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A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Jul 23, 2013

Bukit Ho Swee Fire Survivor

On Sunday 21 July, 2013 at 3:00 pm at the Tiong Bahru Community Centre, I had an opportunity to meet an 80-year-old lady, a survivor of the Bukit Ho Swee fire on 25 May, 1961 whom I have never met her before.

She sat quietly at a corner of the hall and we were not aware that she was a non-English speaking participant at the "Great Fire 1961 of Bukit Ho Swee" public talk initiated by Kelvin Ang, who created the event on Facebook as:

[In 1961, a great fire consumed the nearby Kampong Bukit Ho Swee, one of Singapore's largest squatter settlements. The fire made 16,000 people homeless, creating a national emergency that led to the first big public housing project of the new Housing and Development Board (HDB). HDB flats now house more than four-fifths of the Singapore population, making the aftermath of the Bukit Ho Swee fire a seminal event in modern Singapore. AP Loh Kah Seng grew up in one-room rental flats in the HDB estate built after the fire. Drawing on oral history interviews, official records and media reports, he describes daily life in squatter communities and how people coped with the hazard posed by fires. His examination of the catastrophic events of 25 May 1961 and the steps taken by the new government of the People's Action Party in response to the disaster show the immediate consequences of the fire and how relocation to public housing changed the people's lives. Come find out more about this fire. AP Loh is the author of the recently published book on the fire: 'Squatters into Citizens: The 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire and the Making of Modern Singapore'].

Towards the end of the talk,  the lady was walking out of the hall and told us: "Everyone are speaking English and I do not understand".

Kelvin and I then quickly invited her to take a seat in front of the hall to share her story in Mandarin.

Thanks to my blogger friend Lina-Catcat who produce this inspiring video to share everyone to watch the story of the Bukit Ho Swee fire survivors; and the active participants to tell their own stories, each with their own perspectives and memories. Photos with credit and acknowledgement of thanks to Lina for her photos.



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