Sharing the Christmas spirit with strangers, one extra chair at a time , Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Sharing the Christmas spirit with strangers, one extra chair at a time

For 21-year-old Brian Lin, a self-declared introvert, Christmas in 2023 would have been just like any other – playing video games alone at home. That was until he found out about an open invite to attend a Christmas party hosted by Ms Sia Yan Dih.

“It’s a good way to know more people and make more friends,” said Mr Lin, a Myanmar student who came to Singapore in 2021 to study aerospace engineering at Temasek Polytechnic.

Ms Sia, 43, an assistant facility manager, held the party under Just Another Chair, a heart-warming initiative by the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) that matches those without plans during the festive season with host families who have extra seats at their dinner table.

The initiative had 30 host registrations in 2019, up from just five when it was launched in 2016. The programme was reinitiated on Dec 15, after being put on hold because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Sia’s party was held at a clubhouse at HomeTeamNS Bedok Reservoir on Dec 25, where she hosted friends and family members, along with three guests and 10 foreign workers from her company.

This is not the first time she has hosted a gathering under the campaign. She started opening up her Chinese New Year reunion dinners to guests in 2018, and has continued to do so yearly, except during the pandemic. She said her gatherings are usually large in scale as she has a big family, and she does not mind accommodating extra guests. She and her husband have six boys, aged one to 21.

“This is quite a meaningful event, as some of (the guests) might not be able to go back to their families for the holidays. We don’t mind hosting them, as it’s good that someone else can come in and share the festive joy,” she said.

Mr Lin said Ms Sia’s family and the other guests were “warm and welcoming”, and they made sure he was included in the party and had a good time.

Another guest at the gathering, Ms Kady Wu, 34, said: “It’s definitely a joyful experience, as there were a lot of people and we got to make new friends.”

Ms Wu, a financial recruiter, relocated from Hong Kong to Singapore in March 2022 for work.

“For me, there is rarely a chance when I can go to a local household to celebrate something together. I think it is a way to get to know Singaporeans better, and to spread love and joy. I also really loved the diversity, with people from different backgrounds and nationalities gathering together.”

Both Mr Lin and Ms Wu found out about Ms Sia’s party through, an online platform that allows people to give and request help. Set up in 2020, the platform aims to foster neighbourliness and kindness.

The 2023 edition of Just Another Chair is the start of a collaboration between GoodHood and SKM, under which users can register to be a guest or a host through the GoodHood mobile app instead of SKM.

All participants have to be Singpass-verified in order to use this feature on the GoodHood app, to prevent scams. This is to protect the integrity of the campaign, and to ensure the safety of the guests and hosts, said GoodHood.

Mr Nigel Teo, founder of, said: “Just Another Chair is a campaign that puts the community first... We like the project as it is meaningful and helps to build strong and deep connections."