Outreach, Welfare

Foochow MC and MWS to set up Boys’ Centre

HE USED TO LEAD HIS PEERS in fights with students from neighbouring schools. But Mr Henry Soh, the former “rascal” of his primary school, is now part of a pilot scheme to establish a holistic, pre-emptive program for 10- to 12-year-old boys who are at risk of falling into delinquency.

Mr Soh, the Chairman of the Social Concerns and Outreach Committee in Foochow Methodist Church (FMC), has always had a passion and mission to actively aid the immediate community in the church’s neighbourhood, by helping to transform and redirect at-risk boys. He has been counselling preteens and teenagers and reconciling them with their parents in his personal capacity. Now, he can do more.

A Memorandum of Understanding was recently signed by Methodist Welfare Services (MWS) and FMC, setting the wheels in motion to launch a Boys’ Centre in the Moulmein District, targeted to commence operations in the second quarter of 2013.

The Boys’ Centre will offer mentoring and academic help for an initial group of 15 boys from Farrer Park Primary School. FMC’s location at the heart of one of the less affluent neighbourhoods in Singapore places them at a strategic vantage point to reach out to children and youth from dysfunctional and lower-income families, who are more at risk of falling into youth delinquency.

This centre is set up to tackle teenage delinquency pre-emptively, a vital initiative addressing the root causes of vulnerability and upstream issues with prevention and early intervention, which were affirmed by Acting Minister for Social and Family Development, Mr Chan Chun Sing, in Parliament last September.

Mrs Lee Siew Choo, Chairman of the Boys’ Centre Governance Committee, agrees with Mr Soh (who is also on the Governance Committee) that prevention and early intervention work at the centre during the period between Primary Four to Six is a key factor.

Mrs Lee noted that keeping the children from negative influences and training them to form long-term positive habits and traits would be more effective in the long run if intervention and the education of good values began at a younger age, before the children move on into Secondary School.

There are long-term plans to reach further afield, beyond the Farrer Park area, to communities in Bendemeer and Balestier, while also taking on referrals from the Ministry of Social and Family Development in the future.

Mr Guan Yeow Kwang, Chairman of FMC’s Local Church Executive Committee, said that FMC decided to focus on boys because statistics showed that more boys are at risk of entering a life of crime.

Programme plans include a comprehensive variety of activities to mould character, raise self-esteem, find talent and develop skills. These may be community service excursions, camps, humanitarian projects, sports, musical and performing arts, IT, and culinary training. There will be multiple opportunities for parental involvement, family interaction and bonding, which is part of the solution to the problem of troubled youth.

Mr Guan highlighted: “For the programme to be effective it will have to be a tripartite partnership between the centre, the school and the parents of these kids. Only by working together can we positively influence these children and help them build a firm foundation for life.”

Mrs Jenny Bong, Group Executive Director of MWS, said that the Boys’ Centre will be an essential service to the Moulmein neighbourhood. “We are constantly on the lookout to bridge gaps in services to those who need them. With this centre, we can help more boys stay off the path to delinquency, rather than intervene later when they are already in that lifestyle.”

With all the plans drawn up and ready to roll out, the only remaining need is a suitable location in the Farrer Park vicinity to serve as the centre’s base of operations. FMC also seeks volunteers to serve in the Boys’ Centre as academic tutors, youth mentors, and parenting and grand-parenting role models.

If you would like to contribute to the Boys’ Centre by donating or volunteering, please write in to Methodist Welfare Services at 70 Barker Road #05-01 Singapore 309936 or volunteer@mws.org.sg

Above picture caption: Mr Henry Soh , Chairman of the Social Concerns and Outreach Committee in Foochow Methodist Church, and Mrs Lee Siew Choo, Chairman of the Boys’ Centre Governance Committee, discussing the merits of a potential location for the centre. – MWS picture.

Adeline Huang is the Executive (Communications & Fundraising) of Methodist Welfare Services.