Another Week Beyond – 2247

Dear friends,

15 years ago, a 3-year-old girl we shall call Nina was a student at our Healthy Start Child Development Centre. Her mother was a foreigner, and she was born before her parents were officially married. We remember her because while she had a Singapore birth certificate, she did not have citizenship.  When her father was incarcerated, Nina moved in with her grandmother and Nina’s mother moved on to start life anew. We also remember that soon after, Nina withdrew from our Centre, and we lost contact.

In February 2020, an intern reported that during a visit to a neighbourhood, she came across a 16-year-old-girl who was worried that she could not sit for her ‘N’ Level examinations as she could not afford the fees. Since primary school, this girl had been paying a foreigner’s rate for her school fees and she has chalked up significant arrears. Anyway, we proceeded to link her to a tuition programme provided by a family service centre and highlighted her predicament to her school. The school was most helpful as they agreed to find the funds to clear half of her arrears and to meet 50 percent of her examination fees.  We supported the situation by coordinating a meeting between the school and the girl’s family to secure a shared understanding of the situation and the obligations of each party.

As we engaged the family, we learned that we were reconnecting with Nina whom we cared for briefly. Nina was now an articulate teenager well aware of the disadvantages of her non-citizen status. She expressed much anxiety about her inability to remain in the country, “Much as I try, my grades will not be good enough for me to continue applying for a student’s pass.” She also related her family’s frustration in navigating the bureaucracy despite assistance from different people over the years. She felt that her father had kind of given up as he is slow to move when she seeks his assistance with the paperwork.

Nina’s father supports the family as a high-ropes cleaner that maintains building facades. Last November, when inclement weather hit, he took the opportunity to leave work early to retrieve some relevant documents from the Syariah Court. He got it wrong the first time and at risk of incurring his employer’s displeasure, he took off from work again to get it right. Father did care but both Nina and him needed a little assurance that their efforts were on the right track. So, when we were able to convince them that we will be available throughout the application process, they acted energetically. 

Today, Nina is an enthusiastic trainee in a Hair and Fashion Design programme offered by the Institute of Technical Education. Her fees are being met by a Pavilion EDIS Cares Bursary   and she has been approaching my colleagues to let her do their hair for free in partial fulfilment of her certification. Last Tuesday, was a very special day for her as she proudly showed us her newly minted Singapore identity card, “I am so grateful for all the help I have received but now I can get a job and be independent. Maybe, one day I can also help others like me.”

Journeying with Nina and her family these past 2 years has heightened our awareness of how challenging life can be when we find ourselves marginalized or excluded in one way or another. Often, people simply accept their lot because when there is no more energy to swim against the tide, staying afloat is all that matters. We work at strengthening our socially inclusive society by constantly welcoming those on the margins to share our space. We do our best to lower barriers and build trust wherever we work.  

For peace, community, and mutual trust,

Gerard

We need to have faith in the future to make sense of the present. – Charles Handy 

PAST AWB POSTS

Another Week Beyond 2429 – An Experience of Connectedness and Contentment

by: Chia Jie Min, Community Worker  Last Tuesday evening, Lisfah, our community enabler, and I set up our usual table at the student care centre for the monthly “tabung” (savings) programme at Lengkok Bahru. We waited with anticipation for the usual buzz of mothers dropping in to sit with us, chat and swap stories about community happenings.   That particular day, however, many mothers could not attend. So, it was unusually quiet. Lisfah was looking a little forlorn as she was looking forward to catching up with her neighbours. She always found her conversations with them comforting as they reassured her

Read More »

Another Week Beyond 2428 – The Making of a Youth Leader

By: Nina, Community Relations I met Atiqah ten years ago when I was a Community Worker. It was at a photography workshop we had organized for youths. She was a shy, soft-spoken 16-year-old. Her family had only recently moved in, so she didn’t know any other youths in the neighborhood yet. Throughout the few sessions we held, she mostly kept to herself, except when she offered to help me with minor tasks. Despite her discomfort being around others, she always showed up when invited to our programmes. I always admired Atiqah’s quiet determination and was pleased to see her slowly

Read More »

Another Week Beyond – 2427

No Wealth, No Health? Written by: Pei Ling, Community Relations How often do you find yourself in this situation? You’re unwell or in pain, and it’s been going on for while. But you choose not to see a medical practitioner because you feel you cannot afford it. This is a common scenario amongst Singapore’s financially-challenged – families living in rental public housing. And this is what happened to Ismail. When I visited Ismail on a routine follow-up, he was limping and clearly in pain. He told me he had a slipped disc. I asked about the medical treatment he was

