffs. So we had a very long chat and we ended up having a solution whereby I took the company truck and put it in National Stadium car park and we designate a time and a date. On that time and date, anybody whom we have informed will just drive by and throw everything into the truck."

He modestly calls himself as just the truck driver.

But he made multiple trips and even did everything on his own once.

"And of course the last trip I had come in on my own because Sharon was out of town. So I felt a bit like a burglar because I have to load almost forty boxes onto the truck by myself about four o'clock in the morning. And I think the neighbours, fortunately they were sound asleep otherwise they start peering down and think this guy is stealing the whole house and he even had the time to pack it up into boxes!"

Peter had donated to an Oxfam project before but he says this effort to help Sharon was more satisfying.

Did he get anything out of this?

"Did I get anything out of it? [laughs] Er when I actually got the news that every box went through, I was actually very happy. Prior to that I really didn't feel anything. It was just a job done. But when I got the e-mail that every box went through, its, its not only just a job done. I felt it was, it was a completed mission."

For Sharon and Peter, there is the added satisfaction to see how people are so forthcoming with their gifts.

While Sharon started the project on her own, she never felt alone.

"It really didn't feel that I was doing it alone. I never saw it as an individual project. Yeah sure, I started it. That was my role. I got the ball rolling. But once the ball was rolling, things just followed through. People helped in their individual way. I most certainly wouldn't have been able to pull this through if not for a whole lot of people. Every single person, you know, whether you donate a pair of shoes, or whether you did a whole lot of stuffs. Every single person made a difference because I wouldn't have been able to pull it through."

Dozens of boxes of toys, clothes are now making homeless Cambodian children smile.

And it started from an individual effort that allowed other people a chance to give.

This is Chong Ching Liang, for Newsradio 938.

Related websites:
Mith Samlan
Newsradio 938

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In Your Neighbourhood #6 - Filmmakers 23/11/01

Some say films are pieces of art and commentary that can be windows into a society's soul.

Somewhere in your neighbourhood in Northeast Singapore, efforts are being made to open such a window.

Hi, welcome to In Your Neighbourhood with me, Chong Ching Liang.

The Northeast Community Development Council and Canon Marketing Singapore are collaborating on the "NorthEastern Exposure" community film programme.

The CDC will be offering free filmmaking course to its residents.

Northeast CDC Senior Community Development Officer Karina Lim on the take-up rate.

"We've had overwhelming response, over 200 applicants in fact, and for this course alone, we can only take in 75 at the moment so we unfortunately have to turn away quite a few of them."

The popularity must be pleasing to the newly elected Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC, Penny Low.

She says there's great possibility in encouraging film-making.

"Firstly, they are able to express themselves in how they see things, what they feel and how they would tackle it. And it could also give them an opportunity to express their desires, dreams and aspirations. That means it gives the respective authorities an opportunity to meet their needs. That in a way is what I would call an exchange of ideas and that can foster better understanding. Then people may be better relate to the place they live in, and to start to feel a sense of ownership, in the place they called home."

One of the creative forces behind Wu Liao Media is Colin Goh and he's helping to train the budding film-makers.

Is he surprised by the turnout?

"Oh yes! Very much so! We are very surprised by the response and we are very surprised by the warm reception we get for the other short films we screened to get people used to the short film genre itself. And a lot of people are very surprised, "look! O' er I can tell a story in about 15 minutes and I think what this shows is that a lot of Singaporeans are bursting with stories to tell. And it’s a great way to vent. It’s a great way to give voice to all your concerns and all that stress and deal with it. It’s a really creative way and I think it should really be encouraged."

The rawness and edginess of short film making is the window to Singapore's heartlands.

"This is where real art happens. Its not so arty, on the other hand, it could be very surprising. Over the last couple of workshop, we've had some amazing ideas coming up from documentary to comedies to sort of social critique and you know, from unexpected quarters. You have some 12 years old exploring the basis of the trends and so on. It’s fascinating and it’s long overdue. The community has a lot of contents just waiting to be released and we think film, especially digital movies are a great way of giving voice to these issues and to their individual stories."

Film making has already been revolutionalised.

Having a digital camera and a decent desktop computer are all you need to bring out the Spielberg’s, Coppolas and Lucas in you.

Colin again.

"Now everybody can shoot a film. We are also going to see very different movies because of that. It won't the usual what will play to many houses. You'll see a lot of personal films, you'll a lot more reflective films and I think uhm, with quantity will come quality. The more films they have, the more people look at films; eventually we will develop our own style, our own grammar. I don't know, but it may herald a turning point here for our film industry."

