Monday, May 19

TICE Eco Camp 2008 (9-11 May 2008)

Click on the title above to view my Facebook photo album of the camp!

The TICE Eco Camp, initiated by the Tertiary Institutions Council for the Environment (TICE) committee, is held annually. The advisory committee's ultimate goal is to reinforce environmental consciousness and a sense of responsibility amongst tertiary students. The purpose of the camp is to better equip our youth with environmental knowledge so that they will be more responsible leaders of tomorrow. This is the first time Singapore Management University (SMU) played host to this annual event, centered around 3 key values - "Reflect, Relearn & React". Participants were encouraged to elect pro-environmental choices through informative events (e.g. talks, visits to recycling plants) and experiential learning (through games, skits, etc). It is hoped that the camp can be a catalyst for environmental initiatives in tertiary institutes and our community. New-found friendships and camaraderie amongst the mixed tertiary groups and the planned embarkation on more green initiatives by the tertiary students certainly made the 3-day event an exciting, fruitful, and unforgettable one.

I first found out about this camp through a thread in the online forum. I was slightly hesitant over the fact that the camp was only open to "tertiary students", but I thought I might as well just try applying, since I was still by right a tertiary student (officially graduating on 28 May 2008). Moreover, the mention of the free meals and 2 nights' stay at the SMU hostel sounded really attractive. I was thinking that this would also be my last camp before I booked in to the REAL army camp =.=, so why not join the camp and enjoy a bit first, forge new inter-tertiary friendships, and learn more about saving the environment. :)

So there I was on Day 1 (9 May) at 9:00AM registering at the concourse below Li Ka Shing Library, SMU. I met the rest of my Singapore Polytechnic juniors, most of whom were from the Singapore Polytechnic Environmental Club (SPENV) - it was rather hard to introduce myself when they asked me which Year of study I was in - Year 4? (I had already finished formal lessons in January 2008 and will be graduating in end-May 2008) Shortly after, we split into our inter-tertiary teams for some ice-breaking games, including a fast-paced movement game dubbed "Sperm & Egg" and the traditional game of "Eagle Catch Chicks" (老鹰抓小鸡). My team, "Heart", consisted of a mix of university and polytechnic students, led by Jack, our facilitator from SMU majoring in Political Science.

Later, we moved to the Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium, where representatives from different organizations/companies and the Guest-of-Honour, Mr Howard Shaw, Executive Director (Secretariat) from the Singapore Environment Council arrived to witness the Opening Ceremony of the camp. Lim Nanli, the chairman of the camp's executive committee, and Mr Howard Shaw opened the camp with speeches encouraging the students to take up an active role in the "green effort" to conserve the environment. A lunch buffet followed; most of us used reusable cutlery, plates, and cups that we had brought along, in a bid to reduce the "disposable" wastage. We were later allocated to our rooms at the nearby SMU Residences @ Prinsep Street - mine was Block 85, #04-06, Bed B. The hostel was new and welcoming, a refreshing escape from the hustle and bustle of the city nearby. Next to it was the spanking new La Salle College of the Arts campus. I just felt rather uneasy that I was sharing my room with a Mainland Chinese student - in terms of privacy and security of my valuables - thankfully, nothing happened (yeah, maybe I was paranoid). Here's where I slept for 2 nights:

After bumping in and settling down in our would-be home for 2 nights, we split into different groups to visit various places of environmental interest: incineration plants, metal/plastic/tyre recycling plants, and the like. I was due to visit the Tuas South Incineration Plant, the latest and largest one built in Singapore. Besides the overwhelming stench of refuse, the visit was really enriching (finding out what happened to my rubbish) - you can view the photos I took, or simply watch the short video below.

Later that evening, I excused myself from the camp a couple of hours to attend a school event - here's where I digress a bit. If you don't already know, the site on which Singapore Polytechnic (SP) is currently located (in the Dover area) used to contain British colonial buildings - army barracks and the like - that were converted for educational purposes after World War II. Moberly, named after Major-General Richard James Moberly, was one of three main buildings on the PMB that were named after Colonel Commandants of the British Royal Signal Corps. For twenty years, Moberly was home to British regulars and local soldiers. Retaining the colonial façade of the old Moberly building, the refurbished Student Hub@Moberly now holds facilities such as music jamming, computer gaming and karaoke rooms, pool and foosball tables, a student lounge, massage chairs and even a museum exhibit of SP's artefacts. In celebration of the official opening of Moberly, the Department of Student & Alumni Affairs (SAA) went all out to re-create the atmosphere of SP as it was 50 years ago. Student Hub@Moberly officially opened on 9 May 2008 with a big bang, officiated by the Guest-of-Honour, HE Paul Madden, the British High Commissioner to Singapore. Invited guests, staff and students were treated to an outdoor party with a '50s-themed buffet spread, entertainment by the student clubs and of course, tours of our grande olde dame, Moberly. British and Malayan soldiers who worked and lived in Moberly returned to what they knew as Princess Mary Barracks. For me, Moberly contains many fond memories of the times I spent there from way back in 2006, with the cast of Superstar: The Pop Musical, during our musical training camp there. We spent many days practising and many nights asleep in the dance studio and the karaoke and music jamming rooms. Singing, dancing, and acting lessons went on despite much of Moberly still undergoing redevelopment then.

