PERSPECTIVE: "Jalan Kukoh is the place I spent all 14 years of my life. To me, it is a place filled with joy as well as sadness."
14-year-old Liew Meijun grew up in Jalan Kukoh, a low-income neighbourhood near Chinatown that comprises three blocks of one- and two-room rental flats.
In a short essay titled "Why I Love Jalan Kukoh" originally published in The Birthday Book Jr 20/20: Seeing Clearly, Liew reflects on how growing up in Jalan Kukoh has shaped her as a person.
Mothership and The Birthday Collective are in collaboration to share essays from the 2020 edition of The Birthday Book Jr.
The Birthday Book Jr is a collection of 56 essays featuring young people in Singapore, who come from various walks of life.
Apart from showcasing the diversity of young voices in Singapore, these essays also call attention to issues that matter to children, and the broader world.
We have reproduced Liew's piece here:
By Liew Meijun, 14
My neighbourhood is like a hideout — no one knows about this place. It feels like only birds live here, but it is beautiful, especially just before it rains.
Sometimes I sit on the roof listening to the wind whistle and watching the sky turn grey with smudges of white, the sound of thunder getting louder in the distance.
Jalan Kukoh is the place I spent all 14 years of my life. To me, it is a place filled with joy as well as sadness.
I have seen parents with smiles plastered on their faces when they hear their child saying their first words. I have enjoyed birthday parties with my neighbours who welcome us into their homes.
But I have also witnessed the hurt when my neighbours watch their loved ones being put behind bars for sniffing drugs. I have seen parents' heartbreak when their children get involved with underage drinking and smoking, as they blame themselves for not educating their children properly, or setting a good example.
Still, I would be a different person if I did not live here.
Jalan Kukoh is the place where I made my first ever friends. My friends in this neighbourhood are the reason for who I am today. They pull me out of my comfort zone and are there to cheer me up even when I feel moody.
As we grow, we create more memories together. My friends in Jalan Kukoh remind me that I have people I can rely on outside of my own family.
Even if Jalan Kukoh is not well known, it does not mean that we are a dustbin where you can throw rubbish or spit into.
We are no different from you, we are still humans with feelings and a beating heart.
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If you happen to be in the education space and think this essay may be suitable as a resource (e.g. for English Language, General Paper or Social Studies lessons), The Birthday Collective has an initiative, "The Birthday Workbook", that includes discussion questions and learning activities based on The Birthday Book essays. You can sign up for its newsletter at bit.ly/TBBeduresource.
Top photo by Jane Zhang.