In celebration of International Women’s Day in March, Methodist Welfare Services (MWS) takes a look behind the scenes of our work with young women at Residence@St. George’s (RSG), one of our newer centres. Launched in April 2012, RSG houses and rehabilitates young female offenders between 16 and 21 years old. It is a joint ministry of the General Conference Women’s Society of Christian Service (GC WSCS) and MWS.
Ms Joon Fum-Ko, Trinity Annual Conference Women’s Society of Christian Service: “These girls are like our daughters, precious in God’s eyes and waiting to be polished into shining diamonds.”
RSG Centre Governance Committee (CGC) Chairman Ms Lydia Sng and CGC member Ms Joon Fum-Ko are some of the key women involved. Lydia is a founding member of Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church, and Joon also serves as Outreach and Social Coordinator in the Trinity Annual Conference Women’s Society of Christian Service (TRAC WSCS).
They shared their vision of RSG as a place for breakthroughs and second chances, and how they are working towards fulfilling the potential of every young woman who steps into RSG.
The RSG CGC was certain at the beginning what they did NOT want RSG to be. Lydia recounted: “When we were asked to take on the role of CGC to set up a new half-way house for young female offenders under court order, we were very clear that we didn’t want a high-security place with regimented programmes.
“Our vision is to build a nurturing place where our girls can experience love and warmth in a home-like environment as we help them to rebuild their lives and boost their self-worth.”
In the past year, RSG has faced a myriad of challenges, including staffing issues and operational hiccups. Nevertheless, Head of RSG, Ms Sujeeta Menon, shared that staff strength has grