It's Our Community – Let's Get Involved

Yam Ah Mee
Chief Executive Director, People’s Association (PA)
It’s Our Community – Let’s Get Involved by Yam Ah Mee

Dear Young Officer, in the last eight months as the new Chief Executive Director, People’s Association, I have been struck by the large number of passionate people who contribute to the community every day in ways big and small, with a sense of purpose and fulfilment.

Grassroots leaders, district councillors, project volunteers – they truly have a heart for those around them. Some of the grassroots leaders have served more than 30 years. I have had the privilege of meeting many people, mostly citizens but increasingly more new citizens and permanent residents – taxi drivers, homemakers, businessmen, students and professionals – who lend their expertise, time and resources, outside of their own family and work, to serve others and make a difference to the community.

For example, the recent Chingay 2011 would not have been a success without the many volunteers who gave of their time and talents. Of the 8,000 volunteer performers, 3,900 were busy PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians), and 590 were active-agers aged 65 years and above, with the oldest being 113 years old! As a result of the large community involvement, six foreign TV stations, together with CNA (International Feed), provided hundreds of millions of people around the world an opportunity to watch the exciting event.

In Admiralty Division, grassroots leaders have developed an innovative way to keep a simple record of the residents’ expertise and those with special needs. These “Block Directories” made it possible to identify a nurse and a taxi driver who are able to help a disadvantaged elderly diabetic in their block. The nurse visits the elderly’s home to change her dressings and to chit chat with her. The taxi driver drives the patient to the clinic. Both provide these services for free.

At Tai Keng Gardens, a group of like-minded resident volunteers called Street Managers contribute their time to make their neighbourhood a great place to live. They also serve as an effective link between the residents and government agencies, for example by giving prompt feedback. When the flash floods occurred last year, they worked with government agencies to resolve flooding problems quickly and effectively. There are countless other good examples.

As I reflect on these, I feel humbled by their dedication and commitment to serve. Though I have also met some fellow public officers who serve in the community and found fulfilment and purpose in their involvement, we could make an even greater impact if more of us could get involved and contribute.

So if there is one piece of advice I could pass to you, it is to be involved in the community.

My earliest memory of this was during my childhood years. I benefited a lot from using community clubs and centres. I had my tuition and read newspapers there. I remember many of my older siblings enrolling in cake-making and sewing courses. Many of my friends grew up playing basketball – one of the more popular interest groups at the time. I have even participated in debates organised by the community centre.

Many of you may have had similar experiences in your neighbourhood in your younger years. And really, that’s what community involvement is about at the basic level.

There is great merit in getting involved. You will understand the ground better and know firsthand how policies and public services have affected, and will impact, people in their daily lives.

I have met a number of public officers who have won respect from communities because they – having seen the bigger picture of how policies are shaped – can explain them better to others. There are also many good ideas from the community that you can tap.

When you are in touch with the pulse of the community, you will have better insights and can offer more effective ways of formulating policies and explaining them to the public at large. As a result of people serving others in the community, stronger bonds based on mutual trust can be built. This will also boost the public’s confidence in our system of governance and grow their affinity to the country.

    Mar 16, 2011
    Yam Ah Mee
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