Last Sunday, we concluded the first run of our Community Fellowship Programme with a knowledge festival where 6 fellows from 3 neighbourhoods presented their efforts and their learnings to their neighbours as well as some service providers they had collaborated with. This programme received significant funding from the Bank of America for which we are thankful.
It’s been 18 months since these 6 fellows secured the mandate of their neighbours to address needs in their respective neighbourhoods. It was most heartening to see them on stage confidently presenting their work. These were initiatives that addressed neighbourhood health concerns, debt repayment, older persons at risk of isolation and families needing milk, diapers and other practical support.
There was also a panel discussion for the fellows to reflect further on their experience and to field questions. I chuckled when one of them listed her mentor as a challenge. “It was always timelines and deadlines,” she jested. Another said that she often did not follow during training sessions and only caught on after many conversations with the other fellows. She recommended that we find a way to communicate better. I was heartened by the honest feedback as it spoke for their commitment to their role and initiatives. Importantly, it also indicated the safety and trust, they experienced in our working relationship.
These fellows went through a training programme where they discussed their struggles and that of their community in depth. They learnt how to conduct home visits, facilitate meetings, and build partnerships with other groups. For instance, 2 fellows consulted with a group of migrant domestic workers on a helpline they operated before launching their own. In many ways, the Community Fellowship programme exemplifies the social work principle of helping people help themselves and what sustains the effort are the deep relationships people have with each other.
The 6 fellows live in 3 different neighbourhoods but in the course of learning together and from each other, a deep friendship was formed, and they now regard themselves as “sisters” committed to each other’s well-being. Thus, when their family members joined them on stage for a group photograph it was a celebration of fellowship, family, and community.
The Knowledge Festival was a celebration and performances by neighbours, a fellow and a guitar group from the migrant domestic workers community were gifts of appreciation and gratitude for the efforts of the fellows and the solidarity among all who were present.
Mustapha and Normah, 2 long-time volunteer neighbourhood leaders who coordinate in-kind donations where they live were the Guests of Honour who presented the certificates of completion to the fellows. They both shared that their efforts have given them a sense of purpose, and they enjoy living in a neighbourhood where there is a strong sense of community. Their presence and testimonies were gifts of affirmation that when we care about each other, we are really caring for ourselves.
For peace and community,
The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but reveal to them their own. – Benjamin Disraeli