Close The Gap 2.0 Campaign with New Life Stories – Exclusive Interviews with Saleemah Ismail, Executive Director, New Life Stories and Ming Tan, Author for Clean & Dirty

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New Life Stories (NLS) has once again collaborated with Ming Tan to produce another book, Clean and Dirty, sequel to her book Near and Far. Clean and Dirty follows the adventures of the same little boy as he discovers creative ways animals groom themselves and keep clean. Through observing the animals, he learns how to practice good personally hygiene while still having messy, clean fun.

Close the Gap 2.0 campaign was launched on 14 June 2021 and they have prepared a new set of activity packs for the children to stay safe during this period of heightened alert. The activity pack is filled with a DIY soapmaking kit, finger painting set which includes a drawing block and non-toxic paints, a germ experiment kit, activity sheets and the Clean and Dirty book written by Ming Tan. The campaign hopes to teach children how to have messy, clean fun while staying at home! With the activity pack, the campaign hopes to share interesting activities with children to explore fun ways they can keep themselves clean and germ-free. At New Life Stories, they promote not only reading, but also learning through play through programmes such as their Family Play Box and by encouraging children to explore their creativity.

We speak to Saleemah Ismail, Executive Director, New Life Stories to find out more about Close The Gap 2.0 campaign and Ming Tan, Author for Clean & Dirty about her collaboration with New Life Stories for the Close The Gap 2.0 campaign. Read on to find out more. 

Close The Gap 2.0 Campaign with New Life Stories – Exclusive Interviews with Saleemah Ismail, Executive Director, New Life Stories and Ming Tan, Author for Clean & Dirty, Our Parenting World

Exclusive Interview with Saleemah Ismail, Executive Director, New Life Stories

1) What is the Close The Gap 2.0 campaign about?

Our campaign hopes to teach our children how to have messy, clean fun while staying at home! With our activity pack, we hope to share interesting activities with our children to explore fun ways they can keep themselves clean and germ-free. At New Life Stories, we promote not only reading, but also learning through play through programmes such as our Family Play Box and by encouraging our children to explore their creativity.

With the help from Clean and Dirty, we have come up with an activity pack that encourages our children to experience the outdoors and learn from mother nature herself.

2) Why is there an activity pack prepared for the children, and what is its significance?

The activity pack aims to reinforce good personal hygiene habits by encouraging children to explore messy, fun ways to keep themselves clean. The activity pack ties in with the ‘Clean and Dirty’ book – a follow up of the ‘Near and Far’ book that was written during the circuit breaker last year where children explored various ways to stay connected with their loved ones while in isolation.

‘Clean and Dirty’ was written to educate children on how animals groom themselves and it encourages children to groom themselves as well. It touches on the importance of staying clean and implores children to find new ways to keep themselves germ-free.

3) How has New Life Stories supported the children and their families during the pandemic?

Since the pandemic outbreak early last year, we continue to support our families through our Family Strengthening program and various campaigns where we provide them with care packages and financial assistance to help tide them over as they navigate their way around this period.

We provide face-to-face, one-on-one, home-based befriending. However, during the Circuit Breakers and Phase 2 and 3 of the pandemics we moved all our befriending sessions online to continue supporting the families to ensure that the children do not feel abandoned by their Learning Friends during the stay-home period. Our counsellors continued to provide online counselling to the families by reaching out to them via video conferencing. For high-risk cases, our counsellors will go down to visit the families at their homes.

It is crucial for us to continue both our befriending and counselling sessions with our families to help manage their mental health. During the mandatory stay-at-home periods, we have observed that our children and families feel even more isolated which can cause an increased risk in depression and anxiety.

Last year, we prepared care packages to ensure that all the families are adequately equipped during the circuit breaker. The pack contained hand sanitisers, masks, disinfectant, and vitamin C among many others. We also included a DIY coin bank for the children to play around with while they stay at home. These packages were delivered to all 150 of our families by 6 March 2020 almost a month ahead before the Circuit Breaker in April. Currently, we provide our children with online programmes to teach them coding, art, reading tips to support their home-based learning.

For more information on Close The Gap 2.0 Campaign with New Life Stories, please go to  https://www.newlifestories.org.sg/closethegap20

Exclusive Interview with Ming Tan, Author for Clean & Dirty

1) What made you decide to work with New Life Stories for the Close The Gap 2.0 campaign?

I have known New Life Stories since its inception and know their work well. The team brings together a commitment to families and children facing unique challenges, a practical approach to supporting them and creative inspiration of using stories as the vehicle to change lives. When I oversaw sustainability across the COMO Group, I was able to connect New Life Stories to many businesses within the Group: COMO Dempsey, Kids 21 and Club 21. Through those interactions, I also saw their professionalism and focus. Hence, when seeking to launch both Near and Far and Clean and Dirty, New Life Stories was an easy choice for me. In addition, the themes resonated. For Near and Far, we have all experienced isolation and loneliness to some degree over the last year. But New Life Stories works with families for whom this is an ongoing reality, even without the pandemic. For Clean and Dirty, I wanted to bring together the joy of messy play and the importance of hygiene. New Life Stories’ volunteers are uniquely placed to foster both with the kids they support. 

2) What was the inspiration behind Clean & Dirty?

Like Near and Far, I wanted to explore how we are but part of a larger animal kingdom. We share some needs, such as protecting ourselves against bacteria or parasites, but we meet those needs in different ways. Zebras and chickens, for example, bathe in dust rather than water! I chose the theme of communication for Near and Far, and hygiene for Clean and Dirty. Both are foremost in our minds as we adjust to life with COVID-19. 

3) Why is it important for children to learn about good hygiene at a young age?

Childhood is a period of experimentation, development and acquisition of skills for the future. Messy fun awakens sensory development, promotes curiosity and can foster a closer relationship with nature, But good hygiene is equally important. As we have seen over the past year, good hygiene saves lives. As parents, we can’t do everything for our kids, so what we must do is to inculcate habits that will stand them in good stead as they grow up.

Close The Gap 2.0 Campaign with New Life Stories – Exclusive Interviews with Saleemah Ismail, Executive Director, New Life Stories and Ming Tan, Author for Clean & Dirty, Our Parenting World

Messy play can be good and extremely important for a child’s development. Clean & Dirty by Author, Ming Tan is an engaging, fun and easy to read book that young children will enjoy reading. It provides useful ideas for children to have messy, clean fun play and at the same time learn the importance of having good personal hygiene!

To find out more about the book and to support the Clean and Dirty campaign, please go to https://www.giving.sg/new-life-stories/closethegap2

In addition, New Life Stories has released Love Beyond the Walls, this book is an anthology of 10 stories written by mothers, who were previously incarcerated, to their children during the New Life Stories (NLS) incare programme. The stories were written during the weekly New Life Stories incare programme and share messages of love and hope from the mothers to their children from behind the prison walls. To find out more about New Life Stories and the book, please go to https://www.newlifestories.org.sg/by-newlifestories.

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