Canon Marketing sells digital video-cameras but these days, straight selling is no longer enough unless one starts investing for the future.

Its deputy division sales manager for camera division, Alex Chan explains.

"For Canon, our part of the involvement with the community is to create interest in film making and also to support our fledgling film industry itself. It's an extension of our community involvement."

So what sort stories can we look forward to?

For a 4-student team from Dunman secondary of Jeyland, Sulaiman and two Daniels, the scope is ambitious.

They plan to bring to screen mutant hamsters the size of Godzilla.

[mutant hamster sots]

But as you can hear, the story may be fantasy but the landscape is uniquely Singaporean.

Through such films, maybe the much called for heart-strings of Singapore will start to resonate.

Tampines MP, Penny Low again.

"I am very much into community-bonding issues, building u0p the original Kampung spirit. When I was young we lived in a kampong, we have neighbours we can count on cl: I know, doors that are never closed. Doors that never close [laughs], You know we don't gates and there's a certain degree of respect for each other's privacy as well even though it’s so open. So it’s a bit ironic that as we progress, we lost that part of our humanness. If we could bring that back, that's where our quality of life would really be enhanced because at the end of the day, we need to count on and trust our neighbours. "

Important task and maybe films are the fun way to offset an otherwise arduous task.

This is Chong Ching Liang, for Newsradio 938.

Related websites:
Northeast Community Development Council
Newsradio 938

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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

In Your Neighbourhood #5 - Youth Booster Shots 25/01/02

What do you do when you are national organisations trying to achieve your corporate missions in all the neighbourhoods in Singapore?

Start up a fund and enlist an army of helpers to achieve your goals.

Hi welcome to In Your Neighbourhood with me, Chong Ching Liang.

This week, we visit National Youth Council, or NYC to find out more about the youth booster shots that it has been giving out.

NYC's Tan Choon Hooi on his organisation's strategy.

"The Youth Organisation Fund was started in July, last year. What it aims to do is to help progressive youth organisations built up long term capability, and also to help promising new youth organisations to establish themselves. In short, it support initiatives that are targeted towards capacity building. The National Youth Council already has a lot of grants and schemes but this is the first time that's targeted at youth organisations. The reasons that we are doing this is to achieve the multiplier effect."

One times two, two times four, four times eight ... that sort of thing.

The fund was started after focus groups meetings with youth activists and the lack of money consistently surfaced as a barrier against any start-up organisation.

Last year the Fund was started and it gave out some 370 thousand dollars to 7 youth organisations.

Choon Hooi said a million dollars will be set aside every two years.

He elaborates on what purpose the Fund can be serve.

"There are three different schemes. The first one is called Youth Organisation Development scheme and what it does is helps the organisation reexamine their vision, mission, and internal processes. The second one is called Youth Development Tools in Curriculum. It helps the organisation in developing innovative content or methodology for their programmes and activities. And the third one is called the young social entrepreneur incubator scheme. What this scheme tries to do is to help nurture new start-up youth organisations, who will then, in turn, serves the youths out there."

One organisation that received funding last year was Promiseworks.

Its founder member, Kevin Chan how it got started.

"Promiseworks is essentially a group founded by young professionals for young professional volunteers to reach out to youths. It started out because when we wanted to volunteer in other groups it's not easy to get involve in it and a lot of time you needed to have some experience or you needed to know somebody, so it was driven by that that we develop our programme."

For Promiseworks, the fund capital is less crucial then the intangibles it derived from being one of the winning recipients.

"We are a very low cost organisation. For mentorship, it very often costs nothing much more than time, energy and attention of the volunteer. But with NYC, it has been a great endorsement of our whole mission, our whole vision. It has been a great networking platform for us to reach out and form partnership with other youth groups, with schools and so on because the fact they know that we've been endorsed by NYC gives us a lot of credibility."

The networking opportunities that arrived with being endorsed by the local marquee name of youth services provided the group with an interesting spin-off mission.

"So we have this non-profit consulting programme. What we do, we form these volunteers into teams of non-profit consultants essentially and we attached them as teams with the management committees of youth groups and we support them and help them strategise on projects which are critical in nature to these other groups mission. It has proven rather successful. In the space of the last three and four months, and this is really through NYC's intervention, established partnership with the Sunny Island Tree Climbers, we've got one of our volunteer lawyers to provide non-profit legal advice to them. "

Another recipient of the inaugural award last year was the venerable Boys Brigade of Singapore.

