A Season of Goodwill –
Paying It Forward this Christmas with the Workers’ Party
Paying It Forward this Christmas with the Workers’ Party
In this season of goodwill, the Workers’ Party celebrated Christmas with residents by giving back to the community. We bring you insights on the Hougang Constituency Education Trust (HCET) award ceremony and the WP Youth Wing’s Festive Donation Drive held in conjunction with grassroots Christmas celebrations in Hougang SMC and Aljunied GRC.
Hougang Constituency Education Trust (HCET)
The Christmas season usually marks a period of respite before the commencement of a brand new school year for students. Flipping through the pages of a new textbook or changing out from shorts to pants for a boy progressing to Secondary 3 provides a certain kind of excitement and anticipation some of us are familiar with. However, the season may also present families facing financial difficulties with the prospect of not being able to afford basic school necessities for their children. The alleviation of their struggles during this time of the year was the motivation behind the Hougang Constituency Education Trust (HCET) which awards bursaries to students in Hougang who could do with some financial assistance to start a new school year.
Since the inaugural bursary presentation on 20th December 1992 at a Hougang SMC Christmas grassroots event, hundreds of students in Hougang have benefited from the bursaries, thanks to a big-hearted source – their community. Then newly elected MP for Hougang, Mr Low Thia Khiang, faced a situation where there were no bursary awards for needy students in the constituency. Mr Low dipped into his personal resources to help needy students, but realised a bigger positive impact on students’ well-being had to come from additional sources. Work was clearly set out for Mr Low to put right the situation. Mr Low forged partnerships with organisers of the Lunar Seventh-Month dinners and temple organisations, and had HCET plaques auctioned during temple dinners in Hougang to raise funds for the bursaries. Overseas trips for residents were also organised to help raise funds. Volunteers helped in assessing bursary applicants’ financial background by conducting house visits. The successful work of the HCET was made possible with the contributions from various members of the community.
Over the span of 23 years of fostering better opportunities for the students of Hougang, the HCET has come a long way since its inception. We’ve got the scoop on what the current MP-elect for Hougang, Mr Png Eng Huat, thinks about the HCET.
The HCET was set up in 1992 by then MP for Hougang, Mr Low Thia Khiang. As the current MP-elect for Hougang, what are your views on the continued relevance of the Trust?
Mr Png: The Trust is still relevant because if you look at the history of the Trust, it’s a community project and initiative. It’s restricted to Hougang residents only. So, the relevance is there. It shows the community spirit and that the more well-off are willing to help the less well-off.
Can you tell us more about the work that goes on behind the scenes to make this initiative possible?
Mr Png: We’re very grateful to all the event organisers, especially the Lunar Seventh-Month dinner organisers. They help us by allowing us to auction the Education Trust plaques. So, during the dinner, they will have a special time for us. At the auction, they will tell people about the history of this plaque and the Education Trust. They will also tell the residents to settle the amount by the end of the year and that 100% of it will go to the Trust; nobody’s keeping anything. So, it’s very helpful. And it has generated a lot of interest. That helps to keep the Trust going, for 23 years.
Since the Hougang by-election in 2012, you must have given out many awards under the Trust. Have there been any memorable moments?
Mr Png: Yes, there were moments where people who have benefited from the Trust have grown up and their families felt like they wanted to give back. So, they actually donated to the Trust. When I come across such incidents, it’s heartwarming.
How do you feel about the bursaries being given out during Christmas?
Mr Png: Christmas is a joyous occasion, a season of giving. There’s history behind it. There’s also Santa Claus and other Christmas stories – it’s a time to give and to share our joy, our abundance.
WP Youth Wing’s Festive Donation Drive
The Workers’ Party Youth Wing also decided to do its part to pay it forward this Christmas. Held over two consecutive days, first in Hougang SMC on 19th December 2015 and then in Bedok Reservoir – Punggol division of Aljunied GRC the next day, the Festive Donation Drive was in full swing during the grassroots Christmas celebrations in those constituencies.
Principally aimed at encouraging people to partake in a private donation drive to benefit the less fortunate, a call was made for volunteers and supporters to donate items on a wish list from a home for the disabled. Members of the public could also donate items at the booths set up at the grassroots events. These included useful items like food, medical supplies and cleaning aids.
Explaining the idea behind the donation drive, Ms He Ting Ru, who is also the Secretary of the Youth Wing’s Executive Committee said, “ The Youth Wing came up with our donation drive for one of the welfare-homes in one of our constituencies…We publicised this amongst our WP Volunteer Network, our friends and families, residents in Hougang and Aljunied. I’m very happy that we got a very good response. As you can see the tables here – they’re actually groaning under the weight of the donated items!”