Outreach, Welfare

Reaching out to the poor in practical ways

Blessing the community as MCS celebrates 125 years of blessing

THE CYCLE OF CHRONIC POVERTY is hard to break due to a multitude of factors, including illness, disabilities and lack of sustained employment.

Getting to know and being involved in the life of a chronically poor person or family will help us to understand their situations. For example, breadwinners are often lowly educated and hence do not have many opportunities or options open to them.

Sometimes they may be perceived as “fussy” if they do not want to take jobs which are far from their homes – but given the low wages of the jobs they are qualified for and the cost of the two-way commute, such jobs do not always make economic sense.

The Methodist Social Principle on serving others with God’s Love states, “We believe that each person has a special gift or talent which can be used for the development of a compassionate society.”

The 125th Anniversary Community Outreach Project of The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) provides us with opportunities for service and outreach. Hopefully through our wide Methodist network, we will also be able to find ways to help meet the needs that are uncovered.

Giving as we are able

If you are able, consider supporting one or more families at $125 a month for 12 months. If not, consider organising fund-raising activities or taking on a challenge (such as running a marathon) and inviting your friends sponsor your efforts. If you are a business owner, you could perhaps run a promotion and donate the proceeds to this project.

Alternatively, consider sacrificing a few meals, shopping sprees or nights out and donating the savings to the project. You could also commit to making monthly donations by interbank GIRO. Whatever the amount, your contribution is a blessing.

What sets the Community Outreach Project apart from other financial help schemes currently available is that it provides an opportunity for us to visit the families every month. rough these regular visits, we can get to know them and their needs and help in whatever ways we can.

You are as unfamiliar to them as they are to you. It will take time and effort for both parties to warm up to each another, and that is why being committed to the 12 monthly visits is important.

Many volunteers share that when they first started, the befriendees did not appear to welcome their presence. It was only by getting to know them that trust was slowly built up.

Dorothy, a Methodist, has been a befriender to a woman for two years. She recalls that it took almost eight months for the relationship to turn from cordial to personal.

Dorothy has also been blessed by her experience. “She inspires me. Her faith inspires us. Despite her condition and not having much, her faith that God will take care of her is so strong.”

What can you do as a befriender?
Befriending is not about excursions and giving treats all the time. It is the quality of time spent together and making the other person feel valued that counts. “We read, share, sing songs, listen to her … our visit is the highlight of the month for her … She will even call to find out if we are visiting that week,” Dorothy said. As a befriender, you can help to relieve the isolation of a lonely elderly person or a family which is marginalised, letting them know that they are not forgotten and there is someone who genuinely cares about them and their well-being.

You can also be a friend by providing a listening and non-judgmental ear, an encourager and possibly a role model or coach for the young, and even help to run errands or accompany the elderly to medical appointments.

All you need is commitment, a willingness to serve and be a little bit thick-skinned. Dorothy said: “I knew I should be doing ‘something’, so when my church appealed for volunteers, I signed up.” She and her group of three others hold full-time jobs. Despite their busy schedules, they are committed to their monthly visits and encourage each other to keep going.

“Just do it,” she said matter of factly, when asked how they manage. “I have a sense of satisfaction at having helped someone. I’ve also got to meet new people and know my church members at a deeper level.”

To prepare volunteers for the outreach, the Service Planning and Development Department of the Methodist Welfare Services (MWS) will be holding briefings from July onwards. Guidelines will be provided and there will also be opportunities for review and feedback throughout the year so that the volunteering experience can be enhanced.

Response forms are available in the Community Outreach brochure, your church office and can also be downloaded from www.methodist.org.sg By Mylene Koh

Mylene Koh is the Manager (Communications) of the Methodist Welfare Services.