According to its Vice President of programme, Christopher Lock, NYC didn't just threw down a challenge for them to re-invent itself but top it up with funds.

"The Boys Brigade has been in Singapore since 1930s. Things around us have changed around us very quickly, education, trends and fads of young people. It so happens that National Youth Council came to us and told us that we've got this new scheme that could help you. The money did come in very handy for the BB. One it certainly help to get us more resources. We budgeted something like two hundred dollars just to do the revamp of the entire BB programme. Second, besides monetary concerns, it represented a push factor where we had an external body that said 'Hey, Boys Brigade! Why don't you get your acts together and you know, lets see what you can do, we are here to help you. "

Have a plan to energise youths in Singapore but you are in a bit of financial doldrums?

Fret not,

Choon Hooi again.

"For all organisations that are interested in taking advantage of these three schemes, we advise them to check out in more details at our website at <<>> or they can also call us at any of these numbers 8399110 to 115"

you are still in time to apply for a booster shot to realise your dreams.

This Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.

Related Websites:
National Youth Council


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In Your Neighbourhood #4 - Youth Entrepreneurs 04/02/02

Singapore's future will depend less on solid academic grades rather than inculcating an entrepreneurial spirit in its citizens.

That has been the mantra of its political leaders and academic observers.

Its a brave new world, and the place to start the re-programming of Singapore is, of course, the youths!

Hi welcome to In Your Neighbourhood with me Chong Ching Liang as I travel to the Youth Entrepreneurship Programme Awards of Central Singapore Community Development Council.

Central Singapore's Mayor Heng Chee How on the objective of organising the your entrepreneurship programme or Y-E-P.

"Coming with a programme like Youth entrepreneurship, the idea behind it is to channel the creative desires of youth, the energy to make a difference in a particular direction. So in this case for those who have the passion to develop commercial ideas, we provide an avenue. And so we bring in experts and experience people and they will provide the first step in terms of explaining what the thing is about and giving guidance that if you really want to develop the business, then these are the steps that you take."

This the second time that Central Singapore has organised such a programme for school students.

June last year was the first time.

The response to the second Y-E-P was overwhelming.

100 students from 9 schools participated and they ranged from Secondary to Junior College students.

And the winners?

MC of the awards, Patrick Ang.

"In the third place you have the team, Brainstorm. [Applause] And the second prize we have the company Dot. [Applause] And of course you all know who the top company is, [Applause] we have one more left, and that is Zest-O. [Applause]. "

Zest-O the winning group, wants to start a discount card for the Youths called the U-Card.

Here's group member Evelyn on the feasibility and attractiveness of their proposed product.

Evelyn, of Zest-O

"Firstly we have a large market. According to the Singapore censors report 2000; there are 564 thousand people between the ages of 12 and 24. This means its a possible market for 546 thousand for the U. Why it's attractive: Firstly students. Students will be able to enjoy a wide range of benefits including attractive discounts and shopping and fashion tips. Thus they will subscribe to the U. Secondly, parents. Parents will be glad to know that their children are saving due to the discounts that they are entitled to and are maximising their allowance. And we are also promoting the entrepreneurial spirit. "

There are already a lot of discount cards out in the market and also the almost slogan like repeating of "promoting the entrepreneurial spirit" is somewhat worrying.

Every group has the same mantra.

Are such programme linked to reality?

Learning Capital International is the trainer for Central Singapore's Y-E-P.

Its Business Development Executive Mohd Farid said that eventually, reality will reach the students if they are diligent in following their plans through.

"After this there will be a six month follow-up session by our business consultants where they're going to meet up once a month or they can actually keep in touch with our consultants that will follow through what they have gone through for the five days. Uhm asking them questions, probing them further into their business on whether they should get into their business, on whether they should get embarked into the business, where they have to learn the process and understanding. That's where they will learn the reality."

Mayor Heng concurs that the real lesson will be learnt at the final planning and execution stages.

"Clearly business plans would have to be based on sound ideas, good concepts, careful planning, very strong marketing and this is all part of the learning process. So I think today we have very good participation from the different groups and they will, in the course of the coming weeks and months, refine their plans. Some of these plans will be easier to execute than others and I am sure in the course of times, some of them will succeed very well."

The Central Singapore CDC also has a fund of 5 thousand dollars for student groups with good business models.

After all, the five thousand dollars isn't from their pocket and losing that amount may not sting as much.

So caution is thrown to the wind.

