The pulsating beat of the drums that thundered across the Marina Bay Sands ballroom marked the return of the onsite SMOU and Wavelink Lunar New Year celebration after a two year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was with gratefulness that once again we could catch sight of the lion dance prancing LIVE onstage bringing good wishes to more than 1,000 SMOU members, tripartite partners, maritime community and seniors from the community who attended the event in-person.
Guest-of-Honour Dr Tan See Leng, Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Trade and Industry was joined by Special Guest Mr Ng Chee Meng Secretary-General of NTUC. Also seated among the guests was Senior Minister of State for Transport and Finance Mr Chee Hong Tat.
In a surprising twist, the big head doll that accompanied the lion dance troupe turned out to be SMOU Assistant General Secretary Mr Gwee Guo Duan. To loud cheers and applause for his antics, Brother Gwee kickstarted the celebrations with his welcome address.
For 25 years since its first Hongbao presentation event in 1998, SMOU has kept its core value of caring and sharing and has given more than $800,000 to over 11,000 senior citizen recipients.
Despite not being able to conduct Lunar New Year Hongbao events for the past two years, SMOU continued to reach out to seniors by organising visits to SMOU’s adopted Henderson Senior Citizen Home, the NTUC Health – Jurong West Senior Home, the Jamiyah – Home for the Aged, and even home visits to SMOU senior members to present Hong Bao and food packs to them.
Even though there were no physical luncheon events, SMOU found creative ways to safely deliver lunch packs and hongbaos. “SMOU was able to distribute $80,000 worth of Hong Baos to over 1,000 seniors across 2021 & 2022!” Brother Gwee reported.
This year’s LNY celebration saw SMOU and Wavelink presenting some 800 hongbaos, festive gifts and goodie bags valued at more than $55,000 to senior SMOU members, and those from the adopted homes.
In his speech, Brother Gwee pointed out, ”SMOU has always been finding ways to have our hearts close to the ground as this will enable us to better understand our members’ needs.”
Through the multiple fireside chats with members across the different age groups and specialisations, SMOU has been able to learn about the challenges that the young and older workers face in the evolving maritime landscape.
And with SMOU’s involvement in the Maritime Industry Transformation Tripartite Committee (MITTC), “SMOU will be in a better position to roll out relevant training and initiatives for our members to ensure they stay ahead of the curve, so that no worker gets left behind. In short, Every Worker Matters,” he said.
Minister of Manpower Dr Tan spoke about how navigating the choppy waters of COVID-19 had not been easy.
“Wavelink was quick to adopt digital solutions, such as virtual classrooms, so that learning could continue. This allowed Wavelink to conduct more than 260 courses, benefiting over 4,600 seagoing workers in the last two years,” he said.
He went on to applaud NTUC President Sister Mary Liew, Singapore Shipping Association President Sister Caroline Yang, Maritime and Port Authority Assistant Chief Executive Captain Muhammad Segar Abdullah, and Singapore Organisation of Seamen President Kam Soon Huat who were conferred with the National COVID-19 Awards.
After the applause and lo hei, guests at the event were seen walking to other tables reconnecting with old friends. The ballroom was filled with laughter, conversations and fun entertainment. Everyone left with a smile on their face, looking forward to the next SMOU and Wavelink Lunar New Year event to be celebrated onsite and in-person.
Even before the banquet hall was opened, there were ample activities for members to get into the new year mood. There were stations dotted around the event space – claw machine arcade; dragon beard candy making, photo booth and Chinese God of Fortune for more photo opportunities.
“This is my first time and opportunity to attend the SMOU and Wavelink LNY Luncheon. Previously, I was always working abroad. What makes today special is that today is also my birthday!”
– Harsono, SMOU member of 40 years
“Today is such a special day. After two years of absence from a physical SMOU LNY event, I felt today is like a BIG reunion among old friends. Thanks SMOU for organising this “reunion” and giving members the good opportunity to catch up once again. It’s really not about the food but re-establishing long lost ties.”
– Ng Kwang Chiau, SMOU member for 41 years
“It’s so nice to be able to go for such a joyous occasion. May everyone be filled with joy and laughter this Chinese New Year of the rabbit.”
– First-timer senior couple Ng Kiang Siah, aged 74 years and Ong Boon Peng, aged 64 years from Henderson Home
2 residents from Jamiyah Home of the Aged, Mr Chia and Mr Low, were full of appreciation towards the Union for extending an invitation to them again this year. “I remember I attended the last physical SMOU Lunar New Year event, some 3 years ago. I am happy to be healthy enough to attend once again, after such a long break of events due to the pandemic.” Both 69 years of age, they were full of smiles for the programme that was planned out for the luncheon event.
“I have been with the home for four years now. It can be very lonely at times. Today, I feel young again, seeing so many people coming together to celebrate Chinese New Year. I am happy to make new friends and the food is good.”
– Cheong Kwai Thue
(Cheong Kwai Thue, 77 years of age from NTUC Health Nursing Home. This is the first time NTUC Health Nursing Home is invited to an SMOU / Wavelink Lunar New Year event.)