September 1, 2020
Words by: Serene Goh
(Photo above) Through the Project HomeWorks programme, Habitat for Humanity Singapore eliminates poverty housing conditions and provides decent living conditions for those in need. BRYAN VAN DER BEEK
hey are facing a freefall in funding — up to 80 per cent in some cases — while dealing with a spike in caseloads. Far from ideal, their annual fundraisers had to go digital, as did their work with beneficiaries.
Yet, during the Circuit Breaker and since it was lifted, the needs of their communities have become more complex, throwing up new social issues such as transitional homelessness, difficulty treating the disabled, and getting swift help to those suffering depression.
Working with the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre’s City of Good initiative, we zoomed in on five key areas: Community, Social Service, Disability, Youth and Children, and the Arts and Heritage sector.
We uncovered stories of resilience, creativity, as well as new uses of digital channels in a mission to uplift others.
(Above) Objectifs senior manager, Ms Leong Puiyee, packs copies of photo book, Portraits of Home, by 87-year-old photographer Mr Lim Kwong Ling, for delivery to buyers. Mr Lim’s book launch, scheduled for April, was cancelled because of Covid-19. BRYAN VAN DER BEEK
Even if perceptions of their work might be “non-essential”, their resilience certainly is not. Traditional arts groups started performing online or reconceptualised their arts education programmes. Others co-created activities to help children express their emotions, and even at home, were dedicated to practising in preparation for year-end performances.
(Above) Mr Matlisah bin Chela, 74, enjoys the weekdays at the Assisi Hospice Day Care Centre where he undergoes art therapy and interacts with other patients and staff, including Mr Iryadi Bin Bardron, therapy aide (centre) and Mr Calvin Pang, art therapist (right). CAROLINE CHIA
As social distancing and movement restrictions came into play, organisations didn’t just face drops in monetary contributions. The call for relational giving was louder than ever, as organisations had to rethink how to engage with volunteers through a new set of programmes and initiatives to help their beneficiaries.
3. The Disability Equation 3/6
(Above) Daniel Sng, 15, was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) when he was six. The third of four children needs daily physiotherapy with the help of his mother, Mrs Janice Sng, and his younger brother, Caleb. They go through the paces to ensure Daniel’s joints remain flexible and muscles get the proper stimulation. BRYAN VAN DER BEEK
Individuals who need regular, physical treatment were kept from seeing therapists for months. The 65-year-old Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf) halted all social activities and events, but feared that deaf individuals would feel more isolated than ever. “For some deaf individuals, SADeaf may be the only place they are able to meet fellow deaf friends who use sign language and have meaningful interaction,” said Mr Teo Zhi Xiong, its staff interpreter. Caregivers were also at risk of fatigue without such organisations offering them respite. “They are critical to maintaining loving and dedicated care for their loved ones who are facing debilitating situations,” noted Abilities Beyond Limitations and Expectations (ABLE).
(Above) Mr David Choo, 30, champions REACH Rock Steady, a year-long programme that uses music to build confidence for youths through practice and performance. BRYAN VAN DER BEEK
Social workers serving imprisoned parents found themselves seeking new ways to assess the wellbeing of their clients’ children. Counsellors working with youths turned into gamers to stay connected to their clients.
(Above) Engagement and education around Singapore’s water environment is key to Waterways Watch Society’s (WWS) mission. WWS runs programmes to educate people on the importance of a clean environment. CAROLINE CHIA
“Doing a lot more with far less” became a recurring refrain among social workers working with a spectrum of clients who needed help with housing, childcare and physical therapy. They soldiered on, and supported each other internally through the toughest challenges, with Ms Christine Wong, executive director Caritas Singapore putting it best: “In spite of everything, humans are rather resilient, perhaps more so than we thought. We have found creative ways to keep working, restart old hobbies and try our hands at new ones. We have also seen more cheerful faces on Zoom, perhaps also indicative of joy to see colleagues again.”
(Above) Children, aged seven to 14, are invited — even encouraged — to “act out”. At the CampusImpact Theatre Thursday special four-week session led by Pangdemonium, they listen to stories, and give voice to their feelings through artistic expression. CAROLINE CHIA
While many organisations turned to digital engagement strategies, some, like CampusImpact in partnership with theatre group, Pangdemonium, found ways to keep face-to-face interaction alive, and allow children to have new experiences through the arts — essential to their emotional growth.