Lending a hand to make Singapore clean

Linette Heng The New Paper AsiaOne 25 Feb 15;

Teacher Tan Ken Jin has the tendency to pick up any litter he sees.

The 37-year-old does it without fuss - he picks up the trash with his bare hands before washing them at the nearest basin.

It all started in 2012 when he was training for a marathon and was frustrated by the litter he saw along his route.

Mr Tan decided to act and began the Singapore Glove Project, a community initiative where people would walk or jog with gloves on and pick up litter along their path at the same time.

"I was moved by all the trash around me to start something larger than myself, as I knew I could not do it alone," he said.

"The aim of the movement is to encourage Singaporeans to stay active by exploring the many corners of our beautiful country, while at the same time helping to beautify it."

Mr Tan said onlookers often get confused when they see members of the Singapore Glove Project at work and assume they are doing a Corrective Work Order.

Civic duty

"We just explain that we are performing a civic duty and encourage them to join us or not litter," he added.

But Mr Tan thinks their biggest challenge is to get naysayers to feel they need to be part of the solution.

"There is sadly a group of people who still point fingers at foreigners, be they tourists or workers, saying that they are the problem.

"While I do not doubt that some foreigners contribute to the problem, there are many foreigners who help out with the Singapore Glove Project as well. On the flip side, we have also seen locals littering and we do our best to educate them."

Mr Tan, who is the head of department of student development at Bartley Secondary School, hopes to inspire his students to do the same.

Recalling how a friend praised him for being "brave" when he politely told a litterbug to pick up his cigarette butt, Mr Tan wishes that more people would do the same.

"Going up to a fellow countryman to help keep Singapore clean shouldn't be seen as bravery. It should be seen as something natural and I wish all of us would have the motivation to remind one another to keep our country clean," he said.

I wish all of us would have the motivation to remind one another to keep our country clean.
- Mr Tan Ken Jin.