A sprouting idea
Seniors in Blk 11 Holland Drive have found a common space to enjoy, and be with other seniors and residents.
Boredom started to creep in after Peter Chew retired from business. He constantly wondered what else could offer more meaning to his life. He started to look out for meaningful activities, which he and other retirees could engage in. One day he saw a small plot of land in his neighbourhood at Blk 11 Holland Drive where some vegetables were being grown.
Suddenly an idea struck the 75-year-old father of one, “What if we could make it bigger and turn it into a community garden where everyone could enjoy it?” In 2014, he mooted this idea to Margaret Ong, the chairman of the Buona Vista Active Ageing Committee and Buona Vista Zone D RC. Moved by his sincerity and passion, the RC with the support from the Buona Vista Active Ageing Committee, NPark and Town Council decided to transform the 44-sqm piece of land.
A community effort
Although he had a keen interest in gardening, Peter had no prior knowledge or experience in gardening. He started to read gardening books, surfed the Internet and approached residents to discuss about gardening. He also tapped on the resources provided by NPark such as the starter kits. Furthermore, he went around the neighbourhood to spread the word about the community garden. Initially, about 10 seniors (mostly above the age of 65) of whom more than half were men responded to him that they wanted to join him in this new interest group.
“After we got the go-ahead and support from Margaret and her RC committee, we had to overhaul the whole garden. We had to distinguish the areas that were dug up and then demarcate them for herbs and flowers, which we unanimously decided to go with,” said Peter.
“We also built a walking path to differentiate both parts. It was the most backbreaking task and it took us almost three months.”
Others took their own initiative to do their part. Beyond the garden enthusiasts, the group’s members also had a senior who is good with carpentry work and he ended up building racks and stands for the community garden. Members also collected unwanted pots of plants disposed by residents and “revived” them in the community garden. Explained Peter, the members contributed either financially and/or physically, while others gave them strong moral support.
Once the group got the garden started, their next task – maintaining it – was just as challenging. When the RC came to know about their concern, it helped to bring in an NPark trainer to provide the group with some guidance on gardening maintenance.
Going strong & growing
Today, the members of the community garden, now known as D Vista Garden under the Buona Vista Wellness Programme, numbers about 20, as well as others in the neighbourhood who drop by to chit-chat or pick up curry or pandan leaves. And their community of plants have also expanded – there are now around 50 different species of plants including a miniature soursop tree, miniature custard apple tree, miniature mango tree which has yet to bear fruit, and a dwarfed bay leaf (used in stews and Italian food) tree which is flourishing.
The members are happy to share their “labour of fruits” such as the curry and pandan leaves with residents staying there, as long as they do it with care.
Peter calls the community garden “an open community of camaraderie and friendship” where people come together because they have “common ground”. The members couldn’t be happier having such an initiative. Shared 74-year-old Pang Choon Seng: “It is a pleasure to see the garden grow. You can see new things being put in.”
Added Yap Pow Thong, 90, “During the Japanese time, I used to plant carrots, long beans and cucumber, and chopped firewood in my garden. It [the community garden] brings back memories. I love flowers. When I travel the world, I always go see gardens.”
Said another member, 85-year-old Joseph Thariyan: “It is a great solace in my lonely life. I get to chit-chat with the guys.”
Since the garden started, there is better bonding among residents staying in the vicinity. On Sundays, members show up to help to clear the weeds and do other labour-intensive work. Beyond their ad-hoc get-togethers, once a month, they hold a gathering with food and members and other residents join in.
And the saying “if you build it, they will come” resonates with someone Peter recently persuaded to join the group. William, a 61-year-old, hesitated first to join as he was not keen on plants but fish, and there was no aquarium in the community garden. However, that all changed.
“Someone saw the garden and asked if we wanted an aquarium, which he wanted to get rid of. I told him we take everything so he brought it down,” he said. Peter shared that William saw it and wanted it. Today, the aquarium sits in the community garden and has fighting fish as well as goldfish. “He is here everyday,” said Peter of William who shared that while we were there, William was off buying fish.
From what was a small idea, it has now turned into something where seniors at Blk 11 not only welcome, but are a part of it.
If you are staying in the area and want to join this group of seniors, you can e-mail BuonaVistaZoneDRC@gmail.com for more information.