top of page

Community Forged through Flames: Where Fire Destroys, Love Restores

Updated: Feb 21



It has been about a month since the fire at LOT Ang Mo Kio (AMK) brought about much chaos, stress and inconveniences to our staff, children and family. However, we still remember it like it was yesterday. Despite the initial feelings of shock, panic and loss, it was by God’s grace that we were able to restore the school in just 3 weeks. From start to end, it was really a ‘kampung’ effort that helped us to overcome this adversity.


Firstly, it was a teenager sitting at the void deck who alerted the authorities about the fire around 9pm on 15 January when he saw smoke. Next, Auntie Alice, the cook from AMK, got a call from one of the uncles who work at a shop nearby. She then informed Yinshuang, Principal of AMK, who “double-confirmed” with a teacher staying in the same block as LOT AMK that the fire was indeed in the school. It was this network of neighbours that allowed the information to reach us as soon as possible so that the team could go down to assess the situation and respond swiftly.


“When I first saw the aftermath of the fire, the emotions didn’t rush in yet because I went into work mode. It hit me most when one of my students who lives upstairs came down with her parents that night. The child's face said it all – without words she expressed something like “oh no, what happened to my class!”  To us, our home was destroyed. After all, we spend almost 10 hours a day in school,” Teacher Anita, who cares for the K2s, recounted.




The following two days, all AMK teachers along with staff from HQ were mobilised to begin the restoration process. The backbreaking work included cleaning up the soot and water over and over again, packing up the items that could be salvaged, shifting and disposing damaged furniture, washing the children’s chairs, and more. However, it was tough for the teachers as they were still processing their emotions towards the incident.


Teacher Anita initially found it hard to face her classroom that was destroyed after all the hard work was put in. Thus, she was brought to tears when the first few staff from HQ arrived and started work immediately, cleaning and pushing furniture without hesitation even if it meant getting their clothes or shoes dirty. To top it all off, they did all these with smiles on their faces, constantly asking her and her teachers if they were okay and asking how else they could help.  


“In that moment, I remember telling myself I'm in the right organisation. The AMK teachers could not operate as efficiently or as objectively if the HQ team didn't arrive. I also remember how Ms Shuang and Ms Bea (Principal and Vice-Principal) kept smiling and just kept working. They kept emphasising that nobody was to be blamed for what happened. I saw the two leaders just being humble and just being one of us to build the school again," Teacher Anita shared.


"At that moment, I remember telling myself I'm in the right organisation...I also remember how Ms Shuang and Ms Bea (Principal and Vice-Principal) kept smiling and just kept working. They kept emphasizing that nobody was to be blamed for what happened. I saw the two leaders just being humble and just being one of us to build the school again.”

“Everybody has to come together, if not how can things be done? Right or not?人多好办事! (Many hands make light work), shared Ms Kwek, Head of Centre Management.


As the days went by, we saw how our community who offered help not only comprised of staff and our neighbours in AMK, but also our beloved parents and guardians. There were many changes to daily operations such as having children report at the void deck in the morning and having them be transported by bus to LOT Bukit Arang. Parents and grandparents were not only understanding, but also kind to help out without being asked.



“One morning, there were so many cockroaches at the void deck, and children were streaming in already! Cockroaches are my worst enemy and I was at a loss. One of the fathers saw the look on my face and immediately started stomping on all of them!


There would also be people helping us push trolleys and help the children up the bus when they saw that the teachers hands were tied. One auntie even bought ant killer to get rid of the red ants that were on the railings the kids used on the way to the bus!” exclaimed Yinshuang, Principal of LOT AMK.


Meanwhile, the children were waiting in anticipation as the days passed. "The children were so excited to go back to AMK. Whenever I walked with them to ride the bus to BAR, they would count the number of days left till AMK was ready," recalled Beatriz, Vice-Principal of AMK. After 2 weeks of renovations, it was time to prepare the school for everyone to return! Once again, HQ staff came by to clean up the place, set up new furniture and wash the toys, materials and mattresses so that the children could come back the next week to a new, safe and clean environment.


Joyce, Pastoral Care Manager shared, "The fact that so many of us willingly came down to help with the clean up, I feel that sense of community. Now with the cleaning up again, it’s quite an overwhelming job, but really many hands make light work. We are thankful that we can contribute in a small way to help the teachers."

On the first day back to school at AMK, the children were amazed by the transformation, with shrieks of “wow so bright” and “so nice” being heard in the air as they explored their new environment. The only thing they were concerned by was that they didn’t have as many toys as before! They were assured that they would be replaced, and painting and decorations were gradually put up to bring back the sense of familiarity into the classroom.



When Teacher Anita first returned to the fully restored school, she went to the wall where the fire started and hugged it while sobbing. It was a closure she needed. “My next reaction was ‘wow wow wow!’ Furnitures set up by HQ staff were in place. They cleaned the classrooms and materials. I felt that I went into a new building and as the fire never happened. The thought that came into my mind was that they enabled me to take care of my students and be their teacher while they took care of all the logistics and background work,” she shared. 


"They enabled me to take care of my students and be their teacher while they took care of all the logistics and background work." "This whole journey would not have been possible without everyone including Bukit Arang, HQ, parents, renovation workers and more."

This incident has also brought everyone at AMK closer as they went through an adversity together. "We comforted and supported each other without grumbling. That’s very admirable. The teachers are tired but they don’t voice it out cos they don’t want to worry me. They have been very caring, helpful and co-operative. This whole journey would not have been possible without everyone including Bukit Arang, HQ, parents, renovation workers and more,” said Yinshuang, Principal of LOT AMK.


We are so blessed to have our community and family in the good times and bad. Indeed where fire destroys, love restores. It has been a journey of transforming ashes to glory. 


Read the entire 3-part series here:

Part 1: Thanksgiving Part 2: Community: Where fire destroys, Love Restores (Current Article) Part 3: Big hearts at Bukit Arang

Comments


bottom of page