After a hearty buffet spread of food and mingling around with student friends (from Superstar: The Pop Musical and elsewhere) and staff/lecturers (Wendy Ng, Jimmy Ye, Erica Wong, Michael Spicer, Anna Neo, Vicky Quek, Hope Lee), it was time to head back to the camp. When I arrived at the SMU campus, the team was already hard at work planning for the skit presentation the next night. A few rumbling tummies later, we headed for dinner/supper (dinper?) at the famous Fong Seng Nasi Lemak shop nearby. I wasn't really hungry but I ordered anyway - and was shocked to find out that I had ordered $5 worth of food! Further enquiry found out that the palm-sized piece of saucy chicken cutlet I had ordered cost me $2.50! Along with the other 2 sides of fishcake and vegetables, I had emerged $5 poorer. The food was nice though. :) After that, the team was "on" (enthusiastic) enough to head to the famous "Rochor Beancurd" outlet nearby for dessert - hot/cold "tau huey" (soya beancurd). Students living in the hostel were so fortunate to be surrounded by these and so many other nice eating outlets - well, they were after all living near the heart of the city! I came back to my room, finding out that my roommate was already fast asleep, so I followed suit. What a day. =D

Day 2. After breakfast, we went for an inspirational talk by guest speaker Ms November Tan Peng Ting. Currently a Geography honours student at the National University of Singapore (NUS), she has previously won the HSBC National Youth Achievement Award (Environment) 2006 for her initiatives and participation in various programmes such as the NUS Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Toddycats, Hopea Sangal Education Program and many others. Ms Tan had also received the NUS Student Achievement Award in 2006. A striking statement she made during the talk was regarding her intention of switching the lights off for a period of time every day for a year, to save electricity and thus Mother Earth - which would be the "equivalent of 365 people doing it in a day". The following activity was dubbed "Green Mission", kind of like an Amazing "Green" Race. We were given clues to various locations (SMU campus, the Esplanade, Fort Canning, Plaza Singapura, etc.) and then had to complete a "green" activity at each station. The station challenge at Plaza Singapura proved easier said than done: "Find and take photos with 2 Carrefour customers using reusable shopping bags." Here's Kelly and I with two - Caucasian - customers. (We couldn't find any local "green" shoppers in time; I guess recycling/reusing is stronger in the culture of Westerners.)

My team didn't win the "Green Mission" challenge, but we enjoyed the experience thoroughly. Later in the evening, we presented our group's skit about how CFCs depleted the ozone layer, which was previously more successful in limiting harmful ultra-violet (UV) rays from entering the Earth. Excessive UV radiation leads to skin cancer for a sunbather, who, upon consulting the doctor, finds out about the effects and consequences of ozone layer depletion. Too bad I don't have any photos or videos of the skit for posterity, but it was damn hilarious all right! =D Supper for tonight was with my Singapore Polytechnic counterparts at a prata shop nearby, and, you guessed it - "Rochor Beancurd" again - you can never have enough of it! We then headed back to the hostel where we discussed (until 3.30AM at least) about our school's "Green Vision" plan, to be presented the next morning!

Supper with my Singapore Polytechnic counterparts

Day 3. The Green Vision is a competition that seeks to find the best green projects amongst our participants and reward them with seed money (sponsored by DuPont Singapore Pte Ltd) to realize their plans. Participants will be grouped according to their institutions to brainstorm and plan their projects. Thereafter, they will present their plans to a panel of judges. My team finalized our proposal in the morning for a "GreenCard" that could possibly be incorporated with the existing NTUC LinkPoints card, to keep track of "green points" that can be accumulated through "green" purchases and transactions. Unexpectedly, a team from NUS and our team from Singapore Polytechnic won the DuPont seed funding of US$1,500 (per team)! Three cheers for Singapore Polytechnic!!!

After that, it was prize presentation (for the winning teams - not Team "Heart" though) and mass photo-taking, before it was time to bid farewell to everyone. =( I really missed Team "Heart", my family for 3 days - it really helped that we were all tertiary students and so could relate easily to one another. In the words of my fellow team-mate from Temasek Polytechnic, Lloyd, "We met as strangers, but left as friends." But it's not the end yet! Team "Heart" is so enthusiastic that we still kept in touch after the camp, even meeting together to play board games at Settlers' Cafe (Central) a week later!

Up next is a barbeque gathering at East Coast Park (planned for 8 June, 5 days before I enlist into the army). What can I say, besides what we always say... I "heart" you people!!!!! =)

Loving Team "Heart", niwdehot


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