WITH MANY YOUNG SINGAPOREAN FAMILIES setting up their first homes in the Punggol and Sengkang estates, the Rev Jasper Sim of Changi Methodist Church saw a valuable opportunity to address a social service gap in the northeast region.
“The church leaders and I prayed for more than a month as we felt God calling us to serve the Punggol community. We realised that there were many young and multi-generational families living there. As a new estate, there was little infrastructure to reach out and help these families,” said the Rev Sim.
It was from a church governance briefing that he learnt about the Methodist Welfare Services’ (MWS) partnership with Wesley Methodist Church to set up Wesley Seniors Activity Centre. He then decided to approach the MWS to assist him in realising the plan to strengthen family ties in the area.
In May 2011, FamilyWorks Community Services (FamilyWorks), a community outreach of the MWS and Changi Methodist Church, was born.
Raring to go
The Rev Sim and FamilyWorks’ new Community Development Manager, Mr Irman Halim, wasted no time in approaching neighbourhood schools to share their services. One of the schools they work closely with is Greendale Primary School. e school management and counsellor are supportive of their work.
In collaboration with the school’s fathers’ support group, FamilyWorks has organised two events at the school premises within two months. One was a movie screening of “Megamind”, an animated film, and the other was a two-day camp just for fathers and their child.
The movie screening doubled up as a soft launch for this new community service. “The response was overwhelming as we had more than 500 people there. We had the opportunity to meet all the school counsellors in Punggol, listen to their needs and share about FamilyWorks with them,” said the Rev Sim.
The father-child camp took place during the June school holidays. In addition to having fun and games, the Rev Sim and Mr Irman organised and conducted a series of enriching activities like a talk on resilience and a handicraft workshop. Fathers and children also pitched tents and set up a campfire at night, creating an authentic camping experience especially for the children.
“It was a good experience camping and rock-climbing with my daughter. We get to rough it out together, which is good as children these days are more sheltered,” said Mr Din, a father who participated in the camp with Camylia, his eight-year-old daughter.
Mr Murtuza said: “The camp was very enriching and not only did I learn new things about parenting, I got to know my son better too. For example, I had no idea that he was so agile and could climb, until he took part in the rock-climbing session. Now I know what he likes and dislikes, and what he enjoys doing, so I can further develop his interests.”
At the MWS, our family service centres (FSCs) are active proponents of fathers taking on a more proactive parenting role. When parents have diﬃculties managing their children, our social workers and counsellors would often encourage the fathers to be more involved, while emphasising the importance of spending quality time with one another.
Hence, our four FSCs – Covenant, Daybreak, Sembawang and Tampines – regularly organise community events and outings for families to get together.
Mr Frankie Tan, a representative of Greendale Primary School’s fathers’ support group, felt that it was beneficial to see fathers coming together. “When they are taking part in activities together, it is more impactful, and there is a platform for them to share their issues with one another. It is very encouraging to see how other fathers cope too.”
A welcome partner to schools
According to Mr Tan, large-scale activities like the father-child camp
would not have been possible without FamilyWorks. He said: “The fathers’ group had organised some sleepovers with our kids at the school before but they were unlike this camp. We don’t have the financial resources and manpower.”
Many of the volunteers came from Changi Methodist Church. Members oversaw the BBQ for more than 200 people. “There was such a strong unity and synergy among the volunteers!” the Rev Sim enthused.
These highly-successful events have further encouraged him and his team to push on and work closer with schools.
Upcoming plans for FamilyWorks include a relaxing day out with single parents and a parenting conference that will be open to the public.
The Rev Sim also hopes to engage youth and raise a spirit of volunteerism in schools. “Some of the key issues we hope to address are the support system for single parents, and helping the poor and the needy,” he said.
Mrs Jenny Bong, the MWS Group Executive Director, is glad about the positive launch of the MWS’ latest partnership with a Methodist church. “We have more to give when we can combine our resources found within the Methodist community, harnessing each other’s strengths and capabilities.”
Churches interested in exploring opportunities to serve the community through social services can contact Mr Alvin Goh, Service Planning & Development Manager of the MWS, at AlvinGoh@mws.org.sg
Michelle Tan is the Senior Executive (Communications) of the Methodist Welfare Services.