Features, Highlights

More than 15,000 visits to distribute $1.8m to the needy

MCS 125th Anniversary Community Outreach Project round-up

AT THE END OF THIS YEAR, one of the largest initiatives involving all the Methodist churches in Singapore will draw to a close. e 125 th Anniversary Community Outreach Project of e Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS), which was launched in February 2010, has blessed more than 1,000 families with $1.8 million and more than 15,000 visitations.

The project identified the “chronically poor” as those in the bottom 10 per cent of the socio-economic ladder, with a monthly per-capita income of $350 or below with nil or minimal savings, and staying in one-, two- or three-room rental flats. Each family received $125 every month through committed Methodist befrienders.

The MCS had initially wanted to bless 800 families but overwhelming response through donations allowed for more chronically-poor families to receive financial assistance. Eventually, more than 1,000 needy families were helped. To date, about $1.8 million has been raised and distributed. In fact, the duration of the financial aid was even extended to most of the families for another five months.

Profile of chronically-poor families and individuals helped

Befriending families with multiple needs
The families who received help are disadvantaged in many ways. Many of the adults have chronic illnesses, low-paying jobs and very little social or family support. Some of the children and adults are mentally ill or disabled.

Through befriending the families, Methodists were able to witness the hardships and struggles they faced. Empathising with their suffering and difficulties, the Methodist befrienders valiantly walked beside them, encouraging them through their friendship, support and time, month after month.

Ms Evelyn Lee from Toa Payoh Methodist Church has established a warm relationship with the couple she visits. She said: “We talk about everyday problems, and I try to comfort them and advise them to stop worrying so much about their children.”

Mr Ling Sing Chai from Foochow Methodist Church was befriender to a couple with a son, living in a rental flat. Only the wife is working, as a cleaner, and the husband was in ill health, getting in and out of hospital frequently.

“This family is in great need of financial help. e wife often shares about her husband’s health, and I encouraged her to talk to a medical social worker. Sometimes, I would buy food and fruits for them,” said Mr Ling.

Others, like Mr Lim Hee Chang from Toa Payoh Chinese Methodist Church, have invited families to activities outside their homes. “Last Christmas, my church had a celebration and I invited a family to take part in the festivities,” he said. ere were other befrienders who invited the beneficiaries to their homes for the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Many befrienders were also inspired and encouraged by the strength and resilience showed by some of the poor families’ determination to survive despite their dire circumstances.

Helping beyond the project
When the Methodist Welfare Services (MWS) was approached by the MCS to embark on the project, it saw poverty mainly as a lack of sufficient financial resources to purchase essential goods and services such as food and housing, and the social isolation of the poor from their families and the community. What began as a one-year assistance programme will progress into a long-term and sustainable effort to help the chronically poor.

For these individuals and families who suffer from chronic poverty, they face formidable challenges to achieve self-reliance within the current system of social assistance. Consequently, additional help should be rendered to these families to alleviate their hardship. e MWS will be rolling out a programme which will offer financial assistance to families, provide educational help to school-going children and maintain social and emotional support from befrienders.

Even though improving the quality of life of the chronically poor is a constant work in progress, having taken a big step towards it is certainly an encouragement for the Methodist community.

Mr Anthony Yeo, a befriender from Living Hope Methodist Church, believes that it is good enough that “we can be a visible presence to them”.

Another befriender, Mr Michael Chung from Christ Methodist Church, added: “As Methodists, we want to show the love of God without any conditions. By giving time to help the chronically-poor, we in turn will be able to experience God’s blessing too.”

CAC Social Concerns Day
On Sept 3 this year, the Chinese Annual Conference (CAC), together with the MWS, organised a carnival day for the chronically-poor families and their befrienders at Anglo-Chinese Junior College. More than 1,000 people took part in the activities which included eye screenings, health talks and fun activities for the children. e families were presented with food vouchers and enjoyed a delicious lunch. Bishop Dr Robert Solomon, the Presidents of the three Annual Conferences and Mr Christopher De Souza, a Member of Parliament for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, were also present.

Mr Gan Kok Beng, Vice-Chairman of the CAC Board of Social Concerns and a board member of the MWS, said:

“We wanted to reach out to show our Christian love to the poor and the needy and be in touch with them.”

It was indeed a fitting conclusion to the project that has galvanised the entire Methodist family into action, living out the great commandment that our Lord had given us 2,000 years ago to “love our neighbour as ourselves”.

All the 44 Methodist churches and two preaching points have been committed partners in the project. We thank God for the church members’ generosity and time.

Michelle Tan is the Senior Executive (Communications) of the Methodist Welfare Services.