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Stories from Our Dear Children Garden

Gardening is in the DNA of Singapore - a “Garden City”. When 3Pumpkins was invited to respond to the theme of natural heritage for Heritage Festival 2022, we were curious to find out the values and priorities of home gardeners through the plants they grow. 


Over a 3-month process, we conducted interviews with 15 residents in Boon Lay Drive to find out more. We were excited to discover a full range of stories that came up: from helping incarcerated neighbours, recovering from strokes, providing the neighbourhood leaves for prayers, generating a second income, researching on plant specimens to pass time during the pandemic, to comforting deep pain from the loss of family members. These narratives span across emotional, mental and physical to spiritual health, pointing towards a common value of sayang (care) for the gardeners themselves and for others.


As with all 3Pumpkins’ projects, we strongly value a sustainable practice of knowledge generation and transmission within the community while seeking answers to our question. The idea of building a community children garden ground-up together with permaculturists, residents, local businesses was thus born. With the blessing of stakeholders such as NParks and Boon Lay Zone C RN, we were entrusted an allotment garden for 2 years not just to cultivate plants, but to transmit the rich stories of our residents and cultivate the values of care, patience, neighbourliness, and kindness. 

How does the community sayang themselves and each other
with the plants they grow at home?

Rasa sayang, hey!

Rasa sayang sayang, hey!

Hey, lihat nona jauh,

Rasa sayang sayang, hey!


Buah cempedak di luar pagar,

Ambil galah tolong jolokkan;

Saya budak baru belajar,

Kalau salah tolong tunjukkan.


Pulau pandan jauh ke tengah,

Gunung daik bercabang tiga;

Hancur badan di kandung tanah,

Budi yang baik dikenang juga.


Dua tiga kucing berlari,

Mana sama si kucing belang;

Dua tiga boleh ku cari,

Mana sama adik seorang.


Pisang emas dibawa berlayar,

Masak sebiji di atas peti;

Hutang emas boleh dibayar,

Hutang budi dibawa mati.

I feel love, hey!

I feel love, love, hey!

Hey, see that girl over there,

I feel love, hey!


The jackfruit* is outside the fence,

Take a pole and gently knock it down;

I am a newbie so

If I'm doing it wrong, please show me how.


Pandan Island is far from land,

Mount Daik has three peaks;

Though the body rots in the earth,

Good deeds are always remembered.


Two or three cats run around,

The striped one is superior;

I can easily find two or three girls,

But none can compare with you.


Brought gold bananas on a sailing trip,

One ripens on a chest;

Gold owed can be repaid,

But debts of gratitude are carried to the grave.

Rasa Sayang is a widely known and well-loved Malay folksong.

The garden is named after the song as it connects different generations through its timeless tune and playful pantun (poems). Most importantly, the song embodies the values we would love to cultivate in the garden and is great to sing to while gardening! In response to our findings on how the residents take care of themselves and each other through the plants they grow, permaculturist Nova Nelson from Cultivate Central has also curated the garden to these 5 categories: Sayang our mind, Sayang our heart, Sayang our spirit, Sayang our body, Sayang our soil, Sayang our past, Sayang our future. 

Permaculture plans for Kebun Rasa Sayang by Nova C Nelson, Cultivate Central

What can one expect to do in Kebun Rasa Sayang?

Besides occasional guided tours where we will share how the garden acts as a locus of an interdependent eco-system, we are also developing community garden routines every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday where residents can bring their children to participate in gardening activities including watering, weeding, pruning, harvesting, and composting. Little ones would be delighted to see creative installations created by artist Isabelle Desjeux where plant identifications are presented through cyanotypes, fence art created by Cheryl Gan and Stella Cheung, and perhaps to create some of their own art pieces too!