BRENDA IS NINE YEARS OLD and has diﬃculties learning and making friends. She gets scolded in class frequently for not paying attention during lessons. Often, she turns in homework that is incomplete and badly done.
In spite of her hard work, she has been failing academically since Primary 1. Her parents wonder why, despite school remediation and intensive tutoring, her grades have not been improving.
Brenda represents the profile of some of the children at D’Joy Children’s Centre who have trouble learning and come from disadvantaged families. Their parents are unable to help them with schoolwork as they themselves had little formal education.
To top it oﬀ, the family income is barely enough to cover their daily necessities, so they cannot aﬀord to pay for extras, such as tuition. Many of these parents are also unaware that their children have learning disabilities and need specialist support in order to cope better academically.
At least 16 per cent of the children in D’Joy are caught in this “double whammy” situation, where they struggle academically but are unable to receive specialist help because of their family’s social situation.
Addressing the community’s needs
The majority of D’Joy children reflect the community in which the centre is situated: a mature estate of predominantly low-income home dwellers. Close to a third of those staying in one- or two-room rental flats did not earn an income and at least 50 per cent earned below $2,000, according to the Housing Development Board Sample Household Survey, 2008.
Due to the social profile of its clients, monthly fees at D’Joy have stayed low for many years. e monthly fee has remained at $460.10 inclusive of GST, before subsidies by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and Community Development Councils.
This is one of the main reasons needy families are referred to D’Joy by grassroots and voluntary welfare organisations, such as Kelantan Residents’ Committee, Kampong Kapor Family Service Centre (KKFSC), MSF and Beyond Social Services. e aﬀordable fees also make the centre popular to foreign families who are unable to aﬀord the higher charges of other centres.
Through its partner church, Hinghwa Methodist Church (HMC), D’Joy also gives financial assistance to low-income families in addition to the subsidies received from the government. is greatly reduces the fees families have to fork out for their children.
Besides those with learning diﬃculties, D’Joy also supports children with socio-emotional issues by working with social workers from KKFSC, where they are assessed and enrolled in special programmes recommended by their caseworkers.
With support from a donor, D’Joy also provides intensive tutoring to primary school children who have been failing or receiving borderline grades. More recently, the Dyslexia Association of Singapore has oﬀered free assessment and intervention to several struggling learners in preschool, to prepare them for primary school.
Through the generosity of another Methodist Welfare Services (MWS) supporter, enrichment programmes in the performing arts, such as speech and drama and dance, have been provided for the past two years. Subsidised clients have enjoyed these for free while full-paying children only needed to top up a small sum.
Through such programmes, D’Joy has been able to provide opportunities for the children’s all-round development, including academics, values formation and performing arts.
Cost of support
Half of D’Joy’s children in both the student-care centre and preschool are receiving government subsidy, and the profit from full-paying families is marginal. e support made available to needy families means that the centre’s budget is usually tight. The centre’s location – a very old building – means that the cost of maintaining the premises is high. These and other issues have contributed to D’Joy’s financial diﬃculties through the years.
However, deeply mindful of the community’s need for the centre, MWS and the centre’s partnering church HMC are determined to keep D’Joy running. Mr Yap Chee Heng, Chairman of HMC’s Social Concerns Committee and Chairman of D’Joy’s Governance Committee, said: “Many of the children come from broken homes, are children of divorcees, children born out of wedlock … Many are unable to pay their fees. Hinghwa Methodist Church would like to continue helping them.”
With Christmastide just around the corner, please keep D’Joy Children’s Centre in your hearts and in your prayers.
Mel Diamse-Lee is the Senior Executive (Service Planning & Development) of Methodist Welfare Services.