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Have a free cuppa at void-deck hang-outs

North East CDC has set up nearly 50 ‘cafe corners’ for residents to mingle

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MELISSA LIN on 24 Jan 2014

Singapore Press Holdings Ltd

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LAUGHTER and applause rang out frequently from a corner of the void deck at Block 291B, Compassvale Street, yesterday morning.


About 50 residents, mainly women, were entertained for an hour by two former radio deejays, and hung around afterwards to chat over coffee, sandwiches and home-cooked beehoon. It was a special event at the area’s “cafe corner”, set up to offer residents free drinks and a place to mingle.


Nearly 50 of such void-deck hang-outs have sprung up across estates in the north-east since last April, under a move led by the North East Community Development Council (CDC) to foster neighbourliness.


These coffee corners are spread across resident committee (RC) zones in the North East District, which covers the Tampines, Aljunied and Pasir Ris-Punggol areas.


The daily brew on offer include three-in-one coffee, tea and Milo.


At the “cafe” at Compassvale, for instance, residents on their way to work can grab a free drink from 7.30am to 10.30am, on Mondays to Saturdays.


Others with time to spare can sit around to chat with their neighbours, read newspapers or play games such as Rummy-O over a nice hot cuppa.


“The cafe corners are for residents to mingle around, and when there are RC activities, we can pass the information to them there,” said Compassvale Lodge RC chairman Derrick Lin, 48.


The Compassvale coffee place, the first to be set up last April, invited two former deejays from the old Rediffusion radio station to talk to residents yesterday.


Ex-presenters Gan Yeok Thiam and Koh Sock May spoke in Mandarin about the upcoming Chinese New Year and its traditions, attracting laughter from residents.


Another cafe corner at Punggol Meridian RC also hosted a talk last week.


Mr Lin said: “The talk shows are a spin-off from the original idea and a way to further engage residents. They are also opportunities for the RCs to do community outreaches.”


Indeed, in the pipeline are art and craft workshops for residents.


The void-deck drinks corners are not only dispensing free beverages, but also providing work for job seekers under the CDC’s community employment programme.


They help man the cafes and prepare the drinks, which are paid for by the CDC and RC.


While it is mainly senior citizens who hang out at the void-deck cafe in the day, a younger crowd – workers in their 30s and 40s – will drop by after work, said Mr Lin.


These drinks are offered at night too, from 7pm to 10pm.


So far, organisers said they have had no problem with residents who helped themselves to too many free drinks, though there has been the odd grandmother who took multiple cups of Milo for her grandchild.


Already, these aromatic coffee corners have inspired residents to come up with their own efforts to mix more with their neighbours.


Take, for instance, housewife Margaret Tan, 57, who formed a brisk- walking group made up of housewives at Compassvale last May.


After their morning exercise, they would head to the coffee corner for hot drinks as well as food that they brought from home to share.


“Some of us are old with no places to go. Our children are grown up and married already,” said Madam Tan.


“Here, we can make friends and play games. It is good for us as it can get very boring at home.”


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
 

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