The children were unable to come for the meeting held on a Sunday morning, but they asked us to share their views with their Member of Parliament. A resident put their views into a PowerPoint presentation, and we brought their drawings to the meeting. The children wanted a say on what a proposed playground and a hard court should look like and they were all smiles when we told them that their MP took their ideas seriously. So, like they wanted, there will be a fire-truck, garden swing and most importantly, monkey bars.
This meeting follows an earlier one [AWB – 1939] where residents in 2 public rental blocks were consulted on improvements they would like in their neighbourhood. At that meeting, residents organised themselves to explore how they may bring about a children’s playground with a space for ball games, a cosy corner at the void deck and a more organised resident-led volunteer group to redistribute donated food. These residents are now most heartened to hear from their Town Council that construction for a playground with a court for ball games will begin in December. Other improvements will include a study corner with Wi-Fi paid for by the government grassroots organisations and a space for residents to mingle.
These tangible improvements to the neighbourhood are good to see but we are also very encouraged to notice the intangible developments that emerged in this working relationship. Mr Henry Kwek, the MP asked a resident if he knew why the children did not use the playground located at the nearby “purchased” blocks. While, a playground in their “rental” neighbourhood will be built, he felt that children regardless of where they lived should be playing together. At that point it seemed to us that when we give focus to people’s increased participation in matters that affect them, we are also paving a way for social integration. What better way to do this than to begin with the young?
Participation also deepens one’s sense of ownership and responsibility. While illustrating playground ideas for their MP, the 9 to 12 year olds raised a concern that younger children were playing with fire and wanted to discuss how they could stop it. Eventually, they decided that they will express their concern to the nearby mini-mart and request that it does not sell matches to the children.
Often when we speak of empowerment, education comes to mind. We want to give others the relevant mindsets, skillsets and toolsets. Giving in this manner may be generous but because the expertise is for us to give away, the power remains with us. As such, empowerment begins by givers having a mindset and a willingness to concede their power. Perhaps, we may not give matches to very young children for the harm they may bring to themselves and others. Nonetheless, when we seek to empower, we are seeking to surrender the power we hold and to honour the choices and decisions of those receiving it. For those of us in leadership, positions of authority or holding responsibility or resources, this is a delicate act.
Enjoy your week.
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.” – Tao Te Ching