Our Community
Volunteering for a Vibrant Thaipusam
On 31 January 2018, over 50 Home Team officers volunteered their time to help ensure that Thaipusam celebrations would be safe, peaceful and enjoyed by all.

Staff Sergeant (Ssgt) Nagaraj Balasubramaniam, 33, is no stranger to Thaipusam. A Crime Prevention Officer with the Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) Ang Mo Kio Division, he has been helping out during Thaipusam celebrations since he was 17 years old.

Ssgt Nagaraj Balasubramaniam first began volunteering at Thaipusam in his youth. Since joining the SPF, he has continued to give his time and energy to ensure the smooth running of the festival. PHOTO: Charmaine Tan

“I’ve had a strong desire to give back to society since my teenage years, and volunteering at Thaipusam is one way to do so,” said Ssgt Nagaraj. “My many years of doing crowd control and other duties at Thaipusam have helped me to empathise with the needs of participants, and to ensure that the event runs smoothly.”

During the 2018 Thaipusam celebrations, Ssgt Nagaraj oversaw one of the five teams of Home Team officers who volunteered as liaisons to staff of the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) who were stationed along the event route.

A Traffic Police officer on duty along the Thaipusam procession route. PHOTO: Aizil A. Rahim

Working in eight-hour shifts, over 50 volunteer Home Team officers assisted HEB staff with engaging participants and helping SPF officers to control the crowd and ensure that the procession went smoothly. “We spaced ourselves out along the route and, as Home Team officers, we shared a strong camaraderie that allowed us to work quickly and effectively to help keep the peace,” said Ssgt Nagaraj.

According to Ssgt Nagaraj, one of the highlights of his Thaipusam experience was helping to ensure that it was both vibrant and safe for participants. “We were very much a part of the community,” he recalled. “I came across many friends and family members who were part of the procession, singing hymns and playing instruments at the designated points. We’d acknowledged one another, and they understood my role.

Minister for Home Affairs Mr K Shanmugam (centre) participating in the Thaipusam festival. PHOTO: Aizil A.Rahim

And, when his duties had ended, Ssgt Nagaraj made his way to the tentage at Sri Thendayuthapani Temple where the kavadi bearers gathered after the procession. “It was good to see them having fulfilled their vows without any delays or unpleasant experiences,” he said. “It made the hours perspiring under the sun and patrolling along the route all worth it.”

Supporting the Community Spirit
Chief Warder 1 (CW1) Mohamad Ridzal Razak, 39, first began volunteering at Thaipusam after hearing about it from a fellow Singapore Prison Service officer nearly a decade ago.

“Living in a multicultural, multiracial country gives me the chance to learn about different religious festivals,” said CW1 Ridzal. “I was curious about Thaipusam and wanted to have a first-hand experience of it. By volunteering my time, I’ve been able to understand its religious and cultural significance.”

CW1 Mohamad Ridzal Razak has learnt more about Thaipusam and the work of his Home Team colleagues through his decade-long commitment to volunteering at Thaipusam. PHOTO: Singapore Prison Service

This year, CW1 Ridzal was assigned to help SPF officers maintain safety and security along the route with his fellow volunteers. “After we were introduced to the other Home Team volunteers, we were broken into teams and worked closely to support the event,” he recalled.

What keeps CW1 Ridzal coming back to Thaipusam is its community spirit. “I’m very fortunate to be able to witness families coming together to support their kavadi-bearers,” he said. “My best experience is seeing the smiles of the devotees, and our interactions; greeting and talking to one another.”

An Eye-Opening Experience
Volunteering at Thaipusam for the first time this year was Ssgt Kenneth Tan, 28, a Singapore Civil Defence Force firefighter from Sengkang Fire Station who assisted with crowd control during the procession.

“I’d always wanted to find out more about Thaipusam, and to experience Hindu culture,” said Ssgt Kenneth. “So when the call for volunteers came, I jumped at the chance.”

Ssgt Kenneth Tan found his first Thaipusam experience to be enriching and vibrant, and was thankful for the opportunity to help fellow Home Team officers do their duty. PHOTO: Kenneth Tan

Describing his Thaipusam experience as “an amazing treat for the senses” and “a real eye-opener to be immersed in such a vibrant culture,” Ssgt Kenneth recalls being thankful for the teamwork displayed by his fellow Home Team officers. “We all understood our roles, and our mutual respect for one another went a long way towards ensuring a smooth event for everyone.”

A Hindu devotee carrying a kavadi during the 2018 Thaipusam procession. Aizil A. Rahim

What motivated Ssgt Kenneth during his shift was the encouragement of his fellow volunteer Home Team officers. “It was really great to see them encourage one another,” said SSgt Kenneth. “At the end of the day, I was happy to see families clapping and singing alongside the kavadi-carrying devotees as it meant we’d done our duty by making sure everything ran smoothly.”
© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Jaiesh Sachi
  2. 07 March 2018
Back to top