Speech by 2M Desmond Lee at the Launch of HDB Community Week 2019

May 25, 2019

Good afternoon everyone. I would like to welcome everyone to the launch of this year’s HDB Community Week, right here at Kampung Admiralty.

This integrated development has a whole range of facilities and amenities that promote active living, and inter-generational bonding for Singaporeans of all ages. 

For example, there is an Active Ageing Hub for our seniors, a childcare centre for our young, a hawker centre and a supermarket by NTUC for all of us to enjoy and to use. On the roof, there is a community garden with gardening activities by NParks’ Community in Bloom programme.

Yet, being in a modern kampong, in a modern community like this, goes well beyond having facilities at our doorsteps. It is really all about relationships - the people, the friendly neighbours and the warmth of the community. Right here in Kampung Admiralty, we see people exercising, cooking and eating together; and when people need help, neighbours step in to lend a hand. 

HDB doesn’t just build homes. It also seeks to establish vibrant and cohesive communities within our towns and our estates. But HDB doesn’t do so alone, and it cannot do so alone. It needs to partner all of you -  the residents, the grassroots and the larger community, to develop concrete plans and initiatives to improve the neighbourhoods and build communities.   

HDB Build-a-thon 2019

One such initiative is the HDB Build-a-thon, which is into its third edition this year. 

Earlier this year, eight teams from Sembawang and Woodlands Towns met my colleagues at HDB to brainstorm for ideas to enliven their own neighbourhoods. The teams implemented their projects but needed funding, so we have the HDB Friendly Faces, Lively Places Fund. This is a seed fund launched in 2016 to support community projects in our neighbourhoods. 

So let me share with you just two projects from this year’s Build-a-thon initiative to give an idea.

The first project is Hydroglen. Mr Leon Yeo and his team, who are residents at Woodlands Glen, were inspired by the success of the community gardens at other precincts that brought residents together. They introduced a hydroponics community garden in their own neighbourhood. 

Using our funding, Leon and his team got the hydroponics farm up and running in just 2 months. They also managed to get many residents, including young children, to adopt a pot to grow their own edible greens. Through this activity, the residents got to know each other, and bring home their own produce. So it’s not just about the garden, it’s about the seeds that build a community together. Leon is now looking to expand the garden to accommodate and welcome more members, and I hope he has the opportunity to spread this joy across Singapore.

The second project is Konnectorize. 

Seven residents from the Woodlands Drive 62 neighbourhood joined forces with three students from Republic Polytechnic. They decided to refresh the void deck space at Block 683C by painting an impressive series of themed 3D wall murals titled ‘From Farmland to A Modern City’. Completed only about a month ago, the 3D wall murals and a plant wall installation have added a lot of character to the void deck. The result is a new appealing space that many residents, both young and old, treasure and are proud of. Two community events have been held there in the past month, with more than 100 residents at each event. I understand that residents within the neighbourhood are inspired and are planning to do more of such art projects in the neighbourhood.  

These two projects are great examples of meaningful and impactful ground-up initiatives that are implemented by residents. 

As residents living in the estate, you would be familiar with how best to improve your own living environment and initiate activities that your neighbours would be interested in. By playing an active role in shaping your living environment, I hope you will in turn inspire more of your neighbours to step forward and share their talent and ideas. Make the community yours. 

Ultimately, we hope this will strengthen community bonds, and enhance inclusiveness within your estates. 

Citizen-Collaboration: Friends of Our Heartlands (FOH)

Besides the Build-a-thon initiative, HDB also started the Friends of our Heartlands (FOH) network in 2017, to partner residents to give back to the community. 
Since 2017, the network has grown to about 7,900 volunteers. These volunteers have reached out to more than 100,000 residents through their efforts in promoting neighbourliness and eco-friendly living, and they provide ideas for community projects within their neighbourhood. 

Today, I am happy to show our appreciation to some of these volunteers for their contributions. 

Our volunteers come from all age groups, including the young, working adults, and retirees. No matter how busy they are, they find meaning in doing their part for the community. One such volunteer is Mr Pradip Mandal. 

Pradip is a busy IT Project Manager, but he still finds time to give back to the community. He worked with his neighbours to come up with new design ideas, for example designing an upcoming playground at Tembusu Park. He also ran a game for residents to understand the trade-offs in designing a playground, such as budget, safety and space constraints, and other technical considerations.  

Another two volunteers who have contributed greatly are Eddie and Carmen, who became friends after they joined the network in 2017. They organised a colouring workshop in Punggol to teach pre-schoolers and primary school students the merits of recycling. Both of them also designed a game to help the children learn about recyclable materials such as paper and plastic. 

Pradip, Eddie and Carmen are fine examples of volunteers who do good work as part of the FOH Network. Look out for them and others at the HDB Community Week exhibition. And as we celebrate our volunteers’ achievements, I hope that their experiences will motivate you to come on-board the Friends of Our Heartlands Network and join our team of volunteers on the ground in our communities.

Together, We Can Do More

Through the examples that I have shared today, we can see how a close working relationship between HDB and the community has helped to foster strong community ties and promote inclusivity within the neighbourhood. We must continue to build on this partnership and encourage more residents to contribute back to their own communities. 

There is still very much we can achieve together, and HDB remains committed to providing as many opportunities as possible for residents to be involved in the community and in initiating ground-up projects. We hope to build a more vibrant community all across the island, where Singaporeans will play an even more active role in shaping our own living environment. So let’s celebrate Community Week together, take an active interest in building warm friendships across our communities all over Singapore. Week after week, month after month, year after year, we strive to build a heart-warming society centred around strong and active neighbourhoods.

Thank you.