Mayor Heng explains why he doesn't think that fund will cause complacency.

"Oh this is a very small modest funds that we have set up. It's for the purposes of signaling our interests to co-participate with enthusiasts in this area. Clearly we will have to go throw a process of evaluation of plans as well and this form of encouragement will go some way toward helping them get started. It is not to fund the running costs of a business."

Finally, Mayor Heng says that his CDC is a different sort of venture capitalist.

"We are not looking at this as an investment prior to IPO in order to reap handsome rewards. I think you have to see this in the context of the programme objective which is to encourage a form of youth activism, youth leadership and learning the skills for adult life and this is good investment."

We shall wait and see if any budding C.K. Tang or Sim Wong Hoo comes out of this.

But even if none emerge, it'll be refreshing to have a mindset change about what failures means.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.

Related websites:
National Youth Council
Central Singapore Community Development Council

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In Your Neighbourhood #3 - Aljunied Oral History 05/10/01


How do we define it?

In a simplistic way we can describe community as a group of individuals tied together by locality, relationship, and most importantly, a common historical memory.

Hi, welcome to In Your Neighbourhood as we look at a community's attempt to track its past.

Aljunied division of Aljunied Group Representation Constituency is attempting to envision its past through the voices of its elders.

Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC, Dr Toh See Kiat.

"I have one heritage programme started where I have actually appointed Gerard Hooi in charge of an oral history project. We have some very senior people with us. Anthony here and Steven Teo, they've been through the best and the worse and we are going to interview them and ask them about what life was. Anthony's father, family has been living around here for a long time, and he tells us stories about this place even before the flats are up. And we are going to preserve all that."

Gerard Hooi is the Auditor of Aljunied Division's Citizen Consultative Committee and he shares with me the genesis of the project.

"We were sitting around one day and Dr Toh who's the adviser of the division, together with some senior grassroots leaders, and we were just reminscing about the place, the neighbourhood in Aljunied. So we thought that its a very good idea to try and capture all these stories from all our senior members while they are still around and I think that all of them, you know, as we chat more about this project, got very enthusiastic. "

So the ball is set rolling.

But the momentum must be maintain or for the project to leap from the drawing board into reality.

Gerard elaborates on his mission.

"I have been tasked to basically organised everything to see how we can make this project work. In the mean time, some of us are beginning to talk to people at the National Heritage Board to look into how the National Heritage Board and the Archives department can help us in our project. At this point, I can only say that we have a very sketchy idea but we will be getting into the details very very soon."

For starters, Aljunied heritage community doesn't have to look too far to get its oral history interviewees.

74 year-old Anthony Loh is another elder who's lived and participated in Aljunied grassroots organisations for over half a century.

Mr Loh has strong ties to the land.

"It was formerly a coconut estate and the place where formerly our CC stands was formerly a duck farm. The piece of land belongs to my father and then it was occupied by a professional farmer. The other part of it where Street 21 is concerned, it was a place with a lot of squatters and the coconut trees actually were leased out to those people tapping this toddy. I'm still living in Aljunied division. "

So what is the most significant advances that you have seen, Mr Loh?

"I would say the most advance is modern sanitation. Water, electricity and all this. In those days, all the squatter areas, we don't have electricity. You may have water supply after 1960. After PAP came into power then we have water. Prior to that they were using wells, kerosene lamps and all those things."

Another Aljunied elder is 70 year-old Steven Teo who's also a long-time resident and grassroots leader. He concurs with Mr Loh.

"In the olden days, there no such good design of housing board. Now there are many nice modern models where every place like the neighbourhood park there, we got a park for people to exercise. And all the road widening, the places all different from olden days."

But both the elders say that there is a generation gaps existing presently.

Mr Anthony Loh.

"Well, I would feel that the younger generations are more fortunate, they have come into this world with modern sanitation and everything is up to date you see, unlike the old days of the old generation. I don't think much of them would have appreciate it because they don't understand it you see. They have not gone through the Japanese occupation then they will not understand much about it."

But I pressed him. How does he feel about an oral history project that'll enable people like himself to transmit their life experiences to the Aljunied young?

"AL: Well I think it's good but I think the present generation will not be able to understand what it's all about before, you see. It was quite a generation gap already. CL: But do you think that by recording it, it will actually help to bridge this gap? AL: I think so."

Of course, the Aljunied of today may not be the Aljunied of yesteryear.

It's landscape has changed tremendously, and most of the idyllic scenes describe in the oral history interviews would have been long gone.

