We marked one year since our circuit-breaker on 7 April 2019 and working from home is no longer our default practice. 75% of our workforce is now allowed backed into their offices and while COVID-19 is still a serious threat, we must count ourselves fortunate relative to others elsewhere.
Hannah (not her real name), tells us that she has always been an anxious person and even more so after becoming a single mom when her marriage ended. This time last year, she was overwhelmed by fear. Her ex-husband stopped sending alimony and she was afraid that her children would not be cared for if she were infected and succumbed to the illness. As a supermarket cashier in constant contact with people, she was also deeply worried that she may infect her children. Eventually, she could not bring herself to show up for work and at home, she was constantly sad, discouraged, and frightened.
Her 13-year-old daughter noticed that her well-being was deteriorating and persuaded her to keep busy by baking her favourite cookies. A social worker from the South-Central Community Family Service Centre noticed Hannah’s talent and started placing orders for the cookies. It was the start of Hannah’s home-based micro-business and she tells us that she is now getting by modestly.
A few days ago, Hannah introduced the Methodist Welfare Services Debt Matching Programme to 2 fathers. One was a driver for tourists and the other in logistics and both their livelihoods were badly hit by the pandemic. Hence, both of them as well as Hannah, resonated with our view that their work was precarious, and they had to consider how they may strengthen their finances for the stability and well-being of their families. All three live at different neighbourhoods and after meeting for the first time, they agreed to form themselves into a mutual support group to share information on employment and income generation as well as resources that would benefit their families especially their school-going children.
Mutual support groups where members help each other “get ahead” is one activity we are introducing to help our members rebuild their lives post COVID-19. To the fathers and Hannah, the notion of community was not an airy-fairy concept. Their experiences during the circuit breaker have convinced them of its importance.
“I picked up the phone and was surprised that someone was asking me how I was and if I needed help. I was initially guarded as I did not know Beyond but I relaxed when I realised that my wife and children have participated in their activities.” This father added that he was really feeling desperate when he could not work but so many different people in the community checked in on his family and the food and gifts of essentials such as masks, sanitisers and household items were really comforting. “I even had food from a hotel I would not have visited,” he recalled with amusement.
This newly formed mutual support group looks forward to welcoming others who would like to join them and we are heartened to enable their endeavour as we will be in the service of people’s efforts and not just their needs.
Wishing you good health and peace of mind.
A central dimension of building back better is the need for a people-centred recovery that focuses on well-being, improves inclusiveness and reduces inequality. – OECD Policy Responses to Coronavirus (COVID-19)