When retiree Jennifer Moo started an exercise group to get her neighbours to keep fit three years ago, she did not expect it to become her bulwark.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, nine years after a battle with colon cancer.
At the same time, the 72-year-old was left reeling after the death of her youngest daughter, who died from colon cancer last year. Her husband is a 69- year-old retiree and they have two other daughters.
Her neighbours in Dover Close, such as retiree Angelina Tan, 70, jumped in to help by visiting and bringing gifts of food for Ms Moo and her daughter, who was then at Assisi Hospice.
When Ms Moo’s daughter died, her neighbours were her source of strength. “They know that I feel sad sometimes, so they will come over to my house or walk with me to the market, just to chit-chat and keep me company,” she says.
She needed a dose of cheering up and that came when she was one of 11 winners of the Housing Board and People’s Association Good Neighbour Awards, which were given out two Saturdays ago.
She won for her initiative in starting the exercise group – a team of 15 neighbours over the age of 60 who meet twice a week to do light stretches and jumps – though she says that what her neighbours had done for her far outweighs her contribution.
“All my neighbours are more neighbourly than me, so I am very thankful that they have done this for me. They love me, I love them too,” she says.
The Good Neighbour Award, in its fourth year, honours those who have gone the extra mile to enrich their community with exemplary acts of care and neighbourliness.
It is organised by the Housing Board and People’s Association, and supported by the Singapore Kindness Movement and Singapore Press Holdings.
Five national awards were presented in the Open Category, with recipients chosen from 1,800 nominations. Each award recipient received a trophy and $500 worth of grocery vouchers.
Six national awardees in the Student Category, out of 700 nominees, received a $300 book voucher and a trophy.
It is the same spirit of sharing that won 13-year-old Siti Athirah Mohammed Nasar the award. She is the elder of two children in her family and has a younger brother. Her father is a 41-year-old administrative officer and her mother is a 36-year-old account executive.
Siti was nominated by her neighbour, 12-year-old Nur Eshal Mohammed Amin. They became friends three years ago when Siti said a meek “hi” to Eshal in the corridor of their flats in Yung Ann Road.
Since then, whenever Siti’s family bakes, she delivers goodies such as chocolate chip cookies, marble cake and chocolate chiffon cake to Eshal.
It is her way of sharing her passion for baking and Eshal says: “My mother seldom bakes so when Siti’s family bakes and shares, it’s really nice.”
Another winner is Ms Kalthum Jumaat, 60, who organises annual street parties for her neighbours in Kew Crescent estate.
She was nominated by her neighbour, retiree Christine Seow, who declined to give her age.
Before any bash, Ms Kalthum, an associate director of wealth management at a bank, hands out leaflets to residents to indicate the number of attendees and the food items they will be bringing.
It is a delicious spread of local dishes including pots of mee siam and rendang.
The parties are for neighbours to socialise and iron out any potential disputes, says Ms Kalthum. Her husband is a 61-year-old bank manager and they have two daughters.
For example, residents have a common understanding not to park their vehicles, or that of their guests, in front of a neighbour’s house.
She says: “Neighbours are very important because they are right next to you and if there is any emergency, you watch out for them and they watch out for you.”
This feature was brought to you by HDB.
First published in The Straits Times – June 11, 2013