After speaking to more than 150 youth aged between 16 to 20 and inviting them to be a part of a mutual aid initiative that connects them to job-based information and resources, training, and potential employers, a common theme emerged. These young people wanted to work so that they could help with their family income. Some were already the significant breadwinner, and nothing would please them more than to be able to see their family live more comfortably.
One of these youth attended a briefing on a Debt Clearance and Savings Matching Scheme run by the Methodist Welfare Services and when asked hypothetically what he would do with a windfall, he said he would use it to give his mother a more comfortable home. He also shared that he earned his keep providing event management support and so last year, he sold off some of his clothes and other personal belongings to get by. He is now awaiting National Service and is grateful that he is on a government supported internship that provides him a modest allowance.
An intern who was about the same age told me how she was struck by the answer as she would have thought that young people would firstly want something nice for themselves. However, it appeared that the experience of hardship made many of our youth more sensitive to the needs of others. They also seemed keenly aware of their duties and responsibilities toward their family. So, while she and her friends saw themselves as students or just teenagers, our youth identified themselves as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.
To date, more than 50 youth are registered on a private telegram channel receiving job and training opportunities. Our volunteers have been organising themselves to reach more youth and they tell us that they feel a little different after each call. One volunteer was initially finding it challenging getting a mother to trust her. She had been trying to reach her teenage child but the number in our records had belonged to the mother. However, when the mother was eventually convinced that she had no ill intent and was wanting to offer resources for employment, she connected her daughter. This volunteer left the conversation deeply impressed by the mother’s protective efforts. She also commented that trust is so important for any cooperation to happen and must be always safeguarded.
Another volunteer was a little stunned when a boy told him that his parents should not have brought him into this world. He felt that they did not have the finances to raise a family. It was a strong statement but as the conversation continued, our volunteer did not detect any resentment or despair. The boy was deeply motivated to further his studies and was working part-time to defray family expenses. He still cared deeply for his family and was a plain talker who did not shy away from calling out a situation as he saw it. He said that while he will continue to work hard, he is aware that his background may disadvantage him as he has often experienced being stereotyped as untrustworthy or one burdened with family and financial difficulties. Despite what he was saying, the boy insisted that he was optimistic about his future and the volunteer reflected if he too, had often judged a “book by its cover.”
Wishing you and all at home a very healthy Year of the Ox.
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it. – Solomon