When waiting to take the subway in Singapore you can’t help notice the public service ads reminding commuters to let people exit the train before pushing on and to give up their seat to the disabled or elderly. These reminders to be kind to your fellow man aren’t the work of a church or charity; they’re part of the government-funded Kindness Movement. If you’d like to see more of their work, drop by the new Singapore Kindness Gallery.
The task force to make Singapore a kinder city began in 1979 under the name The National Courtesy Campaign. The recent decades had been a time of rapid change for Singapore as citizens moved from villages to high-rise apartments, and the government felt they were not adopting the values needed to make life in a crowded city tolerable. At the Kindness Gallery, which opened in March 2012 to showcase the movement’s milestones, you can see newspaper clippings about the first courtesy campaigns, like encouraging people to queue for buses and not to litter.
To teach kindness to Singapore’s children, Singa the Courtesy Lion was created in 1982. This smiley lion has become the campaign mascot and makes regular appearances around Singapore. The Kindness Gallery has a collection of Singa memorabilia, including figurines, story books and old mascot costumes. You can also listen to radio jingles or watch TV ads featuring Singa. Children are encouraged to write letters to Singa about what they’ve done to be courteous at school and at home, and some of the cutest are on display at the gallery.
As Singapore evolved so has the courtesy campaign, and it was renamed to the less formal sounding Singapore Kindness Movement in 2001. Its mission statement is to “inspire graciousness through spontaneous acts of kindness”, such as giving up your seat on a crowded train or saying hi to bus drivers, which remain largely absent in high-stress Singapore (ed: maybe they need more yoga?).
While the Kindness Gallery is not a must-see, it’s a quirky place to spend 20 minutes and an interesting example of social engineering in Singapore. It’s also a short walk from Clarke Quay MRT.
Admission to the Singapore Kindness Gallery is free and you’ll probably leave with a handful of complimentary mementos like bookmarks and stickers – how kind!
By Tanya Procyshyn
Last updated on 14th November, 2014.