To hold a ground-up and volunteer-driven initiative continuously for fifteen years is not easy feat. What’s more remarkable is to keep it growing bigger and bigger each year.
The good folks at Jalan Bintang Tiga in quiet Opera Estate have done it again. I was first invited to this annual street party in 2011 after the General Elections. Since then, I have been invited yearly and have always attended except for last year when it was held during National Day itself. I had to be at the National Day Parade. Nevertheless, I made it a point that year to drop by before going to NDP to pass them some prizes which I sponsored for their games and to drop in after NDP to catch the end of the event.
The party had started 15 years ago because the street was closed for drainage works to prevent flooding. The residents had lobbied hard for years to the authorities to solve the persistent flooding problem. That was eventually agreed to and there were disruptions to traffic during the drainage widening period. Since the road was closed, the residents took advantage of the road closure to throw a street party with pot luck food to celebrate the completion of the works.
Since then, it had become a tradition to hold the celebration yearly around the time of National Day. The event eventually caught the attention of the press. Last year, the Singapore Kindness Movement chipped in to fund the setup of a tentage, live broadcast of the NDP via big screen, some of the food and hiring of auxiliary police to man the closure of the road.
This year, the Singapore Kindness Movement continued this sponsorship but minus the big screen because there was no NDP to broadcast as the event was held on the weekend after National Day. Over the years, residents have shifted out from the street, but many continued to come back for this annual event while new residents are pleasantly surprised and happy to attend the party. The party has become such a tradition that many new residents do not really know how the party got started but are happy to chip in to help to make the event a success.
One resident remarked to me today when he saw the happy faces of the kids that this is so much fun, but it is thanks to the tireless hard work of a few key organisers who persist to keep the tradition going. I replied to him the organisers must surely be finding great fulfilment to see neighbours being happy and that’s what keeps them going each year.
It is not just Jalan Bintang Tiga that have cooperative neighbours that live together harmoniously. During my regular visits to houses just a few streets away from Jalan Bintang Tiga this same afternoon, I came across two homes side-by-side where the residents that chatted warmly with my volunteers and I. One was an elderly man who was a long-time resident there while his immediate neighbours are a much younger couple who moved in 8 years ago. They chatted at ease with one another like old friends. Later as I went across to the house opposite of theirs, the elderly man came along and called his neighbour out. We continued talking about many things. Soon, other neighbours came along and joined in. One of them remarked that they feel fortunate that the neighbours on that street were nice to one another.
In our sometimes highly stressed environment, it pays to show a little kindness to those around you. In that way, you can help make a better environment for yourself too.