Outreach, Unity in Spirit

Catholic Welfare Services: Humble Beginnings

CWS lives up to the scriptural principles it was founded on – the spirit of the Good Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the spirit of the Good Samaritan to help those who have fallen along the way.

The Catholic Welfare Services (CWS) remains true today – 55 years on – to its humble beginnings. It began in 1959 through a simple food relief programme for the poor – and today, it continues to serve between 170 to 280 daily meals comprising rice, vegetables and meat to the poor, sick destitute, unemployed needy and their families at the CWS Hub located at Waterloo Street. Regulars include 45 to 50 elderly persons.

The free meal initiative, called the Doulos Project, is in partnership with the Sacred Heart Church. It is only one aspect of the CWS’ Food Relief Programme which reaches out to more than 50 institutions, and includes the giving of supermarket vouchers, dry food items and cash grants.

The lonely often come in for a chat at the CWS Hub, and the homeless are welcome to rest, although they cannot stay the night.

This is just one of the many ways that the CWS lives up to the scriptural principles it was founded on – the spirit of the Good Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the spirit of the Good Samaritan to help those who have fallen along the way. CWS staff and volunteers work towards helping clients to be self-sufficient, and to discourage a “welfare mentality”.

CWS has grown to be the “action arm” of the Catholic Church in Singapore, initiating, assisting, coordinating and carrying out social services to alleviate poverty and distress among the people of Singapore, regardless of race or creed. “To promote human dignity” is the first of their four-fold mission statement, and this is especially found in the outlook of the CWS staff and volunteers who are committed to discouraging a welfare mentality and helping their clients become self-sufficient.

For the frail and sick elderly, destitute and disadvantaged
CWS addresses the needs of the elderly in varying circumstances – from the frail and sick elderly, to the destitute and the disadvantaged. Five Homes run by CWS meet these different needs – St. Joseph’s, St. Theresa’s, Villa Francis, Gift of Love and St. Vincent.

It is not all gloom and doom at these Homes. Villa Francis Home for the Aged was built to house the aged, impoverished and sick in a more cheerful environment, as these people used to be kept in ad-hoc shelters little better than chicken coops during the 1960s. After moving to its new Yishun premises in 2013, the Home can now accommodate 238 elderly residents, up from 139 residents previously.

A focused and low-intensity rehabilitation programme helps residents regain maximum mobility so that they can return home to live as independently as possible.

There are also tentative plans to expand St Joseph’s Home, from 139 beds to 350 beds. It provides both nursing and palliative care, and is run by the Canossian Sisters, staff and volunteers.

Safe harbour for troubled women and their children
CWS also partners with Marymount Centre who operates the Good Shepherd Centre, a half-way house for women who are ex-drug addicts and ex-prisoners, as well as victims of domestic violence and abuse, with no place to go. Good Shepherd offers healing and hope, and shares with them the love and compassion of Jesus Christ.

Former resident Lizada shared, “I thank God for sending me to the Good Shepherd Centre, where I received so much love, care and respect… they turned my nightmare into a miracle.”

For youths at risk and the intellectually disabled
CWS-BT YouthReach, a joint outreach with Boys’ Town, reaches out to youths at risk through street outreach and a drop-in centre.

And for adults with intellectual challenges, Hearts@Work provides vocational training and employment opportunities, to empower them to live and work independently to their highest potential.

CWS’ Leadership Role
Former CWS Chairman Brother Emmanuel SG said: “We have been in discussion with Caritas Singapore on CWS involvement at the proposed Agape Village, where Catholic charities will offer social services to those in need.”

Scheduled to open in 2015, Agape Village, spread over 4,200 sq m of space in Toa Payoh, will physically house all seven charities and services coordinated by Caritas Singapore, the social arm of the Catholic Church in Singapore, under one roof to enhance their collaboration. Bro Emmanuel said that CWS will take on the role of lead case manager.

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The Methodist Message seeks to raise awareness of the spectrum of needs, healthcare and social welfare services that are available in Singapore run by various faith-based organisations. In this issue, we start with a feature on the “action arm” of the Catholic Church in Singapore.

Picture courtesy of Catholic Welfare Services

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Chia Hui Jun is Editorial Executive with the Methodist Message. She worships at Foochow Methodist Church.