When I was asked if my kids would be interested to attend a 2-day workshop at Pulau Ubin, I immediately signed them up and offered myself to be one of the chaperones of the 20 children as well. What’s more – the workshop is FREE – no need to pay for bum boat rides, no need to pay for lunch and cold water is provided!!! What more can a Singaporean ask for?
Armed with insect repellents, snacks, water, hats, ponchos, camera and extra clothes, we were ready to GO!! Mr Alan Tan, our facilitator for the 2 days, met us at the Changi Point Ferry Terminal punctually at 8.45am. 2 vans picked us up and sent us where we needed to go. That gave our legs rest and brought us quickly around the island. There were no traffic jams at all!! What a respite from the busyness of city life.
OK here goes….Join in the FUN, follow the RED letters and see what it spells out 🙂
Passionate!! – That’s Alan! He shared so much with us about what he loved most about his job and what NParks are doing to conserve the biodiversity of Singapore. He took time to tell us stories of the flora and fauna on Pulau Ubin as if he was telling us about his babies! He was very approachable and would patiently respond to the questions the children asked. He took time to answer Li-Ann’s questions too.
Understanding – The program is a good balance between theory and practical. After the children heard from Alan what NParks is doing and why conservation is important, they were brought outdoors for hands on activities such as coastal cleanup, plant salvaging, planting and weeding to ensure thorough understanding of what they have heard. The children asked really good questions too. All the children were encouraged as each of them received a Certificate of Participation from Uncle Alan at the end of the second day.
Lunch – Lunch was GOOD!!! Each bento box had rice and 3 or 4 dishes. It came with a packet drink, a bun and a dessert too. Big eaters definitely were filled up while I encouraged small eaters to give food (untouched and clean) that they didn’t want to others who might want them. I was so thankful there was minimal wastage. The children were very responsible and pitched in to clean and clear up after lunch. Lunch break was a good 1 hour where everyone could eat at a relaxed pace. The children even had time for short games with their friends.
Aspired to be Active!! – We had a short time of debrief at the end of the 2-day workshop. We learned that if we don’t take care of the environment, it will ultimately affect the wildlife and us. I know many of us went home with new perspectives when we look at our trash, the plants and the animals. I know many were fired up to do their bit for the environment. Conservation efforts, while seriously purposeful and persevering, can be enjoyable, exhilarating and energizing. As we admire the lushness of Pulau Ubin and marvel at the awesome wildlife on our Little Red Dot, let’s remember that WE CAN preserve this so that countless people far and near can experience the rich biodiversity of Singapore for many generations to come.
Unjaded & United!! – That’s the children! As soon as they were given their tasks, they got together with their friends to consider and discuss how to proceed. Everyone braved the drizzle on the first day as Alan and Hakim led us to clean up the coast.We were shocked to see so much trash and wondered how they got there! There were shoes, bags, plastic bags, ball, bottles, styrofoam, playmat, tyre etc. Alan explained that the trash were dumped into the sea either intentionally or unintentionally and finally swept ashore by the waves. The children rose to the challenge and were dragging out bags and bottles stubbornly stuck in the sand. One would carry the trash bag while another pick up the trash.
During plant salvaging, they were very careful when they dug out the saplings and put them into the planting bags. Some dug , some planted and some watered. Eventually, we had to tell them to stop digging because they had already filled up the 100 bags! When Alan told them they could plant 2 saplings in one bag, that lifted their spirits and they finished the work quickly.
Next, it was planting. After learning how to plant from Justin, they eagerly carried the required plants to the planting sites to put them into the holes they had dug. That was done very quickly , then the changkuls or hoes and watering cans were washed and set to dry in the sun.
The final activity was weeding. I was expecting complaints about how boring weeding would be but there was none! They received the instructions cheerfully and started to weed speedily. I should say their energy level was just as high and they chatted as they busied themselves. They kept going although they were tired. I am really proud of them!!
Urbanization – Thankfully this has not happened to Pulau Ubin yet. In fact, at house #1, we saw exhibits of the flora and fauna that could be found on the island and how Mr Joseph Lai advocated for the conservation of the island. My kids and I were privileged to have known Uncle Joe (as he is affectionately known to many) for a number years. We loved going on his guided walks as he would untiringly relate the many fascinating facts about nature (Check out Flying Fish Friends to hear more from Uncle Joe). THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! Uncle Joe and your many colleagues at NParks – for your relentless efforts to protect the biodiversity of Singapore!! We had the privilege to say a BIG THANK YOU to Alan, Hakim and Justin – THANK YOU for infecting us with your passion for nature. The children and chaperones were very forthcoming as they penned their appreciation on the cards for these 3 gentlemen 🙂
Be Better Buddies – I had many opportunities to observe the children’s interactions as I chaperoned. Familiar friends had more time to bond while new friends took time to connect. The boys were just as chatty as the girls! There were conflicts but I was grateful that a few older ones, who had observed the unhappiness, took it upon themselves to encourage repentance, forgiveness and hence, reconciliation. It was very heartwarming to witness the beautiful exchanges among the young people!
Inclusive – It was the FIRST time the homeschoolers were involved to participate in the Young Hearts for Conservation program. The parents were very grateful for this precious learning opportunity that was made available to their children. I jumped at it when I was asked if my kids were interested. In fact, the big kid in me was eager to go too 😉 Alan shared that what they wanted to do is to impart the knowledge to young and old alike so we may all share the same vision to love and care for our environment. On a personal level, I was very grateful to Alan and Hakim for being so kind and accommodating towards Li-Ann as she tires easily. I was pleasantly surprised to see how motivated she was to take part in all the activities and how much she pushed herself even though she was tired. The children were very willing to involve her as well. They would show her what to do and let her help in ways that she was able. There were only 2 other girls, Deborah and Hannah, in the group and they were very kind to Li-Ann. Thank you girls for taking time to listen and talk to Li-Ann 🙂
Notice Nature – We were very thankful for the wonderful weather during the 2 days as all activities that were planned could be successfully carried out – it was cool and cloudy on the first day and sunny and breezy on the second. It was most delightful to walk casually, hear the calls of the birds and sounds made by the insects and observe the amazing beauty of the flora and fauna on Pulau Ubin, which is still largely free from noise pollution. Alan reminded us to walk quietly (which was not always possible for excited participants) so we would not scare away any wildlife we might see. Some of the kids were busy shooting away with their cameras while others were ever ready to snap with their handphones. I give thanks for technology that not only allowed us to record what we saw and heard, it had enabled us to share it almost instantly (as the network can be weak at times) with those who were unable to join us. May we continue to share our breathtaking discoveries and inspire many to survey and safeguard the delicate balance of this wondrous creation.