Last Saturday, 55 members of Swim Schooling swam their hearts out to raise funds for our Jiak Ba Buay Campaign where every dollar goes toward the purchase of food and household essentials for families in need. Together they covered 3335 Olympic-size pool laps in a swimathon.
On the same day, Bank of America (BofA) organised Fairground, a fund-raising carnival in aid of our Community Tabung, a savings programme to meet children’s developmental needs. The event was greeted with much joy and gratitude because this annual event was shelved by the pandemic after its last iteration in 2019 and it was the first community engagement initiative by BofA volunteers after 3 years. We were also delighted to have Ms Joan Pereira, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC (Henderson-Dawson) grace the event as our Guest of Honour. Do check out our social media platforms this weekend for pictures and reels of these events.
This week at Journey Beyond, our monthly in-house training session, we had the privilege of learning from Debbie who was in our residential care programme some 18 years ago when she was about 12 years old. Then, we were doing our utmost to keep her well cared for in the community but eventually, she was institutionalised. “All the people who cared for me were professionals and the system provided me stability from the chaos that was my life.”
It was not all roses though after she aged out of the system, as her challenges with substance dependency persisted and during a very low point, she visited our office but the people she knew were not present and she left. Nonetheless, following the suicide of a friend she harnessed every ounce of will power to keep herself out of harm’s way.
Life was always precariously fragile but breaks such as the opportunity for a fine arts education, a job at a restaurant where she was as a top performer and being scouted for her artwork held her steady. “All I knew about F & B was from my duties at Cafe Beyond but that gave me the confidence and basics to figure things out,” she told us.
Today, Debbie earns her keep as a Manga artist and although she believes everyone can draw, she draws exceptionally well, and her talent was spotted at an anime festival and she secured work in Canada for 7 years.
Debbie recalled that as a child, it was so difficult to have a voice let alone to be believed. What she was trying to communicate was easily minimised if not ignored when adults cast doubt. “Can we believe her?” was not a question but a judgement that she was untrustworthy. Debbie felt that because of her background and unfortunate life experiences, she was never trusted. “When a child speaks to you, your job is to listen and not to verify everything that is being said,” Debbie told us.
“It is so important for people and especially children to know that they are being recognised and accepted for how they see themselves. Children are usually finding different ways to express themselves and the stories they tell may not be factual but that does not make them liars.” Debbie went on to provide a parallel, “Today the use of gender pronouns is necessary for assuring many people that they are in a safe and welcoming space.”
I am deeply grateful that Debbie initiated contact 3 weeks ago. I was sitting at Café Beyond when she walked in the front door exclaiming, “I am so glad this place is still around!” She told me she just wanted to remember those from whom she had experienced kindness, and I must say she is treating us very kindly as I am sure we made many mistakes when caring for her. She had honoured us with her visit, and I hope we in turn have honoured her life.
In our work, we do many things but if we could only do one thing, let us honour the lives of all whom we encounter.
For peace and community,
Despair is an accumulation of a child’s emotions and desperation. It does not occur overnight. The cries for help that were unheard, the self-hatred that went undetected, the disappointment from wishing for a change that never came. The confusion felt because a child can never fully comprehend why they have to go through difficult times. Confusion that stems from not understanding what they could have done and the inability to see the bigger picture. I’ve always been told that I was really mature for my age like it was a compliment. No one truly understood how much I just wanted to be a child. To act my age. I shared my experiences in hopes that anyone that’s willing can become the dam that stops the flooding of negative emotions, the lighthouse to guide the lost home and the bridge to bring them to where the grass is greener. – Debbie