ADMINISTRATIVE officer Kabirdas Perumal is not a grassroots leader. Yet, at the weekend, the 53-year-old makes the rounds at coffee shops in Ang Mo Kio to greet residents in the area and pass them messages from the town council.
Proactive residents like Mr Kabirdas may be in a minority but their efforts go a long way towards helping town councils keep housing estates in top form.
The Straits Times managed to seek some of them out, a day after the release of a report showing how the 16 town councils across Singapore are faring in running their estates.
The report, released by the Ministry of National Development, showed Ang Mo Kio and Tanjong Pagar getting top marks. Hougang and Potong Pasir town councils fared poorly, especially in estate maintenance, and the collection of service and conservancy charges from residents.
For lecturer Celestine Tan, 43, moving to the older Hougang estate from Shunfu five years ago turned him into a more involved resident.
Concerned by excessive clutter, structural cracks and dark walkways in and near his block, he has been taking photos of these defects and e-mailing them to the town council.
'It is frustrating when you see something wrong and nobody is doing anything about it,' he said.
Much to his relief, the cracks he spotted have been rectified, the clutter cleared, and lamps installed along the walkways.
For other residents, a strong sense of volunteerism is what keeps them involved in their estate's upkeep.
Former teacher Lily Teo, 58, has been a proactive Mountbatten resident for more than 20 years. Every day, the self-appointed anti-litter vigilante patrols the void decks, carparks and playgrounds of her Pine Close estate.
She said: 'If I see people leaving food wrappers or drink packets behind, I will tell them off, and ask them to keep the place clean.'
Age is no barrier for housewife Tan Kim Kee, who at 66 still removes fallen tree branches from footpaths so that passers-by will not trip over them. She has been voluntarily clearing her Bukit Batok estate of litter for more than 10 years.
The grandmother of five also makes calls to the residents' committee whenever she spots bulky refuse dumped at the void decks.
Over at Boon Tiong in Tiong Bahru, operations manager Densy Kum tries to do her bit by showing concern for an oft forgotten group of people - cleaners.
In the morning, before leaving for work, the 45-year-old chats with the elderly cleaner who cleans her block.
Said Ms Kum: 'He even comes to clean in the evenings during his free time, because the block can get quite dirty by then. Yet people take him for granted.'
Beautifying the neighbourhood has also helped unite the residents of Corporation Drive in Taman Jurong.
Four residents, aged 64 to 70, have single-handedly designed, planted, and maintained a vegetable and flower garden there since 2008. Every couple of months, the yield of the garden - including lady's fingers, chye sim and kailan - is given away.
Elderly residents like to pluck the herbs to make Chinese medicine. Pupils from the nearby Lakeside Primary School benefit from first-hand science and nature lessons.
Said Mr Yap Cheng Hai, 70, who leads the gardening team: 'We are happy as long as there is a harvest to share with our neighbours. The garden has brought back a bit of kampung spirit.'
While most residents who pitch in usually focus on their own estates, West Coast resident Fion Phua ventures farther afield.
Last month, the 40-year-old helped 13 families in Ang Mo Kio pay more than $10,000 in services and conservancy arrears. The cash comes from different sources.
When told about Potong Pasir and Hougang being the town councils with the highest proportion of residents in arrears, the Good Samaritan said: 'I think I will go and recce the areas soon.
'If there are a lot of arrears, it may mean that there are needy residents who are too poor to pay.'
Source: Straits Times, 12 Jun 2010