National Day Rally 2014 – I Watched It on YouTube. You?

National Day Rally 2014

I tuned in to PM Lee’s speech around the time he was sharing about the #fishballstick incident and I found that case study pretty amusing. I thought he must really be rocking the speech if it’s so engaging and funny. So I scrolled all the way to the start of the speech…

And learnt about the CPF. Unlike the rest of the people (hurhur) at the ITECC venue, I truly did not know this much about the CPF before I heard the PM speak.

The gist of it: The Minimum Sum (MS) is going up to $161,000 next year. But the property you own can (still) go towards making up half of the MS, or $80,500.

Assuming the CPF payouts are insufficient for your retirement needs, you can continue working, your children might support you, you could draw on personal savings, or get some money out of your house.

For the last option, you can get money out of your house by renting out 1 room, moving in with your children and renting out your whole flat, selling your flat and buying a studio apartment with the Silver Housing Bonus (PM calls this Right Sizing instead of downsizing which is probably not very PC).

*Significant changes: The Lease Buyback Scheme will also be made available to owners of 4-room flats! :) The CPF will be made more flexible with the possibility of a controlled lump-sum withdrawal in one’s retirement years – 65 and beyond – with members taking out a maximum of 20% lump-sum.

To conclude, I think it was an interesting speech. Our PM did try his best to be engaging. And I guess #fishballstick will be trending for a bit. ;)

#NoCleanersAtNDP Next Year – You Read It Here First! Dialogue with Minister Grace Fu

Minister Grace Fu

I was invited to attend a focus group discussion on Public Hygiene and Cleanliness, organized by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, this morning. :)

Some truly excellent suggestions surfaced during the discussion.

The one I really like is about having #NoCleanersAtNDP2015. :) I think sentiments of national pride are at their strongest during the National Day Parade. And citizens who watch the parade and pick up their trash after would remember it for life. This is our home and it is everyone’s responsibility to keep it clean. Also, since it is televised, the whole of Singapore gets to ‘participate’.

We were told that the Ministry will speak with the organizing committee for NDP2015. Something to look forward to! :)

Other ideas include:

1) Volunteer Enforcement Scheme – volunteers should receive adequate training, have attachment opportunities with NEA officers, and undergo character screening before being able to issue warnings and/or fines upon witnessing an act of littering.

2) Just as the Traffic Police stop motorists who display good driving behavior and give them awards, so can the NEA officers who see the public picking up trash voluntarily.

3) Have our public education efforts customized to be relevant to different segments of society, e.g. housewives, transient workers, students, working adults, corporations, etc.

4) Have CCTVs installed in remote areas which are frequent dumping grounds for industrial waste.

5) Have an online platform for submission of pictures and videos of people caught littering.

6) Following in the footsteps of the Pinnacle@Duxton ‘peeing’ incident, let us ‘shame’ litterbugs without showing their faces in photographs being displayed.

I think we should all play our part in not littering, ensuring the people around us do not litter, help pick up and trash the litter we spot, and also ensure that people who come to our country do not dirty it by bringing their littering habits with them. We need to point out to litterbugs (whether they are locals or foreigners) that Singapore is our home – we keep it clean, and we do not allow people to mess up the environment. Our home extends beyond the ’4 walls’ we live within. The public spaces are our ‘home’ too!

Participate in an Online Survey and Personality Quiz at www.sustainablesingapore.gov.sg.

Find out what sort of Environmentalist you are :)

Environmentalist

Minister of State Ms Sim Ann Officiates The Opening of L’Rez & L’Cafe at Nanyang Polytechnic

I attended the official opening of L’Rez and L’Cafe at Nanyang Polytechnic yesterday. At the event, I also had the opportunity of meeting and speaking with Ms Sim Ann, Minister of State for Ministry of Communications & Information & Ministry of Education. :)

Minister Sim Ann officiates opening of L'Rez and L'Cafe

Minister Sim Ann at L'Rez

The training cafe (L’Cafe) and 120-seater training restaurant (L’Rez) are part of Nanyang Polytechnic’s Teaching Enterprise Project (TEP). The TEP has already started an on-campus TV station, a retail departmental store, a convenience store, and a gym. This reminds me of the store set up by students from Singapore Polytechnic, and which is still in operation at Changi Airport.

