This year’s SMOU Family Day at the Mandai River Wonders certainly created lasting memories for more than 3,000 SMOU members, family, shipping company guests and beneficiaries who participated in the union’s signature annual event.
Home to Asia’s one and only river-themed wildlife park, the River Wonders enchanted the children and adults with over 11,000 amazing land and aquatic animals representing 260 species. Riverine creatures like the giant river otters and manatees; the well-loved pandas, Kai Kai, Jia Jia and Le Le, and more captivated one and all.
For 40 years, SMOU has “without fail organised Family Day through good and bad times”, highlighted SMOU General Secretary Mary Liew. “Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, SMOU did not stop celebrating the event” as a spread of good food and online entertainment was brought to the members’ homes, the members warmly recalled.
“This is because Family is important to SMOU and to seafarers,” Sister Mary said at the opening of the event held at Night Safari amphitheatre on 4 June 2023.
SMOU’s Corporate Social Responsibility led the Union to invite over 200 children from MyFirstSkool Jalan Sultan and their families to the Family Day. The children are beneficiaries of the Bright Horizons Fund, a charity fund set up by NTUC First Campus for pre-school children from low income families.
On top of that, to show the Union’s deep appreciation to a group of frontline healthcare workers who went the extra mile during the COVID-19 pandemic, over 300 healthcare workers and their families from NTUC Health Nursing Home were also invited to the event.
For healthcare worker Sakinah Bte Mohd Shah, being invited to SMOU Family Day said a lot about the Union. “It is really nice to be remembered,” said Sakinah who attended the Family Day with her brothers and cousin.
Those who turned up early stood the chance to not only win the 10 early bird lucky draw prizes but also were the first in line to have fun at the tikam stations and try their luck at the booth with gachapon machines.
The mass games, led by the highly entertaining and bubbly comedienne Happy Fei Fei, had the audience of all ages roaring with laughter. There was never a dull moment as the crowd favourite compere got everyone on their feet dancing and executing the famous ‘Kallang Wave’ before launching into the lucky draw of 10 prizes with much teasing and fun.
SMOU member of 15 years David Dominic Martin described it well when he exclaimed, “This is insane! For $5, I get to enjoy good entertainment, River Wonders attractions, KFC for lunch, get to chance to win prizes, have a goodie bag and more. It is really amazing.”
David remembers fondly how his father, SMOU member Arthur Francis Martin, has been bringing the family to attend SMOU Family Day for some 25 years. He now attends the event not only with his parents, but also his wife and two young children in tow.
Arthur, SMOU member of 25 years, added, “It is so very encouraging to see so many members and their families enjoying themselves.”
Speaking to SeaVoices, SMOU member Bai Shuya’s wife, Jasmine, said: “Though we go out as a family, the feeling is entirely different when we get together with other families. When we stepped into the amphitheatre, we already sense the excitement and joy. So every year, we try to participate in the SMOU Family Day. We just love the atmosphere.” Capt Bai has been a SMOU member for 23 years.
For daughter Ellie, her favourite part of the event were the games and prizes. “And mum excitedly got all of us to wear this T-shirt.”
“Every year, we try to participate in the SMOU Family Day because we always have fun.”
SMOU member of 23 years Pyi Sone with his family
SMOU Win Aung whose wife Ngo Ngo Khim gladly shows off the Apple watch which she won at the SMOU gala dinner. “The prize came with AirPods and iPhone 13,” added her son, Leo.
“I have been attending SMOU Family Day with my parents since 2007.”