After presenting a report on the amount of food and household essentials they helped to distribute in their neighbourhood last year, we asked 10 residents for their feedback. They were pleased with their effort and told us that the volunteer work enabled them to make friends with their neighbours. A mother added that her children also accompanied her on home visits as they too wanted to meet other children. Often, they reminded her to visit other mothers so that they could follow her to meet their friends.
They also said that the work challenged them to speak to all their neighbours with kindness especially those who were not exactly friendly. One joked that he was learning effective customer service skills whenever he had an unfriendly encounter. Another shared that speaking with others gave him perspective about his own challenges. He was inspired how many who found it hard making ends meet looked on the bright side, persevered and always kept the well-being of their family in focus. These neighbours truly appreciated his efforts in bringing them food and in turn, he draws much strength from the experience. He leaves each experience feeling like he has helped himself become more grateful and peaceful.
As we were still listening to another person, a father in our group stood up suddenly and shouted at a group of children across the street. These kids were on their bicycles, and he was chiding them for blindly rushing onto the street without looking out for traffic. The kids waved in acknowledgement before riding off.
My colleague then asked this father if the children’s parents would take issue with the way he spoke to them. He laughed and replied that he would expect other adults in the community to speak harshly to his children if they were misbehaving or in need of guidance. Others in the group echoed him by jesting that this was their version of a community closed-circuit television. It is so easy for children to get into harm’s way and adults in the neighbourhood understand that they must work together to care for them.
The group then related a recent incident where a neighbour chased off a stranger who seemed to have been tailing a girl when she was returning from tuition at 9 pm. He had sensed something was wrong when he saw the girl running toward him looking fearful. As he gave chase, the girl who was tearing was comforted by his wife and accompanied back home. He did not catch the stranger but the next day, parents instructed all children that they should always make their way to and fro all community programmes in pairs.
It takes a village to raise a child and it was heartening to be in the presence of “villagers” who cared deeply for their children and even those who have just moved in. A member of the group related that because she works at the school canteen, the mother from a family who had just moved in, asked her to keep an eye on her son as he adjusts to his new school environment. She assured the mother that she will and elaborated with a wink that she is the “official” discipline aunty in the school canteen.
For peace, community, and caring adults,
Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story. – Josh Shipp