Young families welcome new facilities

SINGAPORE — Punggol has added another place where its burgeoning young population can go: It is the size of a five-room flat and carries 3,100 books.

It is the area’s first library, albeit temporary and in a container. The facility largely caters to children and young adults, and sits on an unused plot of land next to Block 211C Punggol Walk. This will benefit nearby executive condo residents such as those from The Terrace EC, Treasure Crest EC, Waterwoods EC, The Amore EC, The Vales EC and Bellewaters EC.

So far, more than 170 people have signed up as members of the library, which opened on Saturday as a grass-roots initiative that runs independently from the National Library Board.

“Our children can’t wait for the public library at Punggol Town Hub to be ready in four years’ time,” said Ms Irene Tay, 35, who is happy that she no longer has to make the trip to the nearest library in Hougang Mall with her two children.

Punggol Town Hub, which will be ready in 2020, will house the area’s first public library alongside a community centre and a hawker centre, among other amenities.

Punggol Walk resident Ms Siti Nur Hajar, 35, said the visibility of a library in the neighbourhood has a tangible effect on her children’s reading interest. “Now my two children keep saying that they want to read more books, and keep bugging for us to bring them to the library downstairs.”

But to Ms Hajar, the lack of childcare places in Punggol West is a bigger issue. “I had to hire a maid to take care of my 3-year-old because the waiting list for every childcare centre I call is very long,” said the special education teacher. “To secure a place for my child next year, I had to place her even in a waiting list as far as the Sengkang area.”

To meet the pressing childcare needs in Punggol West, two new childcare centres with 180 places each will be opening at Block 314A and 315A (ready by the end of February) and at Block 222 (ready by June), the area’s MP, Ms Sun Xueling, announced on Wednesday.

Subsequently, Ms Sun is also working closely with Early Childhood Development Agency to provide 2,560 more places for preschool children by 2019, bringing the total number of places to 7,560 in the Punggol area.

More than 20,000 residents living in Punggol West are under 40 years old — many of whom are young families and soon-to-be young parents. Close to 5,000 residents are 14 years of age and younger. The numbers are expected to grow by a third in the next four years, said Ms Sun.

Children and education matters are the one single issue that kept coming up for Ms Sun when she interacts with residents. One in five comments are on that, Ms Sun added.

To cater to immediate needs, she had started a study corner at Block 209B Punggol Place, which acts as an after-school care for up to 30 school-going children. Four stay-home mothers and some volunteers from Fo Guang Shan Singapore, a voluntary welfare organisation, are manning the facility.

By mid next year, a void deck community centre and a container toy library will be opened. “The container toy library is for under 5-year-olds… We hope that this will be a place for young parents to bring their children and get to know other young parents,” said Ms Sun.

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