Photo credit: MELANIE THAM


Like many other Singaporeans, Melanie Tham had to make the transition to work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, she discovered that there are many ways to make a difference in the lives of those around her.

She decided to start small by sweeping her neighbour’s porch and buying food for one another through GrabFood to edify one another’s lives. She began doing these small acts of kindness without realising that it would revive the kampung spirit and bring people together, building a community that will emerge from the circuit breaker even stronger. Today, she shares some lessons that she has learnt during this time.

You don’t have to wait for someone else to start

You don’t need to have a very complex idea to start something. It’s a matter of starting with something small and doing it daily. If everyone is going to wait for someone else to do it, nobody would do it. Just start! It is the heart that matters, and your actions will show through it.

Drop the stereotypes

“My neighbours aren’t the friendliest” – or that’s what I thought. I hardly saw them because we are usually indoors and we come back home at different timings. They also burnt incense at night, making it difficult for me to sleep. Initially, I had come up with a thousand excuses why I would not help them sweep their front porch. But when I eventually did it, it became easier for me to say hi, smile, and even approach them to have conversations.

Do it faithfully

It made absolutely no sense for me to sweep my neighbour’s front porch. However, it is not just about the action, but the heart behind it. The first time I helped them sweep their porch felt ridiculous, and people even gave me strange looks. But my neighbours soon opened up, and that was when I realised that I really enjoyed doing this regularly and faithfully.

Don’t expect people to reciprocate

Every time I swept the floor and someone walked by, I realised I was the one saying sorry for blocking their way. People don’t always thank you for doing good deeds, and might even see it as an inconvenience. However, after I began to silently help clean the corridor area, the same neighbours who would place their unwanted pots of plants on our porch began to help water our plants! Of course, doing good for others should not be done to win their appreciation, it should be done to help us grow as a person.

Do it well

There is a difference between “I will just sweep what I can see” and “I will sweep even the things that I cannot see”. Sweeping up leaves, wrappers and whatever that is visible is very easy, but cleaning the entire area and looking for unseen dust requires effort.

I usually tell people that I want to change the world, but the things I have to do in order to change the world are often not something to be glorified or talked about often. But that doesn’t mean I don’t give it my all, or do something just for show.

This article was published on Oct 22, 2021

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