42 years ago, Madam Fu Chuan San, BBM (L) of Geylang Neighbourhood Committee made serving the community her life-long passion. Madam Fu has spearheaded various initiatives for the wellbeing of the community, with many projects focusing on water conservation. Madam Fu juggles multiple roles; being not only a Family Life Champion with multiple contribution awards, former 4-term chairlady of the Geylang Neighbourhood Committee but also a grandmother to 3 grandchildren. Let’s have a chat with Madam Fu to find out more about what motivates her to keep going.
Could you share about some of the water initiatives the community has taken?
As part of World Water Day celebration this year, we partnered with the Merchant’s Association at Haig Road Market & Food Centre to spread the water message. Water conservation stickers were put up at the stalls and tables, and a water conservation contest was held among the hawkers.
Residents were encouraged to reduce their monthly water consumption through a water bill contest, and the community came together over a children’s art competition and paint a community art mural on the theme of water conservation. Water is not only a resource but also an immediate part of our life. Especially after Geylang River has been revamped as an Active, Beautiful, Clean (ABC) Waters site, we often hold a variety of community activities near the river. Besides daily morning Qigong by the River, we also have our community brisk walks along the river twice a month. Residents also help to keep the site safe and clean by giving feedback to the relevant authorities. All of these come together to create a community that is very active and very keen in protecting our water.
What inspires you to contribute to the water cause and serve the community?
I used to stay near the ‘kampong’ area with my family. Whenever we needed water, we would have to queue to get our supply from a well. Back then, I remembered having to walk all the way to my aunt’s house to get the pail to collect water. Such experiences make me very grateful for all the clean water that we have now and motivates me to appreciate and conserve it. At Geylang Serai, we have had water conservation projects up and running for a long time, with people, both young and old, working together for the future.
I love serving the community. Since we are all living together in this world, I personally believe that we should help each other. If we only think about ourselves, we would all feel very miserable. By serving people in the community, I have been able to continuously make new friends and learn new things. This remains true even to this day, after 42 years of service. I get an immense satisfaction whenever I see people going home with a smiling face at the end of my community projects and events. To me, serving people is not a duty; it is my passion.
What are the challenges that you face when working on community projects?
We frequently go on house visits to encourage the elderly to volunteer for community efforts. Sometimes they are willing and able. However, their children are reluctant to let them join. This is usually because the grandparents have to help with taking care of the grandchildren. Thus, we would often persuade the whole family to come together for volunteering events, to both serve the community and facilitate family bonding as well. They would also get the chance to know their neighbours better and make new friends from the neighbourhood. In all cases, I have found people to be generally willing to listen and help however they can, just that they are often preoccupied with work and family during weekdays. Many families that I know are very active and willingly come down to help the community during weekends and holidays.
What are the most important lessons that you have learnt after more than 40 years of serving the community?
To keep smiling. To make sure that people will go home with smiles on their faces, you must smile at them first. To do that, you must be humble and always put others before yourself. I know that everyone is different and that it is impossible to please everyone. However, I have rarely met anyone who is not nice to me when I said “hello” to them with a smile first. If they happened to be the few who are not friendly, then I just let it go. I never expected anything in return. I’d just do good anyway.
Another lesson I learnt is to be patient. A while back, I tried to organize a family bonding event, where fathers and sons can get together to cook, make coffee and eat. The plan was to have the event on a Sunday, at a coffee shop that is very famous among the residents. However, the owner of the shop was very reluctant to cooperate since his coffee shop usually does not open on Sundays. It took me 3 months to convince him to host the event on a Sunday. Sometimes, when I came to the shop, he refused to talk to me because he was busy. Sometimes, I could not even get in touch with him. However, my effort paid off in the end with my sincerity and patience. He was so happy with the event that he did not charge me. He even framed our group photo and put it up in his shop. I believe that if you can be patient with someone, it will be much easier to work together happily.
During my 42 years of service, of course there were moments when I was too tired to go on. At those times, I have to remind myself that I do what I do because I want to make others happy first and myself second. However, I would not call it a personal sacrifice. I feel happiest when I can make others smile. Thus, by serving people, I am also doing what I enjoy the most.