Caring for the unsung heroes at ITE College Central
The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central students recently held an appreciation lunch for the unsung heroes working there. KINTAN ANDANARI (firstname.lastname@example.org) reports
ABOUT THE LUNCH
On Friday, ITE College Central held an Appreciation Lunch for ITE Partners to honour the cleaners, security guards, gardeners and technicians working in the school.
From 10.30am to 12.30pm, about 125 workers got to enjoy an array of activities, which included a zumba dance, a balloon sculpture workshop, health assessments, karaoke sessions, and a buffet lunch.
Principal Ang Kiam Wee said: "We have been going out of the college to do community service, but we realised that there is a group of people in our college who is also overlooked."
Every year, different groups of students helm the annual event.
Dr Ang said: "We want to engage different school groups every year so that this movement spreads across our college.
"We initiate this event, and the students get to know (the workers') faces and the work they do, so their jobs no longer feels impersonal - (the students) know that there is a real person behind the jobs often overlooked.
"Eventually, we want to create a culture where students can start knowing (the workers') faces through this event and, bit by bit, they start smiling at each other when they bump into one another, thanking (the workers') for their work, and interact."
Apart from the appreciation lunch, ITE College Central has also been holding a kNOw Cleaners Day since 2013. On that day, cleaners are treated to a two-hour performance while the staff and students do their work.
"I think (the appreciation lunch) is an excellent initiative for our students to acknowledge (the workers') work.
"If you feel like a part of the family, working here would be a more enjoyable experience," said Dr Ang.
CLEANER IS PATIENT WITH STUDENTS WHO LITTER
Madam Lum Yoke Peng is 78 while her husband, Mr Lim Chai Gee, is 80.
Despite their ages, the couple work as cleaners at ITE College Central, earning about $1,000 each a month.
At 6am every weekday, they leave their two-room flat in MacPherson to head to the school in Ang Mo Kio.
During her shift from 7am to 4pm, Madam Lum sweeps the entire first storey of the building.
Her heart sinks when she sees students littering as she is sweeping nearby.
Madam Lum said: "It does not happen often, but sometimes, the students throw their cigarette butts and trash while I am sweeping the very same floor. They do not seem to care that I am there.
"I cannot do anything because it is not my place to chide them. I just have to be patient."
But the courteous staff and friendly students make up for the few bad hats.
Friday's appreciation lunch was especially enjoyable for Madam Lum.
She said: "We got food, games and goodies, and the students were especially friendlier today. What is there not to like?"
ITE College Central does not condone smoking and littering.
Principal Ang Kiam Weesaid: "ITE provides counselling for students who are trying to quit smoking.
"We do not condone smoking and littering on campus, and disciplinary action will be taken against repeat offenders."
LANDSCAPING SUPERVISOR PROUD OF HIS WORK
Mr Ahmad Rasiman, 65, who has been a supervisor of the landscaping team at ITE College Central for the past 2½ years, loves his job.
He said: "I love gardening. I used to live in a kampung in Sembawang and I helped my family take care of our garden."
Two months after retiring from sugar company SIS Sugar, when he was 62, he joined BSG Landscape & Constructionbecause he felt bored.
But he now dislikes the rain as it prevents him from manning his plants.
From 8am to 5pm on weekdays, and from 8am to noon on Saturdays, Mr Ahmad mans the open-air gardens on the fifth and seventh storeys.
He said: "It is a very nice place to work. The staff and students bring me food when there are functions, or give me tokens.
"The lecturers also compliment our landscaping work and it means a lot. I feel very proud and it makes me want to improve."
He was delighted when a student found his wallet two months ago.
He said: "He teased me and asked, 'Uncle, are you missing anything?' I said no, and he asked again, 'How about your wallet?'"
But, he added: "Not everyone can plant.
"You cannot just drop the seeds into the soil - ants will sometimes (eat) the seeds.
"I had to go for training to gain all the knowledge on gardening before working here."
PART-TIME JOB HELPS HER RELATE TO UNSUNG HEROES
Understanding what menial work entails helped her helm the organising committee for Friday's appreciation lunch.Miss Rie Trussiadi, 19, a first-year visual merchandising student, has been working part time as a waitress since she was 16 .
She said: "I can relate to these unsung heroes. I know how tedious the work behind the scenes is, and we do not often receive appreciation.
"When we are short on staff, I have to cover the job meant for three. We always try our best to do things quickly, but the customers cannot see all that is happening behind the scenes, and they just drop comments on our lacklustre performance in the comment box after."
She works once a week during school terms, and almost every day during school breaks to financially help her mother, who works as a freelance surveyor and is the family's sole breadwinner..
Since July, Miss Trussiadi team of five has been brainstorming ideas for the event.
TIRING BUT SATISFYING
And although organising the event was tiring, Miss Trussiadi feels a sense of accomplishment.
She said: "I feel happy because everything went well."
But she hopes the initiative does not end here.
She said: "We can start small. I think I will tell more people to start cleaning up their own mess and start thanking others. I always pick up rubbish whenever I see it in our school."
EVENT HOST WANTS APPRECIATION TO CONTINUE
She compered for Friday's appreciation lunch as it resonated with her.
Miss Nur Farhana Kutubundeen's grandmother was a cleaner before retiring in 2010, and Miss Farhana saw how the smallest compliments would make her grandmother beam with joy.
The 19-year-old second-year event management student said: "I used to visit my grandmother's workplace at a polyclinic in Teck Whye when I was younger. The staff would always thank her and tell her that she is the best cleaner.
"It may be small, but those small things made it hard for her to finally retire. She kept wanting to retire, but she always thought about how nice her colleagues were."
Miss Farhana was determined to express her appreciation for cleaners by being a master of ceremony for the annual event.
She said: "I compere for some school events, so I thought this was the best way for me to show my appreciation for them."
Beyond her gratitude, she is also attuned to the job's difficulty, having worked in housekeeping for a hotel.
She said: "I knew how difficult it was to do such a job although I had my attachment for only a month. I wonder how our school staff can do it every day."
She thinks more should be done to acknowledge the cleaners' efforts.
She said: "It is great that we have this event so they know that we recognise and appreciate their work.
"But we should also continue it in our daily life."