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Chinese New Year Away from Home
Not all Home Team Guardians get to spend the festive season with their families; four officers share their stories.

It’s the season when the cymbals, gongs and drums of the lion dance sound over car horns on our streets, and a seas of red decorations is a feast for the eye. 

Chinese New Year is a time for families to come together. However, many Home Team officers spend Chinese New Year away from their families, working hard to help keep Singapore safe and secure. 
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CI (1) Lim Yin Chen of ICA at Pasir Panjang Scanning Station. PHOTO: Natasha Razak

Some officers have missed multiple Chinese New Year celebrations and reunion dinners. During her 7.5 years as an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) Primary Screening Officer at her previous posting at Woodlands Checkpoint, Checkpoint Inspector (1) Lim Yin Chen missed three Chinese New Year celebrations with her family.  

Every year, CI (1) Lim and her husband will head to her parents’ house on the first morning of Chinese New Year to feast on her mother’s home-cooked Hakka favourites. After a hearty breakfast, they will head to the temple for prayers before visiting other close relatives. 

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CI (1) Lim is currently deployed at ICA’s Pasir Panjang Scanning Station where she analyses images to check for security sensitive and contraband items. PHOTO: Natasha Razak

However, Chinese New Year for her family is different when CI (1) Lim is scheduled for duty. “My husband and family will feel sad if I’m unable to join them for Chinese New Year breakfast and our temple visit,” she said. “But my mother will be sure to cook yong tau foo and yam abacus seeds for me once I come back from my shift.” 

During his 15 years with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), Warrant Officer (WO) 2 Johnny See has missed three Chinese New Year celebrations since 2016. 

For him, it’s simply part of the job as a firefighter. “As someone who prefers being on the frontlines, I’ve fallen in love with my job,” he said. “But since my family is small, we’re more flexible about our Chinese New Year visiting schedule.”

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Station duties: A Deputy Rota Commander at Central Fire Station, WO2 Johnny See currently works 24-hour shifts. PHOTO: Natasha Razak
A memorable incident that remains etched in his memory occurred on the second day of Chinese New Year in 2017, when 10 members of a family became trapped in a lift at People’s Park Complex. WO2 Johnny and his team were able to open the lift doors and free them. “I’ll always remember how grateful they were, and the thanks they gave us,” he recalled.

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LTA Jadyn Toh at Central Fire Station. PHOTO: Natasha Razak

Vigilance is especially important during the festive season. As Chinese New Year draws closer, enforcement checks at Chinatown are stepped up to ensure that fire safety regulations are adhered to. 
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Photo: Natasha Razak 

As a member of the National Civil Defence Cadet Corps during her secondary school days, it was natural for LTA Jadyn Toh to become a firefighter. 2019 marks the second year in a row that LTA Jadyn will miss reunion dinner with her family as she’s scheduled to work on the eve of Chinese New Year. 

“I hope that there’ll be fewer emergency calls during the festive season this year because that means that people are more aware of how to keep themselves fire-safe,” she said. 

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Leading by example: As a Rota Commander, LTA Jadyn is committed to helping her officers work towards a common goal. PHOTO: Natasha Razak

Some Home Team officers, however, are spending Chinese New Year away from home for the first time. ICA Sergeant (SGT) 2 Chua Jia Hao would typically visit his extended family on the first day of Chinese New Year, ending the day at his grandmother’s flat for a reunion that lasts past midnight. 
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SGT2 Chua Jia Hao of ICA at the Singapore Cruise Centre. PHOTO: Natasha Razak

This year, however, the Primary Screening Officer at the Singapore Cruise Centre won’t be joining his family members due to his work assignments. “But fortunately, I can still visit my grandmother after my shift,” he said, “and that’s good enough for me.” 
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Secure screening: SGT2 Chua enjoys the satisfaction that comes from successfully detecting suspicious persons with forged or tampered passports. PHOTO: Natasha Razak

SGT2 Chua’s family understands the nature of his job and his vital role in keeping Singapore safe and secure. So he was especially moved when his mother told him, “At the end of the day, no matter how late you finish work, I just want you to get back and have reunion dinner with us. We’ll wait for you to come home.”
© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Natasha Razak
  2. 04 February 2019
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