Backbencher's Bite: Matching needs with offers

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Ms Rahayu Mahzam talks about the energy in her constituency, and how she is grateful for having a "Tiger mum".


Vision for Bukit Batok East

It's a mixed estate of about 143 HDB blocks comprising 3 and 4-room flats, about 20 condominium developments and 600 landed properties. My vision for this estate is for it to be a self-sustaining community, where those who are able to - like youths and private estate residents - can offer help to those who need it.

Harnessing the community's energy

There is a lot of energy on the ground. Last year, for instance, the residents of Hoover Park gathered their own home recipes and compiled it into an A5 sized booklet. Each recipe is attributed to the contributor, so for example, you know Oyster Wrap is from Shirley of Lorong Pisang Emas. I was invited to share my mother's dish - sotong hitam or squid in black ink sauce.

A volunteer lovingly decorated every page, with hand-drawn fonts and illustrations. It is so rustic and organic! A thousand copies of these books were printed by the Neighbourhood Committee, spiral-bound and sold for a token $1 with proceeds going back to the NC. The residents even organised a cook-out later, featuring the dishes, so anyone could drop by and sample them.

This private estate community wanted to connect through food and clearly, a lot of effort was involved. The energy is something which can be harnessed to benefit others in Bukit Batok East. All we have to do is to match offers with needs.

Connecting people

Some youth volunteers have come up with the idea of a "Giveaway Gateway", where people with needs - perhaps a lady needing a sewing machine - can put her request up like a post-it note on a physical board in the community club, and those who can offer it, can respond. Likewise, those who have something to offer, could put up a post-it note. We're still working out details on the matching process but that's the spirit of it.

Ultimately, beyond physical items, I hope to explore coaching and mentorship opportunities, and other meaningful ways in which residents can help to build up social capital in the communities they are helping.

I think it is crucial. When people of different backgrounds interact, it is one way of developing social capital and improving social mobility.

My "Tiger mum"

I am who I am today because of my parents. My mother is a clerk with educational foresight; she insisted on sending her three children to a kindergarten which had specialised courses like music and drama. This was very advanced back in the day and fees were very high. My parents could barely afford the fees but my mother felt this was important. She continued pushing us with our studies; she was a bit of a "Tiger mum" who made me do a lot of assessment books!

My father is a plumber turned security officer. He only had Primary 6 education but was the one who taught me how to read.

Today my brother is a researcher and my sister works in Human Resource. I am very grateful to my parents and I don't think we can ever repay them for what they did for us.

All they want now is a grandchild to complete the picture. My husband, a Deputy Public Prosecutor, and I hope to fulfil her wish.

Rahayu Mahzam, first-time MP for Bukit Batok East in the Jurong GRC and a lawyer specialising in family law.

This article was first published in the May 2016 issue of Petir Magazine.

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