The Minister being interviewed for Nanyang Poly’s on-campus TV:

Minister Sim Ann being interviewed for Nanyang Poly on-campus TV

I do wish I had studied at a polytechnic!

At L’Rez and L’Cafe, the pioneer batch of 43 students from the Diploma in Food & Beverage Business learn about quick service, front-of-house and back-of-house over a period of 6 months, with hands-on experential learning.

Nanyang Polytechnic Diploma in Food & Beverage Business students

Also, they benefit from the Celebrity Chef Programme: Renowned chefs like Michael di Placido from Brussels Sprouts, and Violet Oon have not only taught the students but also hired them for internships.

I tried the signature mocktail called L’Breeze (mint, rose syrup, soda)

L'Breeze at Nanyang Polytechnic

The food was delicious and very exquisite:

Food at L'Rez Nanyang Polytechnic

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If you’d like to visit L’Rez or L’Cafe, take note of their opening hours:

L’Rez: Open to public 11.30am to 2.30pm from Mon to Fri. Reservations: 6451 4384 / L-Rez@nyp.edu.sg

The VIP room at L’Rez:

VIP room at L'Rez

L’Cafe: Open from 9.30am to 7pm, Mon to Fri

Minister Sim Ann and students at L'Cafe

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I also had the opportunity of speaking with two students, namely Robson (a chatty dude with a good sense of humor) and Regina (who wants to start her own bistro business in future!)…

Robson Nanyang Polytechnic

Robson shared with me that nothing beats real-world experience, like working in an actual restaurant and serving paying customers, and managing their expectations. This is very different from cooking for one’s lecturers.

Robson being interviewed for FM95.8:

Robson interviewed for 958

Regina and me:

Regina Nanyang Polytechnic

Regina has been working at Violet Oon’s restaurant for 3 weeks and her dream is to start her own fusion concept restaurant.

She shared with me an interesting nugget: When one person breaks something (a plate, glass, etc) at L’Rez, everyone cheers. This is so that the person who accidentally broke an item doesn’t feel too bad about it. The students are taught to encourage each other instead of pointing fingers at someone who has supposedly done something wrong, as accidents in the F&B line are commonplace! I was very impressed!

When I asked Regina about how ready she is to start her own business, she said that she might need to work for a few years first to gain more experience in the F&B industry and also to save up enough capital. I asked her how much money she thinks she’ll need for her restaurant, and the spunky girl said “A million dollars”. When I expressed shock at the sum, she said she will start small, with a cafe first, and then work her way up to owning that million-dollar restaurant. Smart girl! :)

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Meeting the Minister:

Blogger Grace and Minister Sim Ann

Blogger Grace and Minister Sim Ann 2

I was delighted to meet Minister of State, Ms Sim Ann, and I found her most friendly and obliging. She even thanked every single student from the NYP Percussion Team who led us from L’Cafe to L’Rez, even though it was a rather long walk and the shoe on her left foot did not fit very well and was slipping off half the time. (I know ‘cos I was walking right behind her). I’m impressed by how she did not complain about the walk, and still managed to thank each student who led the way. :)

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Check out L’Rez and L’Cafe the next time you are in the Yio Chu Kang / Ang Mo Kio area! *wink*

Interview with MP Tin Pei Ling

I’d never thought I’ll interview MP Tin Pei Ling for this blog. Till my friend, Andrew Chow, told me it’d be a good idea to do so. Admittedly, I was curious about this lady and how she had come to be portrayed by local media as being (in her own words) “juvenile”.

I discovered that she is a warm and friendly person and she doesn’t give the usual politically correct answers in our conversation over lunch. She was engaging and spoke most of the time – there were no “I don’t know what to say” moments.

