By : Soh Kum Fook
27 May 2014
I’ve lived in my HDB block for many years and my neighbours have become more than just familiar faces I say ‘Hi’ to. I am happy to say that we have long since moved from exchanging friendly greetings to holding full-hearted conversations.
But this degree of familiarity took a long time to evolve. Being the busy Singaporeans that we are, opportunities to bond were few. These were mainly confined to the occasional chance meetings when we bumped into one another in the common areas of our block.
For a group of elderly residents living at the Golden Jasmine studio apartments in Bishan, friendship blossomed more instantaneously in the community garden they had tended to faithfully over the last two years.
They have become like family, their affections for one another rooted in their common love for nature. I was impressed by how they truly displayed the good old spirit of gotong-royong, just like in my kampung days a long time ago. It made me think – yes this is how a community should be.
Let’s pop by to know them better…
Hibiscus, Sweet Pea, Starfruit and Chiku – guess which is which?
Together, the residents care for a thriving community garden filled with beautiful flowers, plus fresh vegetables, herbs and fruits. And come harvest time, these fruits get distributed to residents of the block!
It warms my heart to see the neighbours-turned-friends working together to tend to the garden. It takes time and hard work to prune, weed and water but when you do it together with friends, everything seems lighter and sweeter!
It also helps to have someone like Susan Goh, the organiser of the gardening group (aka the driving force who brings the residents together). Susan has been involved in community work since she was young, so this just comes naturally to her.
During festive occasions, Susan would organise and turn the gardening plot into a “party zone” for the residents to mingle and have fun with one another. I can imagine how vibrant it must be when the neighbours get together to celebrate in the festivities. I popped by on a normal day and already the garden was abuzz with happy chatter and joyful banter!
Each of the residents has a special role to play in tending the garden, just like Baden Lim, seen here with his wife. Baden is the “handyman” of the garden – but his contributions go beyond that. I was surprised to find out that Baden also helps his neighbours with minor repairs in their homes… for free! With a smile, he said, “It’s the least I can do for my friends… it’s my pleasure to do so.”
It’s amazing how friendships can blossom when everyone puts in that little bit of effort. “I never feel lonely although I am living alone here. We are one big family in this gardening community,” said Catherine, one of the garden’s volunteers
Speaking of community, Ms Angeline Liu and her students, Clara, Sean, Cedric and Justin were spotted planting in the garden. “Each week some of our students and teachers would come and help maintain the garden,” said Ms Liu. Her student, Sean, was quick to add, “I enjoy gardening because I like botany. Besides, I get to interact with the elderly.” Looks like Guangyang Secondary School in Bishan has also become part of this gardening community
Michael Chey seen here with his wife does all the paper work for the gardening community
It’s wonderful to see so many residents and volunteers alike come together to do their magic in a patch of community greenery right in the HDB heartland.
In this friendship garden in Bishan, even those who are restricted in movement due to old age come to enjoy the garden and interact with one another. This same spirit of friendship and community is flourishing in gardens found in other HDB developments as well, where neighbours get a chance to bond with one another over a common love for gardening. Some of these gardens can be found at Woodlands Street 82, Serangoon North Ave 3 and Yuhua Zone 2 Community Garden, just to name a few.
What about you? How do you bond together with your neighbours? Do you tend to a community garden together too, or maybe decorate your block together during festive occasions? We’d love to hear your stories! Drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on our MyNiceHome Facebook Page.