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Another Week Beyond 2426 – Grizzly to Teddy

by Wilson, Community Worker Grizzly to Teddy During one of our recent learning programmes, one of the kids who attended was an often moody, sometimes truculent 8-year-old.  Let’s call him “Teddy.” Our expectations of Teddy were, from experience, tempered. How well he participated in our activities and interacted with others depended on his disposition from week to week. At this particular session, Teddy was what we had come to describe as “his usual self” – shouting vulgarities and being disruptive. He risked injury by playing with a sliding door, even after being asked by a volunteer to stop. In fact,

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Another Week Beyond 2425 – Do you see me? Do you hear me?

by Nina, Community Relations Do you see me? Do you hear me? Last Saturday, we held a Learning Journey for members of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO). This is an immersive journey we offer to interested parties who are keen to understand how   communities in public rental housing live, work and play. Our 19 YPO guests were led on a Community Walkabout by 11 Community Guides – each a resident of Lengkok Bahru of varying ages. Their task was to lead our visitors through shared spaces in the neighborhood, while revealing the purpose and character of each area visited. After

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Community, a place to care and grow (Another Week Beyond – 2424)

By Grace Yew, Community Worker “Pergi, jom” (Let’s go!). We go back to office with you to help you carry all these. You one person, how to carry all alone?” Fauziah insisted as she walked to the side of the lorry, ready to jump onto the passenger’s seat. Her husband who had helped her to hoist two huge tables and fifteen stools onto the lorry followed.  I laughed in disbelief.   It was 6 pm and Fauziah, had been out since ten in the morning, supporting 15 children to set up a community gathering below their flats that boasted carnival-style games

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Another Week Beyond – 2423

“Oh no, more bee hoon,” a mother uttered half embarrassed. “We need to coordinate better the next time,” she added. Our colleague who was present at this children’s birthday party organized by neighbours quickly responded, “Hey, we are having a been hoon feast prepared in 3 different ways and it’s great to have 3 flavours!” The generosity, hospitality and ownership displayed by the organizers were the indicators of success that we sought, and these were already in abundance. For example, a young man appeared in his military uniform to check that the cake his mother had baked on his behalf

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Reconnecting with Gratitude 

2 weeks ago, our senior advisor Gerard received an email titled “Reconnecting with Gratitude” from someone who volunteered with us 20 years ago.  She told Gerard that she got his email from a friend of a friend and wanted to thank him in person for what he had said to her then. “I recall what you said to me that has impacted my life to this day,” was how she had put it.  She wrote that she was helping with a juggling programme where she accompanied the children to performances and as she was driving them back to the Centre

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PAST AWB POSTS

Another Week Beyond 2429 – An Experience of Connectedness and Contentment

by: Chia Jie Min, Community Worker  Last Tuesday evening, Lisfah, our community enabler, and I set up our usual table at the student care centre for the monthly “tabung” (savings) programme at Lengkok Bahru. We waited with anticipation for the usual buzz of mothers dropping in to sit with us, chat and swap stories about community happenings.   That particular day, however, many mothers could not attend. So, it was unusually quiet. Lisfah was looking a little forlorn as she was looking forward to catching up with her neighbours. She always found her conversations with them comforting as they reassured her

Read more >

Another Week Beyond 2428 – The Making of a Youth Leader

By: Nina, Community Relations I met Atiqah ten years ago when I was a Community Worker. It was at a photography workshop we had organized for youths. She was a shy, soft-spoken 16-year-old. Her family had only recently moved in, so she didn’t know any other youths in the neighborhood yet. Throughout the few sessions we held, she mostly kept to herself, except when she offered to help me with minor tasks. Despite her discomfort being around others, she always showed up when invited to our programmes. I always admired Atiqah’s quiet determination and was pleased to see her slowly

Read more >

Another Week Beyond – 2427

No Wealth, No Health? Written by: Pei Ling, Community Relations How often do you find yourself in this situation? You’re unwell or in pain, and it’s been going on for while. But you choose not to see a medical practitioner because you feel you cannot afford it. This is a common scenario amongst Singapore’s financially-challenged – families living in rental public housing. And this is what happened to Ismail. When I visited Ismail on a routine follow-up, he was limping and clearly in pain. He told me he had a slipped disc. I asked about the medical treatment he was

Read more >