She was forthcoming and open to sharing, clearing up some of the misconceptions that I had. I suppose local media is always out for a story and would take advantage of any opportunity to latch on to any one thing a person utters that could potentially cause a sensation.

Fortunately for my interviewees, I have a strict “off-the-record” policy in which I’ll publish on this blog only what the interviewees have given me permission to. Hence, here are the answers MP Tin Pei Ling sent me via email. :)

1) What’s a day in your life as an MP like? What’s your most memorable encounter with the residents – at MPS, walkabouts, or otherwise?

How the day pans out differs on weekdays and weekends. Just to give a simple and broad overview:

On weekdays, I attend meetings, such as with the Town Council officers to discuss municipal issues. I also meet residents and groups of residents with problems or suggestions. Sometimes, I meet people who may not be from MacPherson but who are interested to do something meaningful in MacPherson, and we will explore ideas possible for the community.

At night, I have Meet-the-People Session on Monday evenings (normally till late at night), block visits on two of the evenings each week (sometimes one instead of two, depending on whether there are meetings, functions or if it’s a public holiday), and (usually) grassroots or other official meetings on other nights.

On weekends, I attend several events in MacPherson, Marine Parade or others. I try to give support to ground-level activities, as I think it is positive to have residents self-organise, take ownership and contribute towards community bonding.

There are many memorable encounters and it’s really hard to say which one is more memorable than others. Perhaps, just to share one, I recall this resident who came to me for assistance at MPS. He was an ex-offender who had turned over a new leaf. For many years, he has been trying his utmost to earn a living and keep his family together.

The issues he faced were rather complex and multi-faceted (apologies, I am not sharing the details here to protect his privacy). While we have managed to help him in certain aspects, it is still an ongoing process. Nonetheless, in one of the follow-up visits he made at my MPS, there was a moment that made me feel very touched. He shared with me his difficulties all over again and I realised that he was pouring his heart out because he felt that he has been fighting life on his own all this while. And at MPS, there are people who would listen to him and offer him words of comfort. I was touched by his trust in us. That moment reminded me just how important MPS is. We continue to help him with the challenges he faces, but to be able to be there and lend a listening ear helps too (of course, we do not stop at being just a listening ear).

Personally, I find his spirit admirable, as he remains strong and determined despite the adversities he faces. Residents like him remind me of my purpose, gives me strength and makes me even more determined in continuing this journey of service.

 2) Tell us more about the HDB void deck art gallery – the objectives, the inspiration, the artists and their assistants, reaction of the residents, the accolades, etc. 

The project was called “GRACE” – Getting Residents, Artists & the Community Engaged. The main objectives were to not only make the void deck more vibrant and colorful (a fresh touch to a nostalgic neighbourhood I suppose), but to also provide the space for people to express creativity through art, bring art closer to people and provide the platform for various people to come together.

These included residents, volunteers from different walks of life, PCF MacPherson [PCF: PAP Community Foundation], ITE College Central, artists from Social Creatives and MacPherson Zone C RC. The main champions who helped make this a reality are Faris of Social Creatives (founder) and MacPherson Zone C RC. Project GRACE was very fortunate to receive much support and was featured by local media (e.g., Zaobao and Channel 8’s “Art Effect”) and CNN GO. Everyone involved was very happy of our collective effort certainly. I was most happy when residents tell me that it has made their environment a more colourful and vibrant place.

 My friend Chris & MP Tin Pei Ling at the beautifully painted void deck:

3) What has it been like to be a young MP in a relatively mature estate? 

As MacPherson is a mature estate, I probably have a disproportionate number of residents who are elderly and challenged in one way or other. I see many cases which need help, and feel strongly that more can be done for them. Many need help with medical issues and support for their daily living.

As a young MP, I feel I have more energy to do more. And I also hope that more young people can join me and work with me in creating new ideas and making them happen for the community in MacPherson.

