By Yang Si Qi (17A01C) and Bill Puah (17S06B)
It’s an early Saturday morning, but bright-eyed students are already milling about in the Albert Hong Hall, rushing around carrying props and setting up booths. These are the members of Community Advocates (CA), who have worked hard in planning and organizing the Homeground carnival, and are putting the finishing touches before the student volunteers and non-teaching staff arrive.
This is CA’s second year running the Homeground Carnival, which they intend to be an act of service and gratitude towards the non-teaching staff in our school whose efforts have often been overlooked and trivialized. According to Deea K Dev (17S03I), CA’s Chairperson, the staff “had really enjoyed themselves” the previous year, prompting a revival of the well-received carnival.The carnival exhorts participants to be more appreciative and accepting of the contracted staff around them.
For some of the participants, the success of the first Homeground carnival was reason enough to sign up again – Tan Xiao Tong Alethea (17S07D) recalls that the “good impression she had from last year” had led her to re-join this year’s initiative.
Soon, the non-working staff streamed in and took their place amongst the students, who were quick to engage them in conversation. The event started off with the opening address by Vice Principal Mr. Magendiran, expressing his “delight” in continuing the event, after which the participants enjoyed a lovely performance by Chinese Orchestra.
After the performance by Chinese Orchestra, icebreaker games were introduced to the participants, where they were made to perform a secret handshake with the person to their right, and share one interesting thing about themselves. More at ease now with one another, the groups, led by their facilitators, dispersed and headed to their respective venues for either the sports or cultural activities.
The ‘sports’ teams, consisting of mostly younger workers from Bangladesh and India, were treated to a morning of team sports, namely Cricket, Basketball, and Frisbee, and were coached by the members of respective CCAs. The workers took to Cricket and Basketball naturally, and one of them, a Bangladeshi worker named Abu Said, even confessed to honing his skills in the sports whenever he had some free time. When asked if he liked to play Basketball, he nodded enthusiastically. Despite his slight stature, he had scored four baskets – followed by cheers and claps from his teammates – making significant contributions to the eventual victory of his team. Although Frisbee was a more foreign sport to most of the workers, they were able to catch up quickly, and before long, a full game was underway.
Playing sports with new people made sports even more exhilarating. It was a process of socialisation, and not just mere competition among the participants.
The teams which took part in the cultural activities immersed themselves in primarily Chinese, Malay and Indian traditions, with activities such as making Angpao lanterns, as well as engaging in an introductory session to Dikir Barat, a musical form native to the Malay peninsula and a popular style of Malay choral singing. Delicious Indian snacks like Muruku were served at a tasting station, where workers were brought back to their childhoods with nostalgic flavours of home. Workers expressed their enthusiasm for these cultural activities, with some even opting to hum the tune of the Dikir Barat piece even after Homeground was concluded.
Other activities also included Art Jamming, in which participants were provided with painting materials and paper to unleash their creativity, and Chopstick Volleyball, a game in which players use chopsticks hit balloons and attempt to score points by landing them in the opponent’s court. Workers and students alike created beautiful Angbao Lanterns. Students also worked hard at giving workers henna tattoos with beautiful floral designs.
These activities not only fulfilled their purpose of entertaining the older workers, they also informed volunteers of bits and pieces of cultural beliefs and traditions. Student volunteers grew more aware of and sensitive to the culture of the workers, which may serve as common ground for discussion topics.
The groups congregated in the Year 1-4 canteen for lunch after a fruitful morning of enjoyable activities. Having gotten to know one another better throughout the course of the carnival, conversation flowed smoothly, paused only during the musical performances of Chamber Ensemble, Chinese Orchestra and Chinese Language Drama Cultural Society (CLDCS). Despite the vigorous morning activities, especially for those involved in sports, the students hung back from taking the food and drinks, allowing the workers to take their fill first, a sign of respect and consideration that was certainly heartwarming to witness.
As the performance by CLDCS came to curtain, the event drew to an end and the participants took their leave, but not before they exchanged promises to look out for one another in school.
In the words of Cerise Lim (17S03I), what Homeground did was to “create a platform for interaction” between the students and the workers. Thanks to the carnival, the participants, who would otherwise have little to no opportunities to meet, were brought together in a familiar and comfortable setting. Darren Wong (17S03A), the Main IC of the event, added that they hoped to “raise a certain level of awareness” of the non-teaching staff through hosting this carnival since they often get overlooked, even though they are, in different ways, just as important to the school as the students and teachers.
Of course, with every event organised, there is bound to be complications. These include logistical issues of having to relocate to the Year 5-6 cages and fields due to a softball tournament held in the Year 1-4 field. Furthermore, as Saturday is a work day, many workers had to leave for short periods to carry out their tasks – and this was something that the organisers could not help.
Despite these challenges, the second Homeground carnival has been a success. As Deea aptly put it, “whether they (the students and the workers) got closer together, that’s what matters most in the end”. Watching everyone mingle together, talking and laughing, we can definitely conclude that their goal had been achieved.