A Heart for Residents

How Community Clubs (CCs) are collaborating with public agencies to uphold the common good and improve the lives of residents.

As Singaporean as a cup of kopi-o, CCs can be found in almost every corner of the island, offering a unique space for residents to come together as one. Bustling with activity from morning to night, modern-day CCs not only offer a broad array of courses ranging from adventure sports to yoga, they also provide essential services and help strengthen bonds between residents and neighbours, in ways both mundane and extraordinary.

This role often requires working with other agencies and community stakeholders in order to deliver the best solutions for the common good. A recent case demonstrates the importance of this approach, as well as the determination of public officers to make daily life better for all residents. 

For several years, residents of a block of flats in Toa Payoh had known of a unit that collected large amounts of old newspapers and other items. Not only did this raise issues of hygiene and public health for the immediate community, it also posed safety concerns, since many items were also stacked along the common corridor.

Having learnt of this situation, a team of officers at Potong Pasir CC was determined to reach out to the family involved. Foremost on their minds was the need to uphold the common good and ease conditions for all residents, in a way that was sensitive to everyone involved. According to Ms Wilna Tan, Constituency Director of Potong Pasir CC, persistence was crucial. “It took four months before we were able to persuade the family to let us into the flat,” she explains.


Besides the People’s Association, other agencies such as the National Environment Agency (NEA), the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the Housing and Development Board lent their support. For SCDF Staff Sergeant Lawrence Neo, the priority was to ensure the safety of residents and neighbours. “We knew that there was a fire hazard that could arise from this unit, and that it was important to take action,” he recalls.

Among the public officers who visited the family was Ms Connie Law, an Environmental Health Officer with NEA who helped explain the effects of excessive storage of items. “We shared with them about the impact on health and safety,” she says.

Patience was also important in changing mindsets over time. “During each visit, we tried to persuade them, and to offer assistance,” explains Mr Poh Ah Keong, Deputy Officer-in-charge (Community Policing Unit), SPF. 


The breakthrough finally came in early 2014 when the team received clearance to remove the items from the flat. The six-day operation involved officers from Potong Pasir CC and other agencies, as well as community stakeholders and grassroots volunteers. When it was finally completed, numerous residents in the neighbourhood came forward to express their appreciation and thanks, from their hearts.

For Mr Gabriel Seow, Deputy Constituency Director of Potong Pasir CC, the effort demonstrated how public agencies and residents can work together to overcome seemingly intractable challenges, for the common good. “Each agency and stakeholder has its strengths, and it was through collaboration that we thought of ways to help the family and its neighbours,” he says.

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CREATING OUR FUTURE TOGETHER: Ms Wilna Tan and her team from Potong Pasir CC are the recipients of the PS21 Distinguished Star Service (Team) Award at this year’s Excellence in Public Service Awards ceremony.
    Jun 6, 2016
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