But it doesn't stop the area's MP, Associate Professor Toh See Kiat from trying to create an identity for Aljunied.

"In terms of landmarks, I think there's very few landmarks here actually. It's been a rural area, we don't preserve, maybe we should have but we don't preserve the attap hut or whatever. So I don't think that there's any landmarks that we can preserve but we would create a landmark. To just give you a hint, when Keng Kiat ask me to tell you about a community sculpture, it is a heritage landmark. We intend to make it a heritage landmark."

Let's hope the Aljunied oral history projects do take off.

Wisdom is too valuable a commodity to waste.

For Newsradio 938, I'm Chong Ching Liang.

Related websites:

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In Your Neighbourhood #2 - BizClean Follow-up 07/12/01

What happens when the precious a precious bundle of joy is diagnosed as intellectually disabled?
Generally, parents can swing to two extremes -- either they become over-protective other child is regarded somewhat unfairly as a huge liability.

Either ways, there's a lack of knowledge of what the intellectually disabled child can aspire to.

Hi welcome to In Your Neighbourhood with me Chong Ching Liang as look at this special group of Singaporeans struggle to find a niche for themselves.

In Singapore while this group of special children is growing up, the parents could at least turn to schools that have been set up to educate them.

But what will become of these children when they leave schools?

This is where Bizlink Come in.

It's an organisation that's constantly working very hard to match disabled Singaporeans to jobs.

In conjunction with Movement for the Intellectually Disabled in Singapore and Marine Parade Community Development Council, Bizlink has launched a remarkable service named BizClean.

Under this scheme, intellectually disabled Singaporeans have been finding a new lease of life as a domestic cleaner.

Bizlink's Placement and Marketing Officer, Joseph Chan on the impact on his clients.

"Having a job definitely gives them a sense of purpose and a feeling of self-worth. For this few months when they are working they are generally happier. Working as opposed to doing nothing and staying at home. What is most heartening is they are being recognised for their work by the house owners. Sometimes the house owners would give them some token of encouragement, things like a basket of fruits or clothing etc. Generally its encouraging to see the workers socialising and interacting relatively well with the house owners. We see them becoming more interactive with society and also able to play a part in the contribution to their family."

Sales professional Johnson Lee has employed BizClean's cleaners since June.

He started when he received a publicity pamphlet.

Did he have any reservations at the beginning?

"I, I had a little reservation but I did also got a lot of reassurance from Bizlink. They assured me that they would take all precaution to make sure that nothing was broken and the job would be done properly. My arrangement was that I would give them my house keys as well so they give me assurance on security as well. "

Up till then, Johnson had depended on part-time local and foreign cleaners.

How does Bizclean cleaners compare with the so-called normal workers?

"Oh, I would say that they're pretty good. Quite thorough. And they do my house pretty much cleaner! And they've been responsible. Of course the other thing is that they've been pretty flexible. Sometimes I asked them to do other things which they gladly help out with. I would say that first of all the charges are the same as the people that I've been engaging but its an opportunity for me to be able to help out this group of people and I would say that it is good value because I feel they do a good job and I just let them get on with it, don't have to worry about anything else."

But BizClean’s workers do not just work for household but also companies.

Jeremy Ho is the Regional Director for Alcatel Singapore and he too had initial reservations.

But he feels this group of Singaporeans should be given a chance and being an employer of five months, he has seen his Bizclean worker steadily improved.

So does Jeremy sees himself as providing some form of corporate social service?

"Well I don't think that we are viewing her as social service. I think that she should be treated as an equal. Id she can do another job as another individual, let her be. Okay, fair enough, it may not be as fast as we would like her to be, but if she gets the job done, then why not? There should be more employers to be open for allowing people of some disability to contribute and to view them with the same dignity as another individual."

The BizClean scheme is not just providing a cleaning service.

It's also tearing down stereotypes.

Johnson Lee on how being a Bizclean employer affected his views.

"Well for one thing, now I know that they are pretty capable of complex jobs. The domestic service may seem like its a pretty simple tasks but its not. Some of the equipment that they have to use, some of the chemicals that they have to apply... and of course just generally taking care of things, you know like curtain and things like that. It involves people who are willing to learn, you know, to be able to pick up things like this. It's been an eye-opener for me to be able to also see such tasks which may seem simple but when you really look at the way they do it. Its really not that easy."

For the families of Bizclean workers, they can now see their children in a brand new like.

No longer are they helpless because Bizclean has proven that they can be contributing members to the family income.

