We initiated a meeting with 4 mothers who had previously expressed their concern about the well-being of children in their neighbourhood during incidental conversations we had with them. To break the ice, we asked everyone to raise their hands if they identified with a statement we were going to put forth.
“As a child, I was often in trouble with adults for being naughty,” had a couple of hands going up. As we continued with statements about childhood experiences there was always a hand or two raised if not all until, we posed “I wished I had a trusted adult that I could confide in or talk to.” We clarified that the statement did not mean that they had an adult friend but only that they had wished for one, but they understood us correctly. They explained that adults were always so strict that it would be best to stay clear of them and none of them could ever imagine having an adult as a friend. It was sad to hear but heartening though that these mothers were coming together to offer children in their neighbourhood a friendship they have never had.
When the discussion began, one mother was indignant that there were children unsupervised and unkempt in the vicinity of her apartment block. She lamented that their parents were irresponsible and drop-in facilities for children have all ceased operations in her neighbourhood. Another saw herself in the children that were mentioned, and it prompted her to share about her painful childhood where there were no adults around her whom she could trust. Her authentic voice ushered blame out of the door and made room for empathy to be present.
The group then started discussing what being a trusted adult for children meant. What did it really mean to offer an understanding, non-judgemental, caring and listening presence? As they were doing so, one mother pointed to the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child” which was on a tee-shirt a colleague was wearing. It resonated with everyone, and the conversation moved to what such a safe village for children would look like. After much lively discussion, they concluded that it had to be a place where people had a relationship with each other and ideally even with those from different social backgrounds.
There was a lot of enthusiasm, and we were glad that these women were trying to rally their neighbours to address the important issue of child safety in their neighbourhoods. We are confident that if they stay the course more neighbours will join them as 2 years ago, mothers in another neighbourhood started a campaign to safeguard young people against sexual violence. While their efforts did not always work out as intended, they have made headway and last week, one of them elaborated on their work at our Board meeting.
She also shared the impact she had observed in her community and within herself. She realised that she still had the ability to learn and found it satisfying interacting with people from different backgrounds. This is a mother of 6 who has not been in the workforce for a while and like her, another mother of 2 talked to our Board about her work with the Community Tabung. Both addressed our Board with passion and conviction and watching them assured us that with time and endeavour, these mothers who are concerned about child safety will at some point not only be informing their neighbours but our Board members too.
For peace, community, and caring neighbours,
The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain