Read about CRT’s Impact

CRT’s Impact

CRT’s Impact — Part 1

Read about CRT's Impact

Trust and reliability go a long way

CRT's Impact
Photo courtesy of Cassia Resettlement Team

A huge part of CRT’s success hinges on the trust and legitimacy that volunteers have established with residents.

They have achieved this in several ways; by consulting residents to determine actual rather than perceived needs, and accompanying them on daily activities, including meals, medical appointments, and grocery shopping.

Language and technology are often barriers for low-income residents, who are either illiterate or cannot speak English and use the Internet. Confronted with these hurdles, residents are challenged to handle their own affairs. In such cases, CRT volunteers take the time to traverse the complex and rapidly shifting ecosystem of banks, doctors, service providers and public agencies.

“The principle that guides our practice is to respect and protect the resident's dignity and treasured autonomy. That means listening to residents on what they prefer and empowering them to be decision-makers for their own lives.”

Lim Jingzhou
CRT Head and Co-founder

But there is a fine balance between enabling and empowering the residents to remain independent, and making them overly dependent on external assistance.

CRT’s Head and Co-founder Lim Jingzhou explains, "For example, we've made it a practice to examine a whole array of options to reach an outcome. Is it something that the resident can do? Can we do anything to facilitate or support the resident doing it? If not, then we look into the assets and resources within the family or community. Lastly, we examine what services are available that may meet the identified needs.

“Instead of demonising dependence, we try to examine all these options on equal footing. None are inherently better than the other - it always depends on the context.”

He adds, “Often, professionals may be tempted to prescribe the solution; or have limited view on possible options, because they do not have the depth of work done with residents as we do."

CRT's impact
Photo courtesy of Cassia Resettlement Team

Around meals for example, Jingzhou says that some residents need meals delivered to their doorsteps, while others can rely on other sources, like neighbours.

“But there are trade-offs in all these situations,” Jingzhou says. “For meals delivered to doorsteps, residents lose the communal and social aspect of eating. For reliance on neighbours, the consistency is not as guaranteed as a service provider, etc.

“Whatever the need or issue, we work through what’s best for the resident with him/her and their social support system. We’re fortunate to have different options and we need to honour that privilege.”

“It is so important to be a constant presence in the community – you become a familiar face and someone they can trust. Even residents who we may not have interacted with much believe that they can trust us with their issues, because of what we have done for other residents.”

Gary Huang
CRT volunteer

Gary started volunteering in July 2018, while waiting for his university term to start, and made firm friends among the residents. He admits that it was sometimes hard to know where to draw the line, especially when they called him late at night.

Even small gestures mean a lot to the elderly, Gary says. This could mean fixing their TV or handphone, translating bureaucratic letters, applying for grants on their behalf, including for financial assistance from the government.

Over time, the team has proven that they are there to support the residents, whether by being a phone call away or simply showing up every week.

Volunteers also organise community-building events to encourage the use of common spaces at Block 52. Activities, such as potluck parties, coffee sessions and gardening classes bring the residents out of their flats to meet with their neighbours, initiate conversations and ignite friendships.

Photo courtesy of Cassia Resettlement Team
Photo courtesy of Cassia Resettlement Team

“I did not expect to become so intimately involved in their lives even to the point where we may be the first they call when something happens,” shares Gary. “For some residents, I think they recognise that CRT volunteers are reliable. Broadly speaking, volunteers and residents see each other as friends, and as friends, we do whatever we can.”

Such friendships have defined how CRT volunteers refer to the elderly; that is not as “beneficiaries” or “clients”. Rather, theirs is a two-way relationship that benefits both the resident and the volunteer.

Says Jingzhou, “We have learnt a lot in the process. From the work, from stories the residents share and their experiences. I think sometimes people would question: ‘You’re doing so much here, are these people making use of you, etc?’ But I always find that I’m quite touched when I bump into some residents and they say, ‘Oh, you are here again, you should take a break. Have you been eating well? Have you been sleeping well?’

“People expect that you are only there to help them, they don’t see that they (the residents) also support and care for us.”

Read Next Part: Part 2

A collaborative project deepens CRT’s advocacy

CRT’s Impact — Part 2

A collaborative project deepens CRT’s advocacy

CRT's Impact
Photo courtesy of Cassia Resettlement Team

Besides the on-the-ground work that CRT does, it also actively seeks to advocate for the improvement of support services for the residents of Block 52 Cassia Crescent. By sharing learnings and knowledge, the group intends to inform future relocation and resettlement initiatives in Singapore.

Published by Ethos Books, They Told Us to Move: Dakota—Cassia is a unique book project between CRT, its volunteers and academics. It is an incisive collection of interviews with residents, reflections of volunteers on each resident, and essays by academics, who analyse the links between both perspectives through the lens of public policy and processes.

“Moving an entire community inevitably entails disruption. But when the community is made up of low-income public rental tenants, who are frail and elderly, or without adequate social support, the disruption is heightened.”

Assistant Professor Ng Kok Hoe
Editor, They Told Us to Move: Dakota—Cassia

CRT's Impact
Photo courtesy of Cassia Resettlement Team

They Told Us to Move’s editor Ng Kok Hoe, who is Assistant Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, says that learning about CRT’s work has been “inspiring and troubling”.