So far, I have been working with my team of volunteers, whom I am very fortunate to have, VWOs and community partners within the ward, as well as external partners, to come up with programmes to help the elderly and the less fortunate. For example, we launched the “Say No to Fall” programme last year which aims to assess our seniors’ risk of falling and offer interventions for those with high risk, and the MacPherson Care Fund this year – we raised funds on our own to provide some financial support to seniors who find it difficult to cope with their medical expenses. These are examples of what we have been coming up with on top of the programmes (e.g., free meals and food ration distributions) and initiatives that are already available to them.

Helping them is an ongoing effort and the approach may evolve as needs evolve or as new ideas come about. However, it is most fulfilling to be able to give a hand to those who are in need and to bring a smile to others.

4) What inspired you to take up office and do you have fears of not being able to live up to the people’s expectations?

I have always been involved in community work as a youth volunteer, and had been helping at MPS for 7 years before the GE. I find it a meaningful use of my time to contribute to something larger than myself.

It’s great to be able to help others and make a positive impact. When the Party asked me to run as a candidate, though, I had some reservations. I was building my career then and my hubby and I were thinking about starting a family. In the end, I decided that I did not want to decline the opportunity to be able to do more, and then grow old wondering how things would have been if I had said yes.

Now that I have this responsibility, I am committed to doing as best as I can. I think it is a basic value – at least till the next GE, I have this job and responsibility that the voters have entrusted in me, and I must do it as best as I can.

5) How would you like the residents of your Macpherson ward to remember you as an individual and as their MP?

Someone who is sincere in wanting to listen to and help them, someone whom they can trust and be a friend with, and someone to make MacPherson a better home for them.

6) If we turn back the clock and you are given the opportunity to decide whether to enter politics or not, would you choose this route again? If you will, what do you think you’ll do differently?

The clock can never be turned back. All of us can only move forward. And moving forward, I am committed to doing as best as I can.

7) What do you think are some misconceptions people have about an MP’s duties and what he/she should do for them?

Let me share one example. At MPS, I sometimes have to explain to residents that as an MP, I cannot cause the decisions to be in their favor. The government departments have to decide in all fairness based on national policies, the broad national interest and merits of the case.

In particular, MPs cannot write to the judicial branch to overturn adverse court judgements against particular residents. However, I am my residents’ advocate and can put up the best case for them, explain their special circumstances to the authorities, and plead on their behalf to be considered as a special case.

Grace says: It was my first time walking around a neighborhood with an MP and I got to witness first-hand how much the MacPherson residents liked Tin Pei Ling.

My friend, Chris, described her as a “down-to-earth” person while I felt she’s almost like a friend as we’re about the same age and she does not have any airs about her.

For all that’s been said about her, I can only say that you need to get to know a person first and walk a mile in her shoes, only then should you begin forming an opinion about her. I think she’s doing a great job in MacPherson and I respect how she’s holding her head high in spite of everything that has happened. From her, I’ve learnt about fortitude. :)

Come back again soonI’ll be sharing about another lunch with MP Tin Pei Ling at a cafe she highly recommends. :D

Meet Grace “Paparazzi” Tan

Some people around Singapore know me as “Grace Paparazzi Tan”, even Minister Chan Chun Sing. And all because of a certain tee I wore to a certain event. :D

Unfortunately, I’m not really cut out for the job of paparazzi. So no sneaky shots to share with you, but there are lots of fun ones.

The day began with participants meeting some really cool photographers, like this one:

I also popped by the Mazda *zoom zoom* showroom where I met some cute kids and their Smurfs…

My prized paparazzi moments:

1) With actor Jacky Goh (hope I got his name spelt right)

2) Another (as yet unidentified) actor. He rushed to put on that cap every time someone asked to take a photo with him. XD

3) With Minister Chan Chun Sing

He was laughing out loud when a photographer asked if he’d like to wear my Hello Kitty specs:

And here’s something you have NEVER seen before: Paparazzi getting interviewed!

I guess I like being in front of the camera more. XD

And finally, this staged shooting match with a professional photographer. Don’t ask me who won lah! :P

I had a fun day as paparazzi. I think I’ll reprise this role again soon! :D