We are doing what is right – to show that we care and appreciate everyone…and to look forward to what we can do together as a community.
Speech by Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC & Chairman of Nee Soon Town Council at the Nee Soon GRC Cleaners’ Appreciation Dinner, Sunday, 8 May 2016.
Minister K Shanmugam, Fellow Parliamentary Colleagues, Friends and Nee Soon Town Council team. Thank you for joining us at this evening’s Nee Soon GRC Cleaners Appreciation Dinner.
Being here today with us is a small but sincere gesture to say thank you to the people who contribute so much to making our homes much more comfortable.
Let me share a personal story.
In January this year, I worked as a cleaner with one of our Town Council cleaners Hanif. Let me pause to add that contrary to what other people believe – that a whole team of cleaners will have been assigned to pre-clean up the place before I started work – is not true. It was a real experience for me and trust me, there was plenty of rubbish to clear. Let me share with you the video of my experience.
It was physically exhausting and back-breaking work, especially when bending over to pick up hundreds of cigarette butts and clearing loads of trash.
Beyond the physical experience, I also saw two sides of a community. The hidden side of complacent people and their over-reliance on cleaners to clean up after their mess; contrasting against, the beauty of appreciation, laughter and smiles for the people who work day in and day out to clean our estate.
Let’s be honest about it.
Litter and waste food disposal is a cause of many downstream health and hygiene issues we face today. And with 350 cleaners in our estate, we are relying on an army of unsung heros to take up the chores that others would reject – cleaning.
It is not something to be proud of too, when we raise a generation that would say: “It’s ok. I’m littering to provide jobs for others”. This same, bizarre argument is also used to justify irresponsible actions in hawker centres, fast-food joints and coffeeshops.
And I know the effort that coffeeshop cleaners put into ensuring we have a clean environment to eat in. I experienced what it is like to be a coffeeshop cleaner [with Ah Eng] in February this year. Let me share with you the video of my experience.
Eventually, it is all about personal responsibility.
But all is not lost. As you can see from the videos, I experienced how Hanif and Ah Eng, and I believe our other cleaners too, were clearly well-loved by the community.
It is mutual.
Hanif approaches people humbly and with a smile. And in return, our residents smile and wave at him as well, be it from their homes, motorcycles or cars. Some even chat and laugh with him. I learned that some of our residents even offer food to our cleaners during lunch or tea breaks.
Ah Eng has helped clean our coffeeshop for decades now. I was privileged to work with her. I use the word ‘privilege’ and I wholeheartedly mean it. She was so hardworking, so caring and so dedicated. She taught me a lot, and a lot more than cleaning a coffee shop.
I hope we can all take time to appreciate the beauty in that. At times, we do take things that deserve our gratitude, for granted.
Thus, I wanted to take the opportunity to personally thank all our cleaners here today. Thank you for your hard work, your smiles and your patience. It has made a difference in the lives of all our residents.
And to the friends and family members of our cleaners. I want to say thank you for your support. Your friends and family members are special to us at Nee Soon Town Council.
I assure you that Cleaners’ Appreciation is not a one-off, annual affair. The team is exploring other things we can do, whether they be activities, or incorporating technologies that will reduce the burden and improve the productivity of our cleaners.
In December last year, we launched tricycles with bins and are testing a motorised vehicle. Earlier today, Nee Soon South partnered with a supplier to trial a bin-fill sensor system. Selected bins in high usage areas will be equipped with sensors to detect when they are full. The sensors will then send an email and SMS alert to the Town Council cleaners for attention.
Tricycles with bins
This is a start of things to come, and the direction we like to head towards.
I am glad that the Town Council is making a statement through this dinner. We are doing what is right to show that we care and appreciate everyone for being part of Nee Soon Town Council and to look forward to what we can do together as a community. It sets the tone for the kind of society and community we wish to promote. And that Nee Soon is a Home With a Heart.
I wish everyone a wonderful evening.