Malay residents put up CNY decorations at Tampines block corridor for elderly neighbours

SINGAPORE – With its decorations, fairy lights and flowers, the fourth-floor corridor at Block 117 Tampines Street 11 resembles a brightly lit village.

But 36-year-old resident Abdullah Abdul Rahman is really hoping to represent the kampung spirit, something he says is in abundance in the block where he lives with many retirees as neighbours.

Mr Abdullah, who lives on the fourth floor, put up the Chinese New Year decorations to thank his neighbours for supporting his family after his 83-year-old father’s death last December.

“After my father died, we had to move to my sister’s home to host visitors as our flat did not have enough room.

“While we were away for a month, our neighbours kept the corridor in front of our unit clean and watered our plants. I wanted to show my appreciation and also bring the different races together to celebrate Chinese New Year (which falls on Feb 12),” he said.

Mr Abdullah, who works as a sales assistant, puts up similar decorations for Hari Raya each year, in a bid to share festival cheer with his neighbours.

Most of his neighbours are elderly residents living alone or with their spouses.

His brother Azman Haji Mohd Salleh, 59, helped with the decorations, which include fresh flowers like orchids, roses and hibiscus.

Mr Azman, who is unemployed, is the primary caregiver to their 82-year-old mother. The siblings share the two-room flat with her.

In May last year, when landmarks around Singapore displayed blue lights as a tribute to front-line workers, Mr Abdullah switched the lights he had put up for Hari Raya Puasa to that shade as well.

“I know last year was difficult for many of the residents in our block. With the circuit breaker and regulations to stop Covid-19 in place, the seniors living here felt lonely because they could not go about their regular routines,” said Mr Abdullah.

Ms Nancy Tan, a retiree who previously worked in the childcare sector, said the Chinese New Year decorations bring cheer to residents like her, especially after a hard year.

The 67-year-old, who lives alone, had moved to the block seven years ago. She was among those who helped Mr Abdullah’s family while they were away.

“We get along very well with Abdullah’s family, especially his late father. When Abdullah came up with the suggestion for decorations, I was happy to agree.

“I feel safe knowing that they are down the corridor if I need their help,” she said.

Mr Abdullah Abdul Rahman (far left) with his neighbours in a wefie, on Feb 8, 2021. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Mr Abdullah Abdul Rahman put up the Chinese New Year decorations to thank his neighbours for supporting his family. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

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Preparations began in mid-January and the decorations went up last week.

It has caught the eye of other residents living in the 11-storey block.

They would walk down the corridor to view the set-up. For those who want to admire the flowers, Mr Abdullah has placed two chairs outside his home.

Mr Abdullah spent $100 of his own money but was also helped by shops nearby like Sisters Flowers, which is located at Tampines Round Market.

The market is a five-minute walk from the block.

Several other shops also provided him with festive ornaments and fresh flowers.

The siblings also bought boxes of oranges to distribute to their neighbours, and prepared special red packets for the children of shop owners who helped them with the decorations.

Mr Abdullah Abdul Rahman and his neighbour Mdm Mary Tay admiring the Chinese New Year prosperity orange plant, on Feb 8, 2021. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Mr Abdullah Abdul Rahman was also helped by shops nearby like Sisters Flowers. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Decorations such as potted flowers, mandarin orange plants and Chinese New Year ornaments can be found along the corridors and at the lift landing. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

“This is the least I can do to thank them,” he said. “Their good deeds are far more precious than our red packets.”

The siblings will next month source for decorations for Hari Raya, which falls on May 13. They are not expecting many bazaar stalls this year amid the pandemic.

“One thing that is missing in many of our housing estates is the community spirit and we have managed to retain that here.

“Whether it is down at the market or at our block, the residents talk to each other, exchange dishes and help each other to shop for groceries.

“I want to safeguard that spirit for as long as I can,” said Mr Abdullah.

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