“When I was a young boy living in Punggol, I had to fill buckets with water from the kampung's communal well, before lugging them home to be used for bathing or general washing,” Peter Lo tells his young audience.

“Today, we can easily get water from taps in our homes. And thanks to green innovations, the taps in some housing projects in Punggol can even help us conserve water,” he continues.

Peter has been a volunteer HDB eco-guide for 6 years now, conducting tours in Punggol for hundreds of students, where he explains to them the town's myriad eco-features while dishing out titbits about its history. “By sharing these stories, I hope the students will develop a greater appreciation for Singapore's transformation and progress,” he explains.

Inspiring Change

At 74 years old, Peter is one of the most senior contributors in HDB's ‘Friends of Our Heartlands’ (FOH) network, which draws passionate volunteers like him to help build strong communities in the heartlands through HDB’s wide range of community building and volunteering programmes. Since its launch in 2017, the FOH network has drawn close to 7,900 volunteers and reached out to more than 118,000 residents across Singapore.

So passionate is Peter about volunteering that he happily travels from his home in Sembawang to Punggol, where he brings groups on 3-hour-long walks around the town. The sprightly senior laughs off concerns that the tours might be too strenuous for him, calling them a “good exercise”.

Peter has always taken an interest in caring for his living environment, and recalls with pride an ongoing ground-up recycling initiative in his neighbourhood which he spearheaded 11 years ago. “I have seen for myself the amazing things that can be achieved when the community comes together,” he says.

“I became an eco-guide because I hope to inspire the students to care for their communities and make their own positive impact on their living environment to benefit future generations.”

Change Makers of Tomorrow

The FOH network also attracts young volunteers like 15-year-old Yandapalli Sri Dhanya. Like Peter, Dhanya conducts eco-tours around Punggol, but mainly for her peers from St. Margaret's Secondary School.

“I wanted to spread awareness about eco-friendly living within our school, especially on how local communities can make a difference in conserving the environment,” Dhanya shares. “In doing so, I hope more people will play their part to reduce the impact of climate change.”

Dhanya has seen first-hand the positive impact of volunteering—one of her friends said that the eco-tour had inspired her to start leading a greener lifestyle. The same friend also started an Instagram page to share eco-friendly tips and create greater awareness for the environmental cause.

Closer to home, Dhanya has also begun encouraging her neighbours to recycle more. “As we share our common interest in caring for the environment, we get to know one another better,” she says. “Home, to me, is a community that cares, be it for the environment or for one another—and I hope to do my part in making our home a better place to live.”