Backbencher's Bite: Before and After
Ms Cheng Li Hui was a volunteer-turned-MP after GE2015. Petir caught up with her recently on her new role.
WHO: Cheng Li Hui, Tampines GRC MP who entered politics in 2015 and is Deputy CEO of engineering firm Hai Leck Holdings.
WHERE: Al-Azhar Tampines, Block 201D, Tampines Street 21, #01-1105.
ON THE MENU: Roti Long John ($8.50), cheese naan ($4.50), mutton dum briyani ($7.50).
Volunteer vs MP
I’ve been a volunteer in the grassroots for over a decade. As an MP, you could say my role is the same yet different. For example, as a volunteer, I drafted letters for people seeking help. I still draft letters but as an MP, I’m responsible in seeing that these letters get appropriately managed, and that they get the correct advice and assistance.
As an MP, I have to adjust my schedule as I attend many more events. It is important for me to be there to show support to the community, the VWOs, schools and other organisations that invite me. Today is a weekday, and I have already attended three events.
The funny thing is, when I was a volunteer, I would come early for an event. Now, I have to make sure that I arrive exactly on time and not too early, which is surprisingly not easy for me, as I’ve always turned up early for years.
Over the years, I’ve learnt a lot from the MPs I worked with. When I volunteered in Bukit Panjang, I saw how Dr Teo Ho Pin steadily and relentlessly built up programmes like brisk walking for the elderly over the years. What impressed me was the dedication and belief, because many programmes take years before they mature and bear fruit.
Now I step into Mr Mah Bow Tan’s shoes at Tampines East and they are big shoes to fill! He has great rapport with his activists and residents. He would walk into a household and say – “Hey how’s your brother?” remembering the fact from his last visit. He is especially close to the senior citizens and has implemented many new programmes for them in Tampines, for example, the 3-in-1 Family Day Care Centre and Senior Citizens Fitness Parks.
A giving family
My father was a rojak hawker turned businessman. His was the classic rags to riches story. With little education and through the sweat of his brow, he made a life for himself and all of us. He impressed on us his values of giving back to the community and volunteerism. As a young teenager in secondary school, I remember helping to pack goodie bags.
When I was a girl guide, I visited old folks’ homes, cleaned homes, mobilised my school mates in community work. As I matured, I understood what a privilege it is to help people and it’s now a big part of who I am.
Young and old
Like many other Singaporeans, my grandparents took care of me as my parents were working. And so I was very close to them. This made me naturally more compassionate to the issues and concerns of the elderly. I’m also great with young children. From young, I took care of my younger siblings, nieces and nephews. Till today, young children always flock to me when I visit them. It brings me so much joy to share that time with them.
Tampines has many young families as well as elderly, many of whom were resettled farmers from the old Tampines Village. I hope to continue connecting our seniors and our children through interactive activities because I’ve personally seen how both groups benefit.
Recently, senior citizens from the eldercare centre and kids from the childcare and student care centres made tang yuan (flour balls) together. The young enjoyed spending time with the elderly, and you should see the smiles on the faces of the elderly when the kids said ‘Xie xie, Ah Gong or Ah Ma!’ (Thank you, grandfather or grandmother in Mandarin)”
This article was first published in the December 2015 issue of Petir Magazine.