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Greening for a cause

SINGAPORE — They were supposed to sing, dance and entertain, but they ended up planting seeds and building a garden.

SINGAPORE — They were supposed to sing, dance and entertain, but they ended up planting seeds and building a garden.

Over three months from April last year, five 15-year-old Commonwealth Secondary School student volunteers were supposed to accompany the residents of St Andrew’s Cathedral Home for the Aged as part of the Be The Change programme conducted by social enterprise Social Change (SoCh) in Action. The students — Nur Zafirah Abdul Halim, Shelley Tan, Shermaine Soh, Eugene Ng and Celestyn Lee — realised, however, that the residents were not interested in the activities planned. “They told us (the games were) too tiring,” said Nur Zafirah.

But the residents’ spirits lifted when talking about botany, and so, the team changed tack. Providing each senior citizen with a plastic cup filled with cotton wool and green beans, they grew the seeds together. As the plants grew, so did the bond between the students and residents.

“The first time after I placed the seedling, I just poured water into the cup and one of the aunties shouted ‘Stop!’,” Nur Zafirah recounted. “They opened up to us and one of them even started to talk about her experience during the war period!”

The students later bought bigger plastic pots and a wider variety of seeds to sustain the project, which was named Greening for a Cause.

The project was so successful that they ended up building an outdoor garden. The team was also selected, from among 80 projects, to represent Singapore in the global Be The Change Conference held in India in September.

Complimenting the team for adapting to the situation, founder of SoCh in Action Madhu Verma said: “The problem was not that the elderly were lonely. The problem was that they didn’t have something engaging to do ... The team saw it and managed to connect with them.” Mohd Azhar Aziz

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