Outreach, Welfare

Residence@St. George’s turns one

A FEW YEARS AGO, Anita’s* life was all about smoking, drinking, clubbing and gambling. Desperation for money and pressure from her ex-boyfriend led her to theft, for which she was convicted and sent to Residence@St. George’s (RSG). RSG is a girls’ hostel jointly run by Methodist Welfare Services (MWS) and the General Conference Women’s Society of Christian Service (GC WSCS).

Now 20 years old, Anita writes about her rehabilitation: “Under hostel probation here at RSG, I reflected on all that I did and learnt a lot of good values. I have set realistic goals for myself; I will continue studying for my diploma in multimedia and infocommunications technology, and work part-time at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

“I am working towards being successful in life. I want to look after my parents. After all the trouble I have caused them, I believe the least I can do is to make them proud of me.”

Such stories are not uncommon to RSG as it accepts girls between the ages of 16 and 21 who are mandated by the courts as part of the Probation Order, or are referred for voluntary admission by voluntary welfare agencies or parents.

RSG’s mission is to provide a safe and nurturing environment where young offenders can undergo positive transformation and character development through a wide range of activities, including mentoring, sports, workshops, and group therapy.

This holistic and therapeutic approach towards rehabilitation focuses on facilitating emotional and psychological healing to build well-being, competence, and confidence. Ultimately, the aim is to help the residents re-integrate into society and bond with their families again.

Since opening in April 2012, RSG has had 12 residents, with three already discharged.

The holistic nurturing environment would not have been possible without the work and generosity of many hands. Ms Sujeeta Menon, Head of RSG, expresses gratitude for gifts received in this first year of operations: “We have seen the hand of God over this residence. From donations of needed items to the volunteers sent to us, we acknowledge God’s work here. We are blessed with many talented volunteers.”

A total of 44 volunteers contribute regularly and frequently, in a range of different ways. On a weekly basis, this includes conducting art and music classes, engaging in sports, devotional or Bible-study sessions, and mentoring.

A noteworthy example: Volunteer Namiko Chan, who runs the Ka Lei Maile Hi’ilani Hawaiian Hula Dance School, taught the RSG girls “Worship Hula” dance weekly over the course of three months, culminating in three public and private dance performances so far – in Orchard Road’s Christmas Celebrations, at Bethany Methodist Nursing Home, and at the GC WSCS Thanksgiving Service.

A total of 60 counselling sessions, 60 mentoring sessions, 20 Art Therapy sessions, and 15 Family Bonding sessions have been conducted over the past year. In their first month there, the residents undergo four value education classes and two group-work activities on a weekly basis.

Ms Sujeeta also praises the resilience of her staff and their commitment to
an exhaustively comprehensive reform programme for RSG’s residents. She enthuses: “We are blessed with passionate young staff willing to go the extra mile to see a life transformed!”

Still, RSG experiences many challenges daily and will continue to face them in days to come. Ms Sujeeta shares: “The girls who come to us have had many negative mindset-shaping or value-shaping experiences in their lives.

“It takes a lot of coaching, therapy and healthy lifestyle engagement to steer them away from societal pressures and teach them new coping methods to deal with their stressors. Separation anxiety, distress, and extreme emotional ups and downs are common.

“This tumultuous journey has been a real test for our staff, to be able to contain their emotions and provide a supportive environment.”

RSG Welfare Executive Jolynn Ang concurs: “Working in RSG has been a trying but fulfilling experience. Since I joined RSG, I’ve had the privilege of working with residents who come from many different backgrounds. And it is extremely rewarding to observe their changes and progress during their stay here.

“This job requires a lot of patience as well as self-control. We have to learn to regulate emotions and maintain our sense of integrity. That being said, I’m glad I had an opportunity to be part of the RSG family and to contribute to the girls’ lives.”

As the hostel’s capacity is 30 girls, RSG will be looking for additional staff, financial resources, volunteer and community support to support the hostel’s programme. If you would like to support RSG, please email admin@stgeorges. mws.org.sg or call 6391-0567 for more information about opportunities.

*Not her real name.

DONATE * To RSG, making your cheque payable to “Methodist Welfare Services” (indicating RSG at the back of the cheque). Include your full name, mailing address and NRIC number for us to issue a tax-exempt receipt. As MWS is an Institution of Public Character, your donations are eligible for 2.5 times tax exemption.

RSG residents from the pioneer batch collaborating on a hand-painted mural at the hostel entrance, marking it as “A haven for growth and transformation”. – Methodist Welfare Services picture.
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Adeline Huang is an Executive (Communications and Fundraising) at Methodist Welfare Services.