A club for special children

Prison Fellowship Singapore (PFS) runs a weekly Saturday programme called the Care Club for children of prisoners. Among the activities is a reading, story-telling, and drama programme conducted by three 13-year-old school girls. These girls have been conducting the weekly lessons for over a year, often battling fatigue and discouragement. One of the girls, Kimberley, shares what motivates them to steadfastly continue to teach the children every week.

IMAGINE A ROOM filled with running, shouting children. Children who are very bored and distracted. Children who are playing with their belongings, fiddling with the teaching props that you have provided and anything else that is small enough for them to lift in their hands. Imagine having to yell four, maybe five times, just to introduce yourself. Imagine being one of three girls, facing these kids, outnumbered three to one. Imagine setting aside every Saturday morning to come to this room to teach these children.

Some call it hell. I call it the Care Club Reading Programme. I don’t know what we were expecting. Perhaps we had hoped to see young, perky, obedient angels peering out the door, eagerly awaiting our arrival. Maybe we had assumed that the kids would be quiet, listen attentively, and actively participate in all our carefully-laid plans.

I know I wasn’t expecting what I saw, which was:

a) Girl A in a corner, hiding under a chair,

b) Girl B (eight years old) covering her face, vehemently denying that she had “kissed her boyfriend”,

c) Boy A on the carpet, wrestling with his sister, and

d) My partner arguing with Boy B, trying to free her box of paints from his grasp.

Our expectations were most likely mislaid. These were children from broken families, most of whose fathers were in prison, who had no interest whatsoever in reading or writing or doing anything that we suggested. No one would have blamed us for running, and we nearly did, several times. We almost ran when the children, asked to paint a toy barn, became overenthusiastic, smearing paint on themselves and us.

We almost fled after setting up the assigned room to look like the forest in Narnia, complete with lamp-post, only to have the lamp toppled and the bulb broken. Or when we had asked them to role-play the “good guys” during a brief drama session and they gave us, the “bad guys”, real, visible and very painful bruises.

But we did not run. And now I know why.


“We stayed because we saw that, with the right nurturing, they would someday love to read and love to write.”

We didn’t run because we saw potential in the kids that they couldn’t see in themselves. We stayed because we saw that, with the right nurturing, they would someday love to read and love to write.

I stayed because, once, when I returned after class to retrieve my bag, I heard a familiar voice coming from the room where we hold our sessions. It was Girl A, telling the others a story.

And so next Saturday, we three crazy girls will go back into “hell”. We will face the equally crazy and much more energetic kids, outnumbered three to one. And we will do it happily.

Since its inception in January 2010, staff and volunteers working with the children (the number fluctuating between 10 and 20) at Care Club have observed them making positive changes. Many of the children come from broken homes where the father is in prison and the mother is either too stressed out trying to cope with life, or struggling with addictions. The children grow up displaying “gangster” traits at a very young age. With loving discipline and guidance, we have witnessed the children “softening” and responding to the staff, volunteers, and their caregivers.

We need more volunteers to provide personalised tuition in various subjects for children from Kindergarten 2 to Secondary 1. We also need volunteers who are able to teach skills such as music, percussion, art therapy, sports and games, and any other skills that will enrich the lives of these children. For further enquiries, please call Mr Jacob Lim or Ms Mary Huang at tel: 3106-2106 or email jacoblim@pfsing.org.sg or maryhuang@pfsing.org.sg