After three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the return of the annual SMOU Lunar New Year Celebration with Jalan Besar Senior Residents on 27 January 2023 was met with added delight and cheer. The celebratory event to mark the Year of the Rabbit with close to 100 seniors was held at Lighthouse Bistro, Wavelink Building.
Traditional Lion Dancers and festive drumming welcomed the Guest-of-Honour Ms Denise Phua, Mayor of Central Singapore District and MP for Jalan Besar GRC (Kampong Glam). In her heartfelt speech, she thanked SMOU leadership, volunteers, and community partners for their consistent and sincere efforts to benefit the community through SMOU initiatives which “should not be taken for granted.”
Volunteering at the event were 15 SMOU members of different age groups who availed themselves to serve the seniors at the dinner. From portioning and serving food, to guiding seniors from the activity centre to the bistro, and distributing goodie bags, volunteers were eager to make an impact in the lives of the beneficiaries.
There was a special moment in which the oldest senior citizens, 101-year-old Mdm Teo Ah Moi and 96-year-old Mdm Low Soo Sim, were presented with prosperity bags containing Lunar New Year goodies. Ms Phua, SMOU President Mr Rahim Bin Jaffar, General Secretary Ms Mary Liew, and Emeritus General Secretary Mr Thomas Tay also went table to table to personally present hongbao and well wishes to every senior.
Shouts of HUAT-AH! rang out as the guests participated in a collective lo hei with SMOU officials who included Emeritus General Secretary Mr Thomas Tay, Assistant Treasurer Mr Tan Geh Ting, YSMOU Chairman Mr Dominic Yong, and leaders of King George’s Avenue Senior Activity Centre Mr Chia Cheng Gee, Mr Chow Chee Wing and Mr Peter Ng as well as leaders of Kampong Glam Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC) Mr Dennis Tan and Mr Woo Sui Kee.
Highlights of the evening included the mouth-watering eight-course feast specially prepared by Lighthouse Bistro and served by cheerful SMOU volunteers. Entertainment by songstress Suzie Wong, who rallied the seniors to join in the fun singalong, was notedly a crowd favourite.
The joy-filled event was very much like a family gathering with SMOU honouring the seniors. Every guest went home with sweet memories and goodie bags filled with practical daily necessities. Have a Happy and Healthy New Year, Uncles and Aunties!
Regular attendee Mdm Pat Lim, aged 73, “I have been here before and every time I enjoy myself. I am very pleased to celebrate Chinese New Year here.”
It was 63-year-old Mr Latib bin Mhd Zain first time at the LNY Celebration, “This is my first time here. Thank you for inviting me. I love it.”
At the dining table, Mdm Teo Ah Moi, aged 101, smiled and nodded in appreciation as her daughter explained that her mother was enjoying herself very much and was heard saying, “Bagus!”
The return of the LNY celebration with seniors was warmly welcomed by SMOU President Mr Rahim Bin Jaffar, who commented, “It is great to see the enthusiastic response from the seniors at the gathering. For many Jalan Besar’s ageing residents, Covid has brought about much loneliness. Many appreciated the friendship of SMOU.”
Mr Thomas Tay, SMOU Emeritus General Secretary exclaimed, ‘It’s fantastic to see the senior citizens enjoying themselves.”
Mr Kennedy Roberts is not a new comer to volunteering work, especially in SMOU. Knowing that the season is about family members coming together, Kennedy told SeaVoices, “ I want to let these elderly folks feel the Chinese New Year spirit and not feel left out.” Speaking about his favourite moment, he pointed out the yusheng tossing where “everyone is together, doing the same thing regardless of race or religion,” a warm moment to remember.
Another regular volunteer was Mr Sharanjeet Amarjeet Singh Bath, who started volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic “when society needed the support most”. He expressed his belief in giving back to society through volunteerism, saying what an unforgettable and happy moment it was when he saw the smiles of thankfulness on the face of recipients. “(Events) allow me to volunteer alongside like-minded people to make a difference by support SMOU’s causes,” he explained. “I really appreciate that I got this opportunity (to be a volunteer).”
Members, Mr Gee Chow Wang and his wife Mdm Tan Wei Jing were spotted serving senior residents with enthusiasm and a broad smile. “We volunteered so that we can spend the joyous occasion with the old folks, seeing them eating, laughing and enjoying every moment,” the couple told SeaVoices. The couple continues to give back to society in a meaningful way, and encourages others to do the same.