*All photos were taken before the Stabilisation Phase (27 Sep 2021)
By Carman Chew
In Singapore, it is easy to take access to healthcare for granted; getting an Antigen Rapid Test (ART) kit is as easy as scanning one’s identification card at a vending machine at a void deck, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are readily available at over 700 clinics.
For many residents of Pulau Ubin, however, getting a simple health check requires travelling out from their kampungs and taking a boat to the mainland. This is even more challenging for residents who have mobility issues due to old age or existing health conditions.
To plug this gap, early Sept 2021, the Goodstock team — headed by Republic Polytechnic senior lecturer Chong Hai-Yen — went down to distribute food, care packs, and administer simple health checks for several Ubin residents. The team comprised 11 volunteers from Republic Polytechnic’s School of Sports, Health and Leisure (SHL), Nanyang Polytechnic and Raleigh Singapore.
Paying it forward with the little things
In collaboration with NParks, People’s Association, and Temasek Trust, the group travelled to Ubin to distribute nasi lemak to 40 boatmen, and provide simple health checks to households in the Malay and Chinese villages.
A total of 80 care packs were also distributed to households, which included items like face masks, bottles, medicated ointments and a back massager, all sponsored by the Temasek Trust’s oscar@sg fund.
In addition, the Goodstock team had set up base camp at the old basketball courts, where they conducted modified taekwondo exercises for the island’s residents. These were led by Woo Mei Teng, another Republic Polytechnic lecturer who frequently engages the elderly in Chinatown for similar community activities.
“The exercises were chosen to improve blood circulation and coordination,” she explained.
“Even though the coordination was not really there, you can see them (the residents) really getting into the activity and enjoying it.”
For some volunteers, this was their first time on Ubin. Kelsey Chow, a volunteer from Raleigh Singapore, commented on how the event “opened her eyes” to the differences between city life and village life, and that it was nice to see firsthand the friendliness and kampung spirit.
For others, the event provided them with new insight into a familiar space.
“I’ve actually come here a lot for my own vlogging, but we were all just zooming by. This time we were engaging with people, entering homes, making friends — getting to form these deeper relationships, my heart is full, really,” said Terence Yiew, an event volunteer from Nanyang Polytechnic.
Goodstock: a community for a common good
The name “Goodstock” was inspired by the 1969 music festival Woodstock, where half a million people gathered to celebrate peace. In the same way, Hai-Yen hopes to empower a community of people who believe in paying it forward.
“It might sound like very simple things: conducting health checks, exercise or visits to the houses,” Hai-Yen explained.
“But these activities also open conversations and help build connections, that’s when you really impact people and create a sustainable movement.”
For Hai-Yen, Ubin is like her “second home”. She grew up on the coasts of Changi and visited Ubin almost every weekend, and continues to now when she brings her students to the Adventure Learning Centre.
She laments that due to Covid-19 restrictions, she could only bring some friends and students onboard the Ubin project. Still, she hopes that through this experience these volunteers will be inspired to bring more friends and introduce them to the joys of the island.
At present, about 30 residents live on Pulau Ubin, with many of them in their late 60s and 70s. While many are more than happy to have more mainlanders flock there to learn more about the island and rejuvenate their business, some would still like to urge Singaporeans to adhere to safety management measures when visiting lest they bring the pandemic over.