Hubert Burda Media

Under the Morning Sky

Ahead of the Starlight Carnival happening in April this year, its organising committee hangs out with children who will benefit from the fundraising at the event — and come away greatly moved. By Low Shi Ping

It is one of those beautiful Saturdays. The sun is shinning, the sky is blue with just a smattering of clouds, and there is a gentle breeze in the air. Amid the lush, green fields of the Bukit Timah Saddle Club, with not a tall building in sight, 10 children have gathered at The Marmalade Pantry at the Stables for bunch.
Aged five to 15, they are from The Salvation Army’s Kids in Play outreach programme for children whose parents (either one or both) are currently incarcerated. Accompanying them are six caregivers who, although there to keep an eye on their charges, are also able to sit back and relax while soaking in the novelty of the surroundings — as one of them put it: “It really doesn’t feel like the Singapore I know.”
Because just adjacent to the long table for the adults, the children are sitting among five committee members of the Starlight Carnival. The ladies have gamely sacrificed their Saturday morning to come hang out with the kids, and better acquaint themselves with who they are helping.
Natasha Liok, Iroshini Chua and Ho Kheng Lian sit with the younger children, playing I Spy and helping them with their food; Michelle Eng and Stephanie Lee trade stories with three teens on “creepy crawlies” and nail art.
The committee’s efforts will culminate on April 5 when the Carnival will be held at the same location, since The Marmalade Pantry at the Stables has kindly agreed to be both the venue and food sponsor. Their aim: To raise $200,000 for the Prestige-Yellow Ribbon Children’s Fund that will benefit the kids of ex-offenders.
If the menu served at the brunch is an indication of things to come, surely the Carnival will be even more sumptuous. For the adults, there are enticing baskets of Danish pastries to start with. Tummy-warmers come in the form of sausages, scrambled eggs and sautéed mushrooms. Freshly cut tropical fruits round off the meal. Throughout, there is an endless flow of tea, coffee and orange juice. At the children’s table, fish and chips are the order of the day, finished off with a selection of Marmalade’s famous moist and decadent cupcakes.
In between eating, the children dart about in excitement whenever a pony trots by, thrilled by such an unusual sight in Singapore. A golden retriever belonging to a restaurant patron evokes delighted squeals as they rush up to stroke its well-brushed back. Later, staff bring out bottles of bubbles for the kids to play with.
It doesn’t sound like much but as Eng puts it: “These children are suffering the repercussion of their parents’ actions. But by being with them today, we have brightened up their day.”
“It might sound cliche but people don’t realise how so little means so much to them,” adds Ho. “And after spending time with them, these kids end up leaving a piece of their hearts with us. Children should be given a fighting chance.”