We have 4 mutual support groups we call Family Circles comprising 28 caregivers who attend regularly. Meetings are held at least once a month in the language that members are most comfortable with and so there are Chinese and Malay speaking circles.
During meetings, members submit to us a self-report of their household income, expenses, savings, and debt. After a year, the collective data across all 4 circles revealed a 34% increase in the median income and 25% in the mean income. There was also a 100% increase in median savings and 82% in mean savings. Where debt was concerned, the median and mean decreased by 27% and 11% respectively.
We are most encouraged by these indicators as they validate the value of mutuality and social capital. Most members were not acquainted with others in their circle when they joined the programme but they identified with challenges associated with the lack of income. Talk though was not always about money but about children, personal interests, challenges and basically issues that were alive within them. Over the year, the circles provided some members advice and assistance that enhanced their lives significantly.
This year, the idea that members could meet those from other circles appealed to some. A mother from a Chinese-speaking circle offered to conduct a baking class and this was attended by several from the Malay speaking circle and a couple from Bakers Beyond. Originally from Indonesia, she communicated instructions fluently in Bahasa Indonesia which is not too different from Malay. At the end of the day, it was broad smiles all around as everyone had a generous share of Kek Lapis, an Indonesian traditional layered cake made with spices such as cinnamon, cloves and star anise.
“Social capital is the new gold. Add value to others, value others and you will be valued.”― Lynn Ujiagbe
The cake was delightfully tasty, and it was not lost on everyone that it was the outcome of a fulfilling afternoon where new acquaintances were made. Plans were made for another baking workshop with a view that more members from different family circles will get acquainted.
For peace, community, and friendship,
Community connectedness is not just about warm fuzzy tales of civic triumph. In measurable and well-documented ways, social capital makes an enormous difference in our lives… Social capital makes us smarter, healthier, safer, richer, and better able to govern a just and stable democracy. – Robert D. Putnam