Last year, with the help of volunteers we sought to gain a better understanding of a neighbourhood by talking to residents, shop-owners, social service providers, grassroots leaders and others who lived or worked in the vicinity. The information was put together as a “neighbourhood health report” and we presented it as part of a meeting with 19 families residing there to reflect on the year gone by and to engage them for the one ahead.
When we mentioned that the men seemed to be missing in their neighbourhood, a roomful of women laughed. There was one man present at the meeting, but he conceded that the observation was accurate in that men generally preferred not to get too involved in the affairs of the neighbourhood and there were many single-parent families because the father was incarcerated.
A couple of women responded that as such, they have figured out how to fix leaky taps and attend to other simple household repairs. The man who was present then suggested that they could run a class to pass on their skills to other women. In a similar vein, others shared that they were willing to share their baking, cooking and sewing skills that may be used for generating some income.
Just as we had hoped, those present were relating to the information presented thoughtfully and this led to animated discussions about the extent to which neighbours should be disciplining each other’s children. Some feared that by doing so, they would get into unpleasant disagreements with the child’s parents. Nonetheless, we were heartened when discussions were summed up with “Berat sama dipikul, ringan sama dijinjing.” A Malay saying that translates as, “A load whether heavy or light should be carried together” implying that troubles shared are troubles halved.
After the meeting, a 19-year-old came to us and burst into tears. During our presentation, the success of her younger brother was highlighted. He did well at ITE and was offered a course of study at the LASELLE College of the Arts. This had gotten her thinking about her own future. In 2017, her results at ITE were not stellar and her application for another programme was unsuccessful. Since then, she had struggled to move on and told us that she feared job interviews after messing up a couple. We then learned that she had recently resubmitted an application to return to ITE and wished her luck. That evening she sent us a message thanking us for listening to her. We really hope she get another stab at her studies.
Enjoy your week.
Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.- Robert H. Schuller