Inspiring, because CRT follows a simple motive of seeing what people need and then responding.

“This is an unusual premise because it creates uncertainty about the potential range of service demands,” Assistant Prof Ng says. “CRT shows us a powerful alternative to the prevailing model of professional social services based on strictly defined service mandates and target, and tightly monitored case numbers and outcomes.”

And troubling, because they are a group of volunteers.

Says Assistant Professor Ng, “This raises questions about past relocations – had people gone without the help they needed, as well as future ones – what happens when these volunteers are no longer able to continue?

“The impact of CRT’s work on the Cassia community highlights that social service support during housing relocation is an area that is not formally catered for at this point,” he adds. “We must learn from CRT’s work as we rethink the way public services are organised in this area.”

Read Next Part: Part 3

Improving the relocation process

CRT’s Impact — Part 3

Improving the relocation process

CRT's Impact
“These tenants are dependent on neighbourly help and local social service providers for their daily needs, making a loss of these networks especially harmful. For example, when a resident no longer lives near neighbours who used to help carry heavy groceries, she may stop cooking her own meals. When the senior activity centre is run by a new and unfamiliar operator, residents may stop visiting and lose contact with friends.”

Assistant Professor Ng Kok Hoe
Editor, They Told Us to Move: Dakota—Cassia

Based on feedback from residents and CRT’s experience of how rental flat relocations have impacted many elderly residents, Jingzhou suggests how the process could be better.

These are: to improve communication with residents along the entire relocation journey; to explore giving existing social service providers a chance to move with residents to the new community, especially if most of the residents are relocated together; and to give relevant stakeholders ample time to prepare for the move.

“The other thing is that there is no social service that employs professional staff and pays them to support residents to relocate and settle them into their new homes and communities.”

While the public can continue to lend their time and effort to support communities during a move, Jingzhou warns that the duty should not “fall squarely on volunteers or community members”. But rather something that is “shared between citizens, service providers and the Government.”

“The State needs to play a bigger role,” he insists. “They have supported in various ways but more is required. For instance, it was good that grassroots leaders formed a Relocation Task Force to assist Dakota residents. But this is not guaranteed for other communities.”

Read Next Part: Part 4

Is relocation necessary? And can we redefine what home and community mean to us?

CRT’s Impact — Part 4

Is relocation necessary? And can we redefine what home and community mean to us?

CRT's Impact
“There’s a debate on whether redevelopment should occur in the first place, which is a legitimate debate to have, which we aren’t having. It’s often just decided. Even if we assume that the redevelopment is in society’s interest and must proceed, the other frame of looking at it is how can we make the relocation a good or better thing for residents, rather than a bad one.”

Lim Jingzhou
CRT Head and Co-founder

Moving beyond the current conversations about relocation to Cassia Crescent, Jingzhou suggests shifting the narrative to what resettlement and redevelopment means to all citizens in Singapore, 80 per cent of whom live in public housing.

The question that Jingzhou returns to is whether relocation needs to happen at all. And if so, he wonders whether residents affected by an impending move could be consulted first.

But would it complicate matters by giving residents a say or a stake in their own lives? What if it was impossible to meet all their requests? Would they be disappointed or disillusioned?

“A major issue is that people are not asked about what they need in their new homes; in their new communities. And because of this, their needs are not being adequately met,” Jingzhou laments. “The space is unfamiliar, the things that they require from the daily environment in their past, they no longer have access to. Or as we have heard from some residents, the lack of proper kitchen spaces, because the size of the new flats have shrunk.”

He says, “All these things could have been avoided if they were listened to earlier, and the Government could have probably tried to see how they could work around those issues.

“Even if you can’t gather an opinion, or input, or feedback that represents consensus, they are still valuable insights to be adopted or considered when designing new places and homes for people.”

“Any relocation demands that people leave their original homes and go to a new place and try to build a new home. Some people succeed in doing so, some struggle, some may not be able to rebuild their homes even after they move. And that is the price that people are paying for what has been termed a societal interest for redevelopment.”

Lim Jingzhou
CRT Head and Co-founder

Inevitably there are things that cannot be exactly replaced or replicated during a move, says Jingzhou. “It’s just a different place, a different feeling altogether. It’s a home that has to be rebuilt.”

But at least, he argues, let elderly tenants feel like they can contribute towards the decisions that shape their new living spaces. This might reassure them and soothe any anxieties about moving out of a community they have grown to love.

People emphasise different aspects of what a home means to them, says Jingzhou.

“It’s a combination of the space, the community, the people who care for them, the familiarity. It’s the rituals that are made possible because of the time that is spent in a place, and it’s also the feeling of being at home.”

Besides, don’t we all; young or old, high, middle or low-income, retired or working; married or single - want to return at the end of a day to a place we feel safe, comfortable and welcomed?



Juliana Tan

Producer, Photography & Writer

Tsen-Waye Tay

Camera & Editor

Grace Baey

Camera Assistant

vanessa chua


Jemimah Seow


Calvin Tan

Executive Producer

Von Tan

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