By Pravena Mohan
I have been serving as a volunteer writer at PAP Chong Pang Branch’s Meet-the-People Session (MPS) since 2013. The MPS is on Tuesdays at Block 107, Yishun Ring Road, Singapore 760107. My role involves listening to the concerns of the residents and then writing letters to the relevant organizations to help address the issues raised. The general concerns that I have dealt with are matters relating to the Immigration & Checkpoint Authority of Singapore (ICA), Housing Development Board (HDB) and assistance with employment.
On a typical Tuesday, residents arrive at the PAP Chong Branch Office as early as 6pm. The registration team will assist to issue queue numbers and to categorize their concerns according to the relevant categories i.e. Employment Assistance, Housing related matters etc.
I tend to take some time to listen to the concerns of the resident first. Many of these residents tend to pour out their frustrations during my time with them. However, in order to address the root of the problem, I will then need to sieve out the main details of our chat and write a succinct letter to the relevant department(s). Our editorial team then edits the letter before sending it out to the relevant Ministries, authorities or organizations.
I have met several interesting residents who tend to remember my name or how I look like. Most are thankful for this avenue of assistance. Minister K Shanmugam, MP for Nee Soon GRC, regularly attends the Chong Pang MPS and makes a conscious effort to listen to each resident’s concerns. This session are also an opportunity for residents to have a conversation with Minister Shanmugam.
An interesting case that I recall was with a resident who travelled down all the way from Pasir Ris. Her main concern was about animal rights and she was quite determined to meet Minister K Shanmugam who is also the Minister for Law. Our team managed to assist her further after her meeting with Minister Shanmugam and I recall her leaving our branch with a smile.
I have once helped a resident who was a divorcee and was on the verge of being homeless with her 3 children. She was feeling very dejected and was very worried as she was not able to pay for her children’s school fees (one child was also studying in a local polytechnic). I remember seeing her leave the branch with much anticipation on the outcome of her appeals. I bumped into her again at Chong Pang Market several week after. I have forgotten how she looked like but it was nice that she still recalled me. She gave me a big hug and told me that she has received the appropriate assistance and that she was able to cope with her financial responsibilities a much better.
It is cases like these that make me return to volunteer at PAP Chong Pang Branch. Even though MPS often stretches to 11pm, the feeling of seeing a dejected resident smile is priceless. Volunteers at PAP Chong Pang Branch are simply common people who try to improve the lives of other residents. The residents are our true everyday heroes and the experience of serving them is immensely satisfying and addictive. Most volunteers at the branch have been serving for several years. Mr. N Jayakumar (Kumar) is a volunteer at the branch who has been serving for almost 30 years. Despite his stellar personal achievements, he is a very humble person who truly enjoys serving Chong Pang Residents. Much of my learning for the volunteer writer role was from Mr. Kumar. His enthusiasm to serve residents is infectious. Watching residents walk away smiling after meeting Mr. Kumar made me want to serve others too.
I am also a part of the events outreach team of the Branch but writing letters and having one-on-one conversations with the volunteers is still something close to my heart. Tuesdays are the highlight of my week because of the MPS session. I never have Monday blues because I always look forward to my Tuesdays at PAP Chong Pang’s Meet-The-People-Session.