Building strong, vibrant communities in our heartlands 

With technology and social media, it is easy to ‘join’, ‘like’, ‘follow’ and become instantaneously part of a group. Unfortunately, mobilising people in real life and cultivating that strong sense of community has become much more difficult in an increasingly atomised society. For governments worldwide, the question has always been, what can we do to bring back the kampong spirit of yesteryear and transform exclusionary and tribal relationships into an open, supportive one? 

One thing is for sure. And that is, strong and vibrant communities do not manifest on their own alongside brick-and-mortar flats. While our clean and modern high-rise HDBs might be the envy of many nations, what makes our heartlands such great places to live, is the continuous effort that goes into strengthening the relationship and attachment between people and their local communities, turning our neighbourhoods into somewhere Singaporeans are proud to call home. 

Building an abundance of community spaces  

How do we get residents into the same space and build bonds organically? Investment in community spaces – parks, playgrounds, libraries, community centres etc. is one way since it creates opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds to talk, laugh and argue. 

Therefore, it is no coincidence that such social infrastructures have become familiar sights in our neighbourhoods and an enabler for weaving relationships. Earlier in April, Punggol Regional Library opened with a bang. Besides being Singapore’s biggest public library, it is also an inclusive space, designed with features to cater for people with disabilities, offering services for home entrepreneurs and lessons in robotics and 3D modelling for the general public, shared MP Ms Yeo Wan Ling (Pasir Ris–Punggol GRC).  

Meanwhile, the commonplace but versatile void deck continues to play an important role in promoting community ties. A public space in every sense and the scene of countless weddings and even more funerals, yet the void deck remains strangely intimate and unique to each block. These days, apart from being the venue for block parties, food distribution drives and even art installations, ground-up initiatives are turning void decks into a bona fide hang-out spot, complete with books, musical instruments and good company.  

Finally, one cannot talk about community without mentioning the rise of the allotment. Since NParks introduced the scheme in 2016, 2000 allotment plots island-wide were balloted, snatched up like the gardening equivalent of Taylor Swift’s concert tickets.  

So, what is it about allotments that make them so popular? The joy of growing and harvesting your own food, perhaps. But in densely built neighbourhoods like ours, allotments serve a bigger purpose, allowing Singaporeans to connect with nature and more importantly, with one another. 

Still in doubt? Just ask Minister for National Development and West Coast GRC MP Mr Desmond Lee, often seen out and about with his green-fingered constituents, tending to their community garden at the top of a multi-storey carpark in Boon Lay. “Apart from beautifying our environment and reducing overall ambient temperature, it creates opportunities for residents of all ages to interact. Our oldest gardener is a sprightly 76 years old, and we also have children as young as five joining us in this effort,” shared Minister Lee.  

Photo Source: Yeo Wan Ling/Desmond Lee/ Murali Pillai/ Indranee Rajah/Chan Chun Sing via Facebook