A mother invited us for Hari Raya lunch in her place a month ago, She had also invited some of her friends and neighbour’s whom residing in the same estate, these friends are some of parents who had attended the parent support group. Over the lunch, some of them was questioning if there will be any Hari Raya celebrations in the neighbourhood, a mother replied that there will be one, organised by Resident Committee, but it will be held in the Community Centre, which is 15 minute walk from their estate and the ticket price would be $6 per person. Hearing that, they murmured among them, why is it so expensive to celebrate ones festival, how can we go with so many children, so on and so forth?  One of the mother suggested, Should we celebrate on our own. We can do pot-luck gathering among us.  After all, we all can cook; our youth and children can support us.

 

Three days after the lunch, Madam A called us to ask for permission to use our premises to gather everyone, in order to plan for the community Raya celebrations. She further explained that, She had tried to use the Resident Committee centre, however it was under renovations. We agreed to render our assistant by providing the meeting place. Since then, a group of mothers, youths and children gathered three times to discuss on the logistic, the food, the games, gift and extras. They listed out everyone’s roles, especially who will cook what dishes, who will help on decorations and who would be the emcee, who will call their Resident Committee Chairperson to book the venue, a nearby pavilion. They were lacking out a sponsor for the sound system, and through another community friends, they found a resident whom has the sound system and willing to sponsor for the event. They borrowed the table, chairs and other equipment from the nearby Mosque and Family Service Centre. Some of the mothers managed to find some sponsors for gifts as they had planned to reward those whom well dressed for the event. We, the Bukit Ho Swee Youth team were also invited and being part of the community, we decided to bring some fruits and drinks as our contribution for the pot-luck.

 

During one of the meeting, we ask them on how many people they are inviting as we are quit curious about the food, if it will be sufficient for everyone, and how are they going to invite them? Madam A replied that, they have decided to invite all those whom previously involved with community volunteering, their family, friends and some elderly whom staying in their neighbourhood and also their RC Chairperson and the committee members. Overall, they have estimated about 80-100 people, comprising of children, youths, adults and elderly. They get their children’s to create a simple invitation card to exchange among them and to invite those neighbours whom they never engaged before. Madam S and her son are known to be a difficult family to be friend with, as they always get into trouble with other neighbours were also invited.

 

On the day of the event, everything happen as planned. It was crowded and lively. We ask ourselves if this is what they call it as a pot-luck as we surprise with the variety of food in the table. It was a good spread of meal and they all are delicious. There was singing, dancing and playing games, everyone was having maximum fun. There were three tourists who happen to pass by the area, decided to learn more on the celebrations. Some mothers explained to them what going on and they even invited them to have some food. There were a group of ITE students, apparently invited by a youth enjoying themselves, they were all amazed, as they commented, this is the first time they ever experience such Raya celebrations and they hoped their community would have similar celebrations in the future. The whole crowd was mingling and moving along the flow, when Mdm. A make an announcement to invite all those dressed up well to come forward. Mdm S was selected to receive the gift as she was in her nice “baju kurung and songkok- a malay hat”, for the party along with others. As Mdm. S walked over to collect the gift, we could sense that everyone is noticing her and she was getting all the attention she needed from the crowd. At the end of the evening, everyone stayed back to assist in cleaning the venue.

 

Last Friday, this group of resident gathered to talk about the event, they brought in two new mother and a youth which they met during the event. Generally they all felt it was good celebrations as a Community. The atmosphere was great, very welcoming and accommodative to everyone. The food was great, everyone played their part to chip in something. They felt that they could have invited more people if they should have measured the amount of food that being brought. A mother shared, she was having difficult time before the event, and she felt great after the event. Its was nice to sit down and talk and get to know more friends in this setting, she said. They also felt that there should have been more games prepared for the children and youths. They hope, more youth will come forward to assist on the logistic and games on the event day and the Emcee could have explained a bit more on the background of the event, to create more awareness of community spirit. Some commented they should have invited the other races such as Chinese and Indian for such celebration to really it make it like” Kampong style”. Overall, everybody agreed that it was a success, they pad each other’s back for a great celebrations. We also thanked them for allowing us to be small part of them and we praise everyone for displaying great community spirit.

 

I wonder if this kind of event or similar event could really create an impact in the community, in line with our beliefs for greater engagement, partnership and restorative neighborhood.

If yes, how can we enhance the community spirit more? If no, what are the alternatives we have in addressing the community with its unique dynamic, which generally I believe are influenced by underlying currents called fears, greed or love?

 

 

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”
~Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the Legendary Social Activist~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comment by Marie Lamboray on October 18, 2012 at 7:06pm

Hi Mark,

Your story made me think of the "Meal of the World Day" organised by the community of asylum seekers of Beho in Belgium. It has had great impact. You can read it here: http://aidscompetence.ning.com/profiles/blogs/lhistoire-de-beho-int... (there's an imperfect English version in the comments)

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