April 25, 2021
Photos by: Caroline Chia | Words by: Tan Jean Hann
(Photo above) Madam Sandy Goh believes in getting residents involved in activities to foster closer ties within the community. With the elderly, getting them involved in food distributions or decorating the Senior Residents’ Corner gives them a sense of purpose. It keeps them active and encourages them to interact with others so that they do not feel alone.
hen Covid-19 struck, Madam Sandy Goh had to pull the plug on the potluck parties and other community events she typically organised for her fellow Housing Board residents at Bedok Reservoir. But it did not dampen her spirits.
Rather, the pandemic spurred her to do more, especially for the seniors and family breadwinners.
“We have vulnerable elderly living alone, others who have suffered pay cuts or lost their job, and those feeling cooped up at home,” said the 53-year-old, who runs a tentage supply business with her husband.
“I told myself that even if no one wants to do anything for the community, I can and I will.”
She began by distributing meals during the eight-week circuit breaker period. Turning to charity Willing Hearts, which provides free meals daily, she collected 60 bento sets each weekday to give to the needy in her estate.
“All it takes is for people to step forward and reach out.”
Madam Sandy Goh
Word spread swiftly that ‘Ah Hua’, as she is affectionately known in the community, was giving free food and demand doubled the following week. At the peak in June, she, aided by two residents, was distributing 550 meals at 55 HDB blocks in her estate.
(Above) Madam Sandy Goh is a familiar face at the Senior Residents’ Corner of Block 702 Bedok Reservoir Road. With the help of fellow residents, she coordinates frequent food distribution to various blocks in the area.
The free-meal days may be over but Madam Goh continues to hand out giveaways daily. They range from groceries to necessities such as rice and shampoo. Thanks to donors and organisations, residents can expect at least one new item each day.
Turning waste into wealth
Tuesday afternoons are particularly crowded, as fresh vegetables and fruits will arrive by the truckload, courtesy of Fridge Restock Community SG, a group of food rescuers who collect unwanted produce from wholesalers and distribute it islandwide for free.
Most, blemished and bruised, is “ugly food” — it does not look appetising, despite being edible.
Initially, many residents were sceptical. But now, Madam Goh notes with a smile: “The food disappears in two and a half hours after they arrived.” Helping to reduce waste while saving money on groceries, she added, is a win-all.
“If you treat it like it is a treasure, it will become a treasure,” she added, pointing to the many ways the produce can be consumed. “Bruised fruits and berries can be turned into a jam, or added to the mix when baking bread or muffins. And you can use the vegetables for stock.”
If all else fails, they become compost for the community garden, she said.
She added, with pride, that rallying the residents to create something delicious and share it with others has turned the activity into yet another platform for community building.
(Above) Residents help unload rescued produce from Fridge Restock Community SG. The rescued food is then laid out at the Senior Residents’ Corner where anyone can take some for their own consumption. Most of the produce is usually taken within two to three hours.
With the same mindset, she leads residents to decorate common spaces for various festivities by using upcycled materials to craft festive objects. For the recent Chinese New Year, they welcomed the Year of the Ox with figures of a huge Ox and God of Wealth made with recycled wires and scrap cloth.
These do-it-yourself sessions amid the Covid-19 pandemic have proven to be effective in engaging the elderly and those staying at home while adding cheer to the muted celebrations.
A Family of Neighbours
Madam Goh hopes the activities will lay the foundation for a ‘kampung’ culture of sharing with and caring for each other.
Over the years, the community has indeed become “open and transparent,” she said. “If anyone runs out of salt, they’ll come to the Senior Residents’ Corner and take it. Then, a few days later, they’ll return with a new bag of salt and leave it behind.”
She added: “We’re not helping, we’re sharing with those in need.”
By coincidence, an elderly man appears with a box of masks to share with residents. Madam Goh said he was struggling financially, but with the community’s support, he found a job. “He’s now paying it forward.”
She added: “When the community helps someone, the person will give back later by becoming a volunteer or a donor in the community. That’s how the ‘kampung’ culture will take root.”
Her wish is for Bedok Reservoir’s ‘kampung’ spirit to inspire other HDB estates. “All it takes is for people to step forward and reach out.”