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Friendzone - Fostering the kampung spirit amongst young adults

by Vera Lim, 28 September 2018

SINGAPORE --- In a time when it is normal to not know your neighbours, 33 young adults between the ages of 18 to 35 years gathered at a pavilion in Marine Parade on September 9, 2018, to socialise and share meaningful conversations with one another. The most surprising thing? They do not know each other.

Adorned with fairy lights and decorated with comfortable rugs and pillows, the pavilion drew stares from Marine Parade residents on Sunday evening who are unused to such activity at their void decks. This is especially so in a time when the loss of the kampung spirit -- the culture of knowing and helping neighbours out -- is often lamented.

Fostering that community spirit among young people is exactly what Friendzone was created for, explained one of its founders Grace Ann Chua, 24. Friendzone was conceived after her friends and her realised that the tight-knit community spirit they experienced in university was lacking in their neighbourhoods.

For two hours, participants sat in small, intimate groups and used prompts provided to kickstart meaningful conversations. Participants delved straight into sharing topics that they are excited about like cricket, lion dance, and writing, and in turn asked others for advice on issues like how to lead a passionate life, friendships and moving on in different stages of life.

“Typically when you meet someone, you always engage in standard, superficial conversations,” said Grace. “The questions on our conversation cards are designed for people to connect over the ‘Why’s and not the ‘What’s.” By encouraging more intimate conversations through their programme, participants get to connect with each other at a deeper level and perhaps build more long-lasting relationships.

Full group photo from the event on 9 September 2018

It seems that long-lasting relationships are already being made. The number of attendees jumped from 24 at the first event held in June to 33 in September. Furthermore, some of the past attendees were motivated by the organising team’s efforts to become volunteers.

“I really hoped to be able to build good friendships and rapport with fellow peers in my neighbourhood,” said Eric Lim, 24, a volunteer. “If I were to see what I hoped for come to fruition, certainly I had to likewise play my part.”

New participants were equally inspired. Most of them attended the event after learning about it through social media, posters around the estate or via word of mouth. A handful not from Marine Parade came because they were intrigued, and wanted to organise Friendzone in their own neighbourhoods.

“I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe overseas, people would be quite open to meet new people, but in Singapore, I’ve never heard of this,” said Jia Zhen, 25, a first-time participant.

“I would definitely come again,” said Michelle Leong, 31, a teacher. Her only complaint? “It was too short. I was hoping there would be a chance of delaying.”

Grace emphasised that Friendzone was part of a community building process, as participants were encouraged to initiate their own future gatherings. The future of this seems optimistic. Since the event, participants have initiated food and bouldering outings, and there are plans to expand Friendzone to other neighbourhoods like Tampines. Perhaps the kampung spirit is not lost after all.

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