“Thank you.” A single woman in her 30s told my colleague softly after she received a comforting hug. “I was raised by my father and have never met my mother,” she added. Two Saturdays ago, this colleague received a call from this woman’s neighbours. They informed that she had a bad fight with her boyfriend and was hurt. The police were present, and they will be accompanying her to the hospital. Finally, they told our colleague that she need not make her way down and they will update her after they came back from the hospital. Upon returning from the hospital, a neighbour took the woman who was hurt into her home so that she could be cared for until she was feeling better.
When our colleague met her a few days later, she learnt that several neighbours had been visiting her and offering words of comfort and encouragement. They also brought her fruit and snacks and basically, good cheer. It was an experience of family; an “extended family” that she did not choose but came about because a group of neighbours chose to extend their care and concern. The visitors were mainly women and as some were old enough to be her mother, our colleague wondered if that’s why she revealed that she was raised by her father.
The manner in which these people took responsibility for a neighbour in need is a strength that we are constantly trying to nurture. It begins by humbly acknowledging that our presence as helping professionals has the unintended effect of discouraging initiative, self and mutual help. In public rental neighbourhoods there is significant presence of helping agencies and we wonder how this influences the way people think and feel about themselves and their abilities.
In the same neighbourhood, another group of residents approached our colleague, “Don’t mind me saying but many people think that you are stingy and only give things to people you like.” It was blunt as blunt could be but as she continued to listen, she learnt that the main feedback these residents wanted to give was how a food distribution exercise could be better organised. They recalled a recent event and pointed out the many things that went wrong. Our colleague then asked if they could take charge of all such exercises where their live and put in place plans that ensured the efficient and fair distribution of food.
The group took on the task and for this cluster of 4 blocks, there will now be 2 drop-off/distribution points. Block representatives have been appointed, and their role is also to identify volunteers to sort the food and to ensure even distribution on every floor. There is also a group chat called Community Resource Team for communication among all involved. We are better prepared for the next exercise because it is one where neighbours have made it their own
Enjoy your week.
“Ownership: ‘A commitment of the head, heart, and hands to fix the problem and never again affix the blame.” ― John G. Miller