It is a labour-intensive job with long hours and little thanks, but hawker centre cleaners do the vital job of keeping the food centre running smoothly.
So in conjunction with Singapore Kindness Movement, Siglap South Community Centre Youth Executive Committee (SSCC YEC) launched the 'Returning a Tray' campaign this year to show cleaners appreciation and encourage the public to do their little part to make the formers’ lives easier.
TS tracker Goh Chui Ling (L) and waterpolo players Chow Jing Lun and Efren Tan decorating brownies to be given out in appreciation of hawker cleaners. Photo: Sport Singapore
"We want to spread the kindness message to our cleaners and make them feel appreciated,” SSCC YEC organizing chair Chen Ngee Ann said.
"For the past 3 days, the athletes and volunteers gathered to bake cupcakes and cookies for the hawker cleaners and we, as a community, hope to show our appreciation through this little action.”
Cleaners in hawker centres tend to be older - more than half are aged over 50-years-old - despite the physically demanding nature of the job.
Team Singapore netballer Kwok Shuyi, who was present to help out in the campaign, said people should take responsibility to clean up after themselves and spend the extra few seconds to help out the elderly workers.
TS Netballer Kwok Shuyi helping to clean up bowls and trays left behind by customers. Photo: Sport Singapore
"Majority of hawker cleaners are elderly, who can be old and frail, and we really need to show our appreciation for them,” the 26-year-old said.
"Because in hawker centres, the human traffic is high and the turnover is very frequent. For them to walk up and down umpteen times to clear the plates and clean the tables for the next group of customers can get really tiring.
"And I feel it’s a personal responsibility for the public to actually do that, to help each other out. Even if it’s just stacking the plates or clearing the rubbish on the table.”
Team Singapore swimmer, Joshua Tang, also empathized with the elderly cleaners and hopes the public will do more to assist them.
"I hope to be able to spread this kindness awareness to the public. We should take the initiative to help out in clearing the tables," he said.
TS Judoka Timothy Loh (L) passing Bedok South Hawker Centre cleaner Frankie Lee (R) tokens of appreciation for his hard work. Photo: Sport Singapore
Simple gestures like returning a tray don’t go unnoticed by the cleaners. Bedok South Hawker Centre cleaner Frankie Lee said he is grateful for the public’s effort in making his job easier.
"I really appreciate those who help us clear the bowls and trays into the racks after their meals,” the 46-year-old said.
"We just need to make sure the tables are clean enough for the next wave of customers to have their meals.”