The story behind the boarding house

Jul 2015    
Guest-of-honour Mr Lui Chong Chee arriving at Oldham Hall's Thanks Giving Dinner in 2014.

Imagine, at a young age, leaving your friends, family and country – all that is familiar to you – to go to a foreign land to study. What could help you stave off loneliness and homesickness as you grapple with a new culture, new school environment, and possibly new language of instruction?

ACS Oldham Hall, one of two boarding houses in the Methodist family of schools, aims to fill this need and more – it hopes to provide a family atmosphere that nurtures all boarders and staff in their stay here.

Humble beginnings
Did you know that the Anglo-Chinese School (ACS), set up by the Rev William Fitzjames Oldham and his wife on 1 March 1886, was originally a school by day and a boarding school by night for students who needed boarding and lodging facilities?

The Rev Oldham (a gifted teacher) had landed in Singapore on 7 Feb 1885 to establish a Methodist Mission, but immediately saw the need for a young society to be educated and determined to set up a Methodist school instead. A year later, he saw sufficient funds raised to set up ACS in a shop house along Amoy Street.

The ACS school building continued to house missionaries and young boarders until 1888, when boarders were relocated to a separate boarding house in Oldham Lane known as Bellevue, located near to the present Plaza Singapura off Orchard Road.

In 1896, the boarding house was demolished and rebuilt in 1897. In 1902, the boarding house was renamed Oldham Hall in honour of Bishop Oldham.

The following excerpt from an advertisement that appeared in the November 1891 issue of the Malaysia Message sums up ACS and the boarding philosophy of the time:

“The Boarding school is located at Bellevue, in a large and commodious house with extensive grounds, and is under the personal superintendence of the Principal and his wife. Great attention is paid to the morals and the manners of the boys.

“To English lads a home is offered, and to Chinese lads an opportunity to learn a correct accent and facility in expressing themselves in the English language.”

In a book titled The ACS Story edited by Earnest Lau and Peter Teo, the wives of the early missionaries who also stayed in Belluvue all played their part in ensuring that the boarders lived in a “home” that was safe, well-managed and wholesome.

On 14 Dec 1926, Oldham Hall moved to Dunearn House at Barker Road. Since then, it has been rebuilt twice, once in 1985 and most recently in 2001, together with the redevelopment of the ACS (Barker Road) campus.

After the redevelopment, the current Oldham Hall reopened at the end of 2002 as a co-educational boarding house for students from ACS as well as other nearby schools. Oldham Hall also accepts international and foreign students studying in other local schools and international schools. It enjoys close proximity and spiritual affinity with ACS (Barker Road) and Barker Road Methodist Church.

In the same way as it was then and is now, the boarding house ministry is driven by commitment to the vision and mission of Bishop Oldham in taking care of students who come from countries around the region, providing them with a Christian home environment.

ACS Oldham Hall… hopes to provide a family atmosphere that nurtures all boarders and staff in their stay here.

The back-bone of the boarding ministry
Our four-fold mission is to:
1. Provide a family atmosphere that nurtures all boarders and staff.
2. Create a secure and supportive environment so as to facilitate the holistic development of boarders into mature and caring young people who can contribute meaningfully to the local and international community.
3. Affirm all boarders as valued persons with potential in the eyes of God and to care for their well-being in order to support their growth as well-rounded individuals.
4. Impart Christian values and encourage the spiritual growth of all members of the Hall.

Who are our boarders?
Our boarders come from China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Korea, Papua New Guinea, and Australia. All here for education either in government or international schools, they need a “home away from home” – a safe and secure environment so they can focus on their education.

Additionally, Hall-wide events and activities are organised to help students make friends, develop their leadership skills, and learn character traits and values that will stand them in good stead. Volunteer Assistant House Masters and Mistresses (AHMs) who serve in Oldham Hall experience fulfilment as they provide pastoral care to the students and in the process share the word of God with them.

Did you know that you can support Oldham Hall’s ministry?
Oldham Hall needs volunteers who are committed and dedicated to share God’s word with the students.
1. Befriendershelp new boarders adjust to the Singapore culture and assist them during the transition from their home country to multiracial Singapore by bringing them out, having meals together and ensuring that they feel like they belong.
2. Assistant House Masters/ Mistresses (AHMs) assist the House Mistress and Deputy House Mistress in managing and caring for the boarders in the evenings. Lodging and meals will be provided by the Hall for volunteers that become AHMs. Depending on the number of boarders admitted to Oldham Hall, the Hall can accommodate up to 20 plus AHMs to assist in taking care of our boarders’ physical and spiritual well-being.
3. Readers who know of students from other countries studying in Singapore or students coming from abroad to study in Singapore and who need a safe and secure environment can introduce them to Oldham Hall.

Together, we can provide a warm and welcoming family environment to those who have left their homes at an early age to seek education in our land.

Cheering on teammates from different teams in the 2015 Orientation Games.
Winners of talent competition Unleashed 2015 with a judge, Chairman Mr Hugh Yii.

Photos courtesy of ACS Oldham Hall

Susan Ding is the Editor of Methodist Message. She put this article together with valuable input from Mr Terrence Chee, Executive Director of ACS Oldham Hall, and Ms Amanda Lee, Marketing Communications Executive.


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