More Residents Playing Active Roles in Enlivening Their Community Spaces and Building Neighbourly Ties
From setting up a high-tech hydroponics community garden to transforming a void deck into an Instagram-worthy hang-out spot, more people have been coming forward with creative ideas to liven up community spaces in HDB estates to encourage bonding.
2 At the launch of the HDB Community Week 2019 at Kampung Admiralty today, Minister for Social and Family Development & Second Minister for National Development, Mr Desmond Lee paid tribute to some 840 volunteers and 33 schools and organisations who have played an active role in enlivening community spaces and building neighbourly ties under the HDB Build-a-thon 2019 or Friends of Our Heartlands (FOH) network.
3 First implemented in 2014, the third edition of the HDB Build-a-thon this year saw the biggest participation, with a total of 80 participants coming together to propose and implement solutions to activate common spaces and create friendly and lively neighbourhoods in HDB estates. The participants, comprising residents in the various HDB estates and students of Republic Polytechnic, formed eight teams to transform common spaces within Woodlands and Sembawang towns into lively social nodes that can draw residents together and help them get to know one another better.
4 This is the first Build-a-thon where participants were involved from end to end, bringing their ideas from the drawing board to life over a period of five months from Jan to May 2019. In previous Build-a-thons, the winning ideas from the teams were implemented by or in partnership with HDB. To equip them with the resources to realise their ideas, a series of training sessions was conducted for the teams by lecturers from Republic Polytechnic. Through these sessions, the Build-a-thon teams were guided to define the issues they wished to address, understand their target audience’s perspective and seek their feedback, as well as prototype their proposed solutions. A total of $145,000 in funding from HDB’s Friendly Faces, Lively Places Fund was set aside for these teams to actualise their projects.
5 Of the eight Build-a-thon teams, the top three projects with the best ideas were awarded $2,500. The projects were judged on their ability to address the needs of the community and generate a significant positive impact, as well as whether they were sustainable and replicable elsewhere. The winning projects include:
Inspired by the success of community gardens in other HDB precincts in bringing residents together, Mr Leon Yeo and his team of Woodlands residents and students from Republic Polytechnic sought to introduce a community garden with a twist. Instead of the conventional community garden, they set up a high-tech, cleaner version – a hydroponics community garden located at a common green near Blk 573 Woodlands Drive 16. The garden occupies about 30 sqm or half the size of a 3-room flat.
With the support of eco interest groups in the neighbourhood, they organised an eco-talk and workshop, and rallied residents to help in planting and harvesting their own edible greens such as chye sim and Chinese cabbage.The new garden has been a hit with residents. Since its opening in March 2019, the farm has attracted over 200 residents to join in their gardening activities – many of them young families who have become firm friends through the activities. In addition to being among the top three Build-a-thon projects, the team also received the new “Best Social Media Team” award, a $500 prize, for effectively using social media to engage residents on their project.
The Woodlands hydroponics community garden has brought young families in the area together
and many have since become firm friends
Observing the lack of interaction between the older and younger generation of residents in their neighbourhood, Mr Richard Tan and his team of Woodlands residents and Republic Polytechnic students saw the opportunity to do more to bring residents of different ages in the community together.
The team identified the void deck of Blk 683C Woodlands Drive 62 as a potential space for their project. Located right in front of a bus stop, the void deck enjoys high visibility and footfall. With the support and ideas of some 230 residents in the area, they went on to install impressive 3-D wall murals that showcased different eras of Singapore’s development, and introduced traditional games such as hop-scotch and snake-and-ladders using floor decals. Additional lighting, as well as a plant wall, were also added to the space.
The end result is an Instagram-worthy hang-out spot, named ‘Konnect Point’, that has become popular with residents of all ages. Since April 2019, the team has also been actively bringing more residents to this rejuvenated void deck by organising a series of monthly weekend breakfast events. Besides enjoying a complimentary porridge breakfast, residents can participate in planned activities such as workshops and a flea market. Two such events have already been held since April 2019, with a strong turnout of about 100 residents participating each time.
The full list of the eight Build-a-thon 2019 projects is available at Annex A.
