Friendship is Family: FAM 2021

By Matthew Ethan Ramli (21S03F) and Noelle Leow (21A01B)

Kicking off Friendship Appreciation Week on Tuesday was a concert by Raffles Jazz. The Amphitheatre steps were filled with socially-distanced students drawn by the promise of live music. The crowd, which extended to the benches behind and the levels above, waited in eager anticipation for the concert—and were rewarded by Jazz’s rich and soulful melodies.

Drawing from their existing repertoire, Jazz played three famous standards: “Fly Me to the Moon” by Frank Sinatra and two Stevie Wonder hits, “For Once in My Life” and “Isn’t She Lovely”. According to Jazz member Benjamin Silver Matthew (21A13A), these songs were chosen for their popularity within the school population. 

The eight Year 6 members of Jazz rotated between five instruments. As per Jazz tradition, the songs started out with the announcement of the main theme, before the theme was improvised by each instrumentalist. Keeping with the free spirit of the genre, the members of Jazz added their own spin to the main musical lines. While some chose to take the listeners on a virtuosic ride, others opted for more lyrical interpretations. 

There was something, however, that startled the audience. As the second song started, disembodied singing seemed to come out of nowhere. We soon realised that the instrumentalists were syncing their performance to pre-recorded vocals playing from a speaker, a novel approach taken in response to Safe Management Measures. 

Audience member Lim Xin Yi (21A13A) had an enjoyable time watching the concert. “I think it’s very nice to see my friends perform after a very long time. It was a good start to the day because we have music and get to spend time together with our friends.”

The main highlight of FAM was the Pony Party held in the afternoon. The Hodge Lodge was suitably decked out for the occasion, with star-shaped balloons hanging from the ceiling and My Little Pony themed balloons scattered around the area. Signs positioned outside and inside the Hodge Lodge helpfully directed students on what to do and where to go. The atmosphere was pleasant and jovial, likely helped by the friendship-themed tunes playing in the background, but calm at the same time—the queues were well-managed by the Councillors on duty, who helped to ensure that the students were practising safe distancing. 

The instructions were simple: students had only to show their completed Pony Party Questionnaire to the Councillor on duty to redeem either a Subway cookie—in the tantalising flavours of raspberry cheesecake, chocolate chip, or double chocolate chip—or a colourful DIY friendship bracelet, limited to the first 250 redemptions. The tables containing the complementary gifts were tastefully decorated with hand-drawn signs and artificial potted plants and flowers, which gave the display added vibrancy. 

While it was difficult to determine which of the two gifts was more popular, the beaming faces of the students who left with a cookie or friendship bracelet left us in no doubt of their success in bringing joy to the school population. There was a sizable number of Year 5s who were chatting merrily with their friends and appeared to be enjoying themselves tremendously. A Year 5 student, who declined to be named, said, “[FAM is] something different because in Year 1–4 we didn’t have this so [I found this] very meaningful.” His friend added, “It’s cute!” 

Students were especially drawn to the beautifully designed friendship cards with encouraging messages such as “You’re a special find!” and “Thank you!”. The pastel hues and aesthetic designs of the cards made them particularly attractive and eye-catching, earning high praise from Jedidiah Lim (21S06M), who enthused that “the designs [were] awesome and [they] look[ed] like something [he could] get from Typo”. 

The beautifully designed friendship appreciation cards

Apart from the gift redemptions, students had the opportunity to take a Polaroid in pairs against a special backdrop set up just for the event. The Polaroid Photobooth, however, was only limited to the first 60 redemptions, excluding the tickets won during the giveaway on Team Raffles Instagram the previous week. 

The first hour saw long queues forming, with students eagerly anticipating their turn, and by the last half-hour of the event, all the polaroids had been given away, a testament to the popularity of polaroids among Rafflesians. A diverse range of pairs was seen taking a polaroid together, from longtime friends to classmates to the more-than-friends, and even students who had come alone but spontaneously paired up with friends that they had happened to see there. 

An anonymous Year 5 student shared her appreciation for the polaroids, as a polaroid “can capture your friendship and [you can] keep it with you for life”. This was echoed by another Year 5 student, who conveyed her hope for “more polaroids [in school events] in future”. 

Resident photographer Tanya hard at work at the Polaroid Photobooth

Similarly positive sentiments were expressed by other participants. “I think this is a very sweet initiative … just like the cookies!” quipped Anika Lee (21S03M). 

FAM’s significance as one of the first few Council events experienced by the Year 5s was not forgotten by Rayner Chew (22A01B), who credited FAM for giving him an opportunity to “meet up with friends [whom he had not] met in a long while”. His friend Jenica Tan (22A13A) shared that “in JC, it is more difficult to meet secondary school friends and talk to them” and FAM was “a really cute way to get friends to bond”. 

On the central theme of friendship, Rayner said he viewed friends as a “pillar of support” and school life should not be “just focused on academics but [should also include] making lifelong friends”. To Gareth Chionh (21S03F), friends are “people [you can] lean on, especially in times of trouble”, and hence “it is important to maintain good friendships and keep in touch”. His classmate Adhitya Vaidhiyanathan emphasised the importance of “showing appreciation [to our friends] so that they feel loved, such as thanking them when they do something nice for you”.

The students’ warm reception to FAM was especially heartening to the organising committee: the Welfare department of the 40th Students’ Council. This year’s FAM was different from previous years’—according to Tanya Tan (21S03O), they “shortened it two days [and] had to condense the activities and do giveaways online on Wednesday to make it engaging for students”. 

FAM overall organiser Nathaniel Tan (21S06E) shared, “I want[ed] to give Rafflesians this opportunity to appreciate their friends, which they might not otherwise do on a day-to-day basis”. Judging from the success of FAM, that has certainly been achieved. The spirit of FAM can be perfectly encapsulated in this phrase quoted by Nathaniel—truly, “friendship is magic”.

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