"Let the children lead the way and break down barriers that adults often erect, allowing them to grow and thrive in a world beyond their current circumstances."
These are words the Singapore Red Cross Community Resilience Department live by in their mission to empower underprivileged children and address intergenerational poverty.
Efforts focus on community outreach, from tuition and enrichment programmes to custom care packages. Recently, the organisation has been working to adopt a more outward-looking approach that would expose the children to different opportunities.
Selene Ong, who runs the department and the Young Hearts programme under it, explained, "I think one way to break intergenerational poverty is social mixing and giving children the opportunity to see different facets of life."
Selene and her team work hand in hand with the Yishun community to organise various outings such as camping and kayak and clean up. These events integrate children of all walks of life and supplement the traditional resource provision approach.
Twelve-year-old Aliyah, who participated in a camp, shared, "Meeting more children my age has made me more confident and sociable."
Besides widening their circles, the children spoke about the guidance they receive throughout the programme. Fifteen-year-old Ryaihan expressed his gratitude for the teachers, mentors and volunteers who believed in him when no one else did. He also shared that their character struck a chord with him, adding that he learnt the importance of role modelling for his younger peers and looking after his parents.
Academics is another domain in which these children reported seeing huge leaps. Eleven-year-old Elfie proudly shared that his mastery in mathematics has improved drastically. Likewise, Thirshaa and Al'manda, both 12, were previously diffident because of their poor grasp of English but now speak with eloquence. They are also now more confident in their preparations for the Primary School Leaving Examination.
Highlighting the transformative power of a sense of home for these children, Selene shares that some initially perceived as troublemakers can flourish when given the necessary support and guidance. Over time, these once-troubled kids have become volunteers and emerged as leaders in their own right — a testament that the programme helps to develop the potential within each child.
Source: Nee Soon News Issue 42
Inspired? Join us as a volunteer.
Find out more about Red Cross Young Hearts.