Serving the community, together

10 September 2019 | Community
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Prof Tan (left) taking part in a cleanup at the Sungei Pandan mangrove for the NUS Day of Service

The NUS community turned out in force for the annual NUS Day of Service (DOS) on 7 September. More than 2000 NUS students, alumni and staff participated in 53 community-initiated projects ranging from animal welfare and the environment, to children and the elderly.

Now in its fourth year, DOS — initiated by the NUS Alumni Advisory Board and managed by NUS Alumni Relations — reinforces the University’s strong tradition of serving and contributing to Singapore and society.

NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye kicked off the day at the Sungei Pandan mangrove for a cleanup organised by the NUS Life Science Society’s Environmental Biology Interest Group (EVBig). Prof Tan joined 24 participants in picking up pieces of plastic, food wrappers and plastic bottles that had gotten trapped in the mangrove. In total, the group collected 59 garbage bags of trash, weighing 214 kilograms.

“We hope that our EVBig members and other undergraduates learn more about marine trash and plastic pollution issues in Singapore, not just from their lectures, but by experiencing it themselves. Through seeing the amount of single-use items and other littler trapped in our mangroves, we hope that our participants also think about issues such as consumerism and their own lifestyle habits,” said Liow Jia Zhen, Programmes Executive of EVBig.

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Volunteers from the NUS King Edward VII Hall sweeping leaves from the courtyard at Kampung Durian on Pulau Ubin

For NUS King Edward VII Hall (KEVII) students, DOS was an opportunity to practice their motto — “To strive, to seek, to serve”. Thirty residents, alumni, exchange students and staff members from the Hall sailed to Pulau Ubin to clean homes, courtyards and gardens at Kampung Durian — one of the last kampungs in Singapore. The closeness to nature, heritage, and tight-knit community of kampungs closely mirror the atmosphere at KEVII, which made the volunteers feel right at home, they shared.

NUS alumna Ms Velda Wong spearheaded a learning journey to Foreword Coffee at Temasek Shophouse, where participants learnt how to make coffee from the café’s differently-abled baristas. “I was inspired by the business model and mission of Foreword Coffee. They advocate for people with special neds, mental health and intellectual disabilities… I think it’s important to champion for inclusiveness in Singapore where everyone with different abilities can come together and create a viable service or product for the benefit of society at large,” said the NUS Communications and New Media graduate, who served on the executive committees of the NUS Students’ Union and NUS Rotaract Club when she was a student.

The 40 participants — NUS Deputy President (Research & Technology) Professor Chen Tsuhan and NUS Alumni Advisory Board member and Member of Parliament Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar among them — enjoyed a hands-on experience learning about the best methods to brew coffee. They also heard from Foreword Coffee founder and NUS Arts and Social Science alumnus Mr Lim Wei Jie on how to support the inclusive movement.

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Students from NUS Dance Synergy teaching elderly participants how to do stretching exercises before their dance lesson

Other projects included an outing to Gardens by the Bay for migrant workers; a quantum science show-and-tell session for the public at Science Centre Singapore; a visit to the NUS Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum for underprivileged families and people with cerebral palsy; meal preparations at the Willing Hearts Soup Kitchen; and distributing fruit and vegetables from the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre to beneficiaries under the Singapore Food Bank.

NUS alumni chapters in nine cities all over the world also played their part on DOS 2019. Some 50 members of the NUS Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKY School) Alumni Pakistan Chapter distributed lunch boxes to construction workers in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. The LKY School Bangladesh Alumni Chapter did their part to fight dengue in Dhaka by fogging and cleaning up the area around the Hathirjhleel Lake. In Manila, Philippines, NUS alumni visited the paediatric department of the Philippine General Hospital to donate medical equipment and food items. NUS alumni in Yangon, Myanmar, visited the Aung Zay Yar Min Monastery Orphanage to donate food and stationery, as well as educate the 400 orphans about personal hygiene. 

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An LKY School alumnus in Pakistan (far left) distributing lunch boxes to construction workers 

“The NUS Day of Service is more than a single day’s activity — DOS represents the dedication and continuing efforts of NUS alumni, students and staff who selflessly give back to the community. I am encouraged to know that there are many individuals who are keen to contribute back to society. I hope DOS and the spirit of service continues to grow, and sprout many sustained activities and regular volunteers,” said Mr Jeremy Ee, Chairman of the DOS Organising Committee.