Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Straits Times : Community involved in Tiong Bahru heritage trail

The Straits Times
By Melody Zaccheus
Apr 11, 2013
Among the volunteers are (from left) Mr Fred Ong, 29, a junior college teacher; Ms Elyn Wong, 36, fashion designer looking for a flat in the estate, who helped to design a limited-edition tote bag for the launch; Ms Eileen Nai, 25, an administrative executive; Mrs Stephanie Kong, 57, a human resource executive; and Mr Kong Seng Wah, 60, a marketing manager. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
MORE than 50 members of the Tiong Bahru community have stepped forward to help run a monthly guided National Heritage Board trail in their 77-year-old estate.
"There are a lot of stories and memories we want to share with visitors at each stop on the trail which are best told through personal accounts," said long-time resident Stephanie Kong, 57.
She is excited about being one of 28 guides who will walk visitors through the Tiong Bahru Community Centre, where she first met her husband and fellow guide, Mr Kong Seng Wah, 60.
The NHB trail, to be launched this Sunday by MP Indranee Rajah, will span 2.5km and comprise 10 stops. It will feature the pre-war and post-war architecture of public housing projects there, the grave of Singapore pioneer Tan Tock Seng, and other facilities and landmarks in the estate.
NHB has already launched 10 trails over the past 14 years in estates such as Jalan Besar, Ang Mo Kio and Balestier. But they are self-guided tours in which visitors follow a route marked on a brochure.
This time, the community is getting involved. Volunteers helping with this Sunday's launch and the monthly trail include shopkeepers, hawkers and newcomers to the estate.
Around 30 students from Henderson Secondary School will be roped in to help out with the guided tour, which will be conducted on the first Saturday of each month.
Ms Eileen Nai, 25, an administrative executive who has lived in the estate all her life, said the allure of the quaint neighbourhood is undeniable.
"Even in the '90s, the gates and doors of our flats were always open and grandmothers would look for their grandchildren in their neighbours' flats.
That's how close-knit the community is," she said.
Another long-time resident, Mr Fred Ong, a 29-year-old junior college teacher, hopes the trails can inspire Singaporeans to respect their community and pay attention to the heritage around them before redevelopment gets in the way.
NHB's director of Education and Outreach, Ms Thangamma Karthigesu, is glad that members of the community, from different backgrounds, want to help run the show.
"NHB's function is that of an initiator and a catalyst. Ultimately heritage is about the people and must be owned by them."
Secondary four student Germaine Wong, 16, who will help run the trail in Tiong Bahru, believes the stories she learnt about the neighbourhood are heartwarming.
"Many of us don't take the time to learn about our heritage. I'm hoping the trail in Tiong Bahru can trigger a greater interest in the spaces we live in."


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