Thursday, April 2, 2015

Commemorating Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s City in a Garden Vision

One of the many contributions of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew was to turn Singapore into a city in a garden. And as a tribute to Singapore’s Founding Prime Minister, NYP held a Tree Planting Ceremony on the 27th of March. I volunteered to help out as a Student Facilitator.

The Tree Planting Ceremony

The Tree Planting Ceremony was a joint event organised by the National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) Students’ Club and Geo Council. The presidents of both clubs, Lim Pei Shan from NYAA Students’ Club and Cheryl Lee from Geo Council decided to organise the event to continue the late Mr Lee’s vision of a City in a Garden.

The ceremony was also a way to commemorate the Tree Planting project that Mr Lee introduced in the 1960s in his Tanjong Pagar ward, to turn Singapore into a clean and green Nation, a ceremony which he attended every year since then. Through this activity, every participant had the opportunity to learn about Mr Lee’s efforts in greening Singapore.

The Day Before
Instructions given to facilitators

Two of my friends and I from The Write Stuff, Tay Jia Min and Ng Chwin Chi, volunteered as Student Facilitators for the NYP Tree Planting Ceremony. I have never planted a tree before and this was a great opportunity to learn how to do so. It was also a way for me to thank Mr Lee for his contributions to Singapore.
On the day before the actual ceremony, we were briefed by the NYAA and Geo Council Presidents about the programme and how to properly plant the trees. After a short tour around the ceremony site, the organisers and a small group of facilitators stayed through the night to make commemorative badges to be given out to everyone during the ceremony.

Actual Day

On the actual day of the ceremony, the organisers decided to involve more students. It was heartening to see many CCA representatives taking their time off to attend and participate in this meaningful ceremony.

The ceremony was held right next to the newly built Convention Centre.  At 5pm in the afternoon, NYP officials, staff members, student participants, student facilitators, CCA representatives, the organisers, the former President of the Geo Council and our Guest of Honour, the Principal and Chief Executive Officer of NYP, Mr Chan Lee Mun, gathered at the empty plot next to the convention centre.

The emcee opened the ceremony by giving a speech about the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the legacies that he had left behind and the trees that were going to be planted.

After a short moment of silence as a mark of respect for the late Mr Lee, the former President of Geo Council, Nathaniel Teo, gave a short speech about the importance of the Tree Planting Ceremony and why it’s important for us to honour Mr Lee’s contributions.

Planting of the first tree by Principal and Chief Executive Officer (PCEO) of NYP, Mr Chan Lee Mun

To start off the Tree Planting Ceremony, our PCEO, Mr Chan, planted the first tree. The tree chosen for this activity was the Tembusu tree, whose image can found at the back of the Singapore five dollar note.

After the tree planting, a plaque was placed on the ground near the tree in memory of Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Planting of trees by Student Facilitators and Participants

Once the emcee had given everyone else the green light, we brought our teams to our assigned trees and distributed gloves and changkuls (hoes) to everyone. There were 23 trees provided during the ceremony and the landscapers had already dug up holes for us. We appreciated their hard work!

It’s worth mentioning that 23 trees were planted because the late Mr Lee’s birth year was 1923, and he left us on the 23rd of March. Coincidentally, NYP is also 23 years old this year.

The actual process of the tree planting may sound like an easy task but it was not. We had to carefully carry the relatively heavy Tembusu tree into the holes, remove the plastic sleeves that held the roots together, shovel soil,  and end it all off by watering the trees.

Thankfully, everyone lent a helping hand to make the tree planting a much easier task. Students and staff were seen helping each other and everyone had a great time during the ceremony. All participants were seen taking group photos with their successfully planted trees, even if the mood was quite sombre.

Saluting the Landscapers

The ceremony would not have been possible without the help of the landscapers. They helped to dig out holes for the trees, placed the loose soil around for us to shovel into the holes and transported the trees for us. Whenever we had trouble planting the trees, the landscapers would also come around to help us.

I salute the landscapers for taking their time to help us. They brave the sweltering heat every single day just to do their job. They also play a part in realising Mr Lee’s vision of a garden city.

The ceremony officially ended with an endearing speech from Lim Pei Shan in which she thanked everyone for their participation.

“We are very grateful for the overwhelming support for this simple idea to remember a very great man,” she said. “Mr Lee had a vision. He wanted Singapore to be beautiful, and to be the best home possible for all Singaporeans… For more than 50 years, Mr Lee had integrated greenery to Singapore’s infrastructure. His legacy can be seen in every leaf, every flower in our gardens.”

“Despite our loss, we shall continue the vision that he had. This student tribute is our chance to honour Mr Lee in our own way. It is our promise to Mr Lee as well to continue the fight to ensure that we preserve as much greenery and water areas…never forget that City in a Garden did not come by chance.”

Commemorative badges were also given as parting gifts to everyone.

The commemorative badges not only serve as a reminder that we had participated in this meaningful ceremony, they also help us to remember the hard work and contributions of our late Mr Lee.

During my time at the Tree Planting Ceremony, I observed that the barriers between staff and students were invisible as we all helped each other out to make the ceremony a success. Community initiatives like this make NYP united as one and I am proud to be a part of this wonderful institution.

By Hanafi Bin Sedik, Year 2, Diploma in Engineering Informatics

I like to spend my free time and weekends exploring various places around Singapore, taking long walks at public parks and eating delicious food. Not only that, I also like to make videos, write on my personal blog and hang out with my awesome friends and family. I wish to work at a major software company and start my own production company in the future.

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