When schoolteacher Salma Aljunied walked into the Meet-the-People Session (MPS) at Nee Soon East, she was impressed by the simple yet charming ambience.
Volunteer James Clifton, an educator, explained that residents used to sit across heavy desks, giving a sense of them asking for help from the volunteers. Now, everyone sits around a round table, and that feeling is gone.
Nee Soon East Member of Parliament Louis Ng Kok Kwang wanted to do away with the “polyclinic feeling” and make the place more resident-friendly.
He said, “We had to make it bright and spunky. The Monday MPS is an important port-of-call for many Yishun residents who face difficulties and need help. We want our residents to feel comfortable and more relaxed while we provide them with a listening ear and help find solutions to their problems.”
FUNDING FROM PRIVATE DONOR
Veteran activist Gopal Krishnan says the funding for the furniture and overall face-lift came from a private donor.
Branch volunteers moved and assembled the furniture themselves.
SESSIONS STRETCHING PAST MIDNIGHT
The spacious MPS office can now comfortably accommodate about 100 people – 60 to 90 constituents who attend each session on average, and 20 to 30 volunteers.
Few know that the MPS can be gruelling, often stretching beyond midnight. Volunteers deal with residents’ problems, ranging from something as simple as a leaking tap to complex issues like exemption from national service, immigration rejections and disunited families.
Mr Ng salutes the “awesome teamwork” of the activists and volunteers. He adds: “The MP is that person the residents come to see. But what they don’t see are people who are behind the scenes, who are co-ordinating the residents as they come and typing out the letters.
“These things are part of the process and people don’t see that enough. I wish they did. Because then they’d realise that the public service component is not solely based on the MP but actually it’s a function of all these people coming together and working.
“It’s about a team that seriously and sincerely works and I’m lucky I’ve got a very good team at Nee Soon East.”