Bizlink's Joseph Chan on how even over-protective families have came round.

"Yes they did. In fact initially they were a bit apprehensive about them going down to the houses but as times go by, generally the family members feel that workers themselves feel settled in."

A civil society is one where all segments of the Singaporean society is respected and not shut out.

If Bizclean continued to attract employers and other such schemes take off, then perhaps Singapore is taking yet another minute but sure step towards the civil society.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.

Related websites:

Southwest Community Development Council

Movement for the INtellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS)


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In Your Neighbourhood #1-Story Tellers 9/11/01

It is a forgotten art -- storytelling.

I ask you, listeners, how many of you remember the folktales and myths of your forefathers.

I have vague memories of the ones my mother used to tell me of the Tiger Auntie and of Hokkien lullabies about life in the South Seas that long lost its meanings as I shed my dialects for the languages of academia and commerce.

I ask you, where have all the stories in our neighbourhood gone?

Hi welcome to this week's segment of In Your Neighbourhood as we look at the National Library Board's attempt to revitalised the art of storytelling here.

In the heat of this year's General Elections, Singapore may have missed NLB's efforts to bring in two events that maybe of singularly importance to revitalise Singapore's culture.

They are: Asian Children Festival and the Asian Congress of Storytellers.

What's so important about storytelling?

Keynote speaker for the storyteller congress, Wajuppa Tossa explains the importance of traditional folklores.

"These stories are very important, in terms of just the passing on of the cultural heritage. The stories tell of how the people were in the old times that we don't see nowadays. So they would learn what people ate and what people did and what they believed."

These folktales provide cultural anchors to a world that’s over-run by science and technology.

To pinch a phrase from Karl Marx, these stories of our forefathers may yet be the "soul in a soulless world".

Professor Tossa again.

"People are now just too much into the science and technological advancement that they forgot to look at their own selves - what they have. So I think having all these would sort of remind them that we used to be like that. We cannot forget. And we don't know how far the technology can carry us. So if we know what we are and if we can go back, not altogether, not 100 percent. I'm not telling that we should really go against technology or anything, but we should know that if technology fails we could always fall back to our own ways of life."

These are also trying times.

In his opening address, Chairman of NLB Tan Chin Nam laments the great changes brought to our lives by four planes that were hijacked by terror.

In another speech, the chairman of this year's Asian Children Festival, Ramachandran spoke of a world with uncertainty, turbulence and hopelessness.

It's NLB wish that the two recently concluded events will revitalise storytelling and bring back Singapore's rich cultural past.

It won't be easy to do so as today's a new age, the IT age.

The wisdom of our elders is sometimes over-shadowed by the fact that they are now on the wrong side of the IT divide.

We sometimes think that we are better than them, that we know more, that we're better educated and maybe, O heavens forbid, we are better people than our parents and grandparents.

So gradually, the generation gap becomes a communication gap.

The children of today are more entranced with computer games than books but Professor Tossa says that storytelling if properly packaged can capture the children's attention.

"The children were very much amazed at what's going on because we didn't really tell the stories in sort of traditional way. We learn story theatre and also audience participation. The children were so happy to be able to participate in the storytelling. We were not stars but we were their friends. We were bringing them to the stage also. In that way, it worked."

Once the children's interests are piqued, then the next step is naturally to get them to re-initiate the process of communications with their elders.

"We ask them to go to interview their parents and grandparents. By doing that, the children began to talk to the grandparents, asking for stories. The grandparents become needed. They feel that "ah! We’re still valuable. We can still tell our stories to the children."

But what about the language divide?

Our young may not speak the dialects of their grandparents, and the grandparents may not be able to speak English or Mandarin.

Use translators, says Professor Tossa.

"One way is probably to go to the parents first. The parents definitely would be able to speak at least two languages. So they could go to them and then the parents could then go to the grandparents and bring stories to share with the children. I think so there'd be more step of just not going to the grandparents directly but to the parents first. In the very far future or near future, I'm not sure; there may be communication between the children and the grandparents directly."

Professor Tossa is from Mahasarakham, a district in the impoverished Thai northeast region.

She has seen degradation of her beloved mother-tongue, the Issan dialect.

Ajarn Wajuppa fought back to try and preserve the language through her intensive programme of revitalising the art of storytelling in her homeland.

Singapore is far from impoverished, but culturally we have lost touched with those of our forefathers.

Perhaps her method may be applicable to us too, eh?

This is Chong Ching Liang, for Newsradio 938.

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