July 15, 2020
Photos by:
Caroline Chia | Words by: Serene Goh

(Photo Above) Dr Roland Yeow, executive director of Boys’ Town, is the respected and beloved leader of the home’s 40 residents. He sees his mission as helping his charges “become better parents and adults of tomorrow”.

Think home-based learning (HBL) was tough with one or two children? Try 30 kids, ranging in age from around 10 to 19.

For Dr Roland Yeow, activating HBL during Covid-19’s Circuit Breaker meant coordinating schedules of 30 different schools and assignment submission styles among the 30 residents staying Boys’ Town (another 10 were on extended home leave).

With a wry smile, the home’s executive director said: “There were about six ways of submission for assignments. Even the kids themselves didn’t know how, and no uploading means no submission. Every school has its own way, and each teacher has his own model.”

Beyond class time, he and his team were also stumped for activities to (meaningfully) engage a brood with substantial energy.

“We suddenly had 30 boys, and they cannot go to school or outings. It was really challenging,” he said over a teleconference. “Boys’ Town is near a housing area, and we have to maintain social distance. Our staff are coming in and out every day.”

Even playing basketball was tough. “Our staff is prepared for worst case scenarios. But this is not normal.”

“The Circuit Breaker taught us how to be resilient… We gained understanding and acceptance, and looked out for each other.”

Yet he and his staff — four of whom, in addition to 43-year-old Dr Yeow, were themselves former residents — snapped to action, creatively harnessing resources to work out the best way to meet the diverse needs of the lads in their care.

They retrieved old laptops from storage, scrubbed and loaded them up with the right software to make sure everyone would be equipped. They had help from an unnamed donor too, who furnished the charity with robust, working devices for the boys.

Their IT chief boosted their broadband to accommodate increased use. And, because they also wanted residents to spend time meaningfully, they organised activities among different units with safety measures in mind, so sessions at their training halls were staggered.

As the weeks stretched to two months, he said the community in Boys’ Town became stronger. “The Circuit Breaker taught us how to be resilient. Previously, the kids would spend about 50 per cent of their time at school, then came home. But because they were all together so much more, the bonding was strengthened. We gained understanding and acceptance, and looked out for each other.”

Read more about how Social Service charities, volunteers and beneficiaries are coping during Covid-19 in Singapore:


Catch The City of Good Show, Episode 3, July 15, 8pm, Live on Facebook. Support Social Service charities such as Boys’ Town with the Dream Academy gang on HOME IMPROVment. The sector enhances the well-being of the community, with its professionals and volunteers working relentlessly to help families and individuals overcome issues.Play your part and support the charities at Giving.sg – The City of Good Show: Social Services


 

The Storytellers

  • Caroline loves photography and trekking, and never turns down a trip to the mountains.

  • Serene believes in the power of good pie, and publishing stories that inspire. You can call her a pie-blisher.

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