With the help of residents in the area, the once spartan void deck at Blk 683C Woodlands Drive 62 has been
transformed into an Instagram-worthy hang-out spot for residents of all ages
6 Since 2014, the Build-a-thon has brought together a total of 180 residents and students, eager to contribute their ideas and energy to making their community a more vibrant place. Through these Build-a-thons, 11 community projects have been completed or are at various stages of implementation, including the Build-a-Playground @ Canberra which was completed in January 2018. With the successful run of the first three Build-a-thons, HDB will look at scaling up this programme to open up more ways for residents to come together to make an impact on their communities.
7 Besides the Build-a-thon, HDB’s Friends of Our Heartlands (FOH) network has also drawn passionate volunteers to give of their time and talent to build strong communities in the heartlands.
8 The FOH network amalgamates HDB’s wide range of community building and volunteering programmes under one umbrella to offer a holistic platform for volunteers to take up multiple volunteering opportunities, while also networking with like-minded individuals and organisations to tap on partnership opportunities (please refer to Annex B for details).
9 Since its launch in 2017, the number of FOH volunteers has grown from year to year, as more residents and students come forward to volunteer their time and effort and give back to their community. In just two years, the programme has drawn close to 7,900 volunteers. Of these, over 5,900 (or 75%) are younger volunteers aged 35 and below. From organising workshops to facilitating engagement sessions, they are passionate about a common cause, coming up with creative ideas to bring the community together over a myriad of activities that promote gracious, harmonious and responsible living in the heartlands. Through these activities, they have reached out to more than 118,000 residents.
10 Besides younger members, the FOH volunteers also include sprightly seniors who remain firmly committed to giving back to their community. One such volunteer is Mr Peter Lo, who, at 73 years old, is one of HDB’s most senior FOH volunteers. With his affable nature and desire to do his part for the environment, volunteering as an HDB eco-guide in 2014 was an easy decision for him. Today, with six years of eco-guiding experience under his belt, Peter has taken some 360 students on guided tours of Punggol Eco-Town. On these tours, he explains to them the town’s myriad eco-features while dishing out titbits about Punggol’s history. Beyond raising awareness of the environment, he also hopes to inspire the youths to make their own positive impact on their living environment for the benefit of future generations.
11 The FOH volunteers have played a significant role in building a stronger community and making the HDB heartlands a better home for all. At the Friends of Our Heartlands Appreciation Ceremony held in conjunction with the HDB Community Week today, over 760 volunteers received the Certificate of Appreciation for their efforts and contributions to the community. Another 33 schools and organisations received the Appreciation and Partnership Awards.
12 The HDB Friendly Faces, Lively Places (FFLP) Fund was launched in 2016 to encourage residents to initiate and implement projects that contribute to the building of active and cohesive communities. The projects can range from physical improvements such as converting a void deck to a community living room or installation of a public art; to non-physical improvements such as workshops and other activities.
13 The fund was enhanced in 2018 to provide more support for residents and shopkeepers in implementing projects to build a stronger community. With the enhancements, residents wishing to implement physical improvements to activate social spaces can apply for funding of up to $20,000, up from the previous $10,000. The increase in funding enables residents to plan larger-scale and more impactful community projects. The fund was also extended to shopkeepers and Merchants’ Associations to enliven HDB spaces near their businesses.
14 Since the increasing in funding, HDB has given support for four community projects by Merchants’ Associations and a further 14 building projects from residents (including the building projects under Build-a-thon 2019). This is twice the number of building projects supported in the previous years.
15 To date, HDB has received 144 applications for funding of both physical and non-physical projects. Of these, 110 projects have been supported, and about $370,000 has been disbursed or committed for these projects.
16 The HDB Community Week runs from 25 May to 2 June 2019. Various fun and exciting activities for the whole family have been lined up, including workshops and performances by local talents. The key events are as follows:
 Since May 2016, the community can apply for funding of up to $20,000 under HDB’s Friendly Faces, Lively Places Fund to implement projects that promote active and cohesive communities, and bring vibrancy to community spaces in their neighbourhoods. The projects can be physical improvement projects such as converting a void deck to a community living room or installation of a public art, or non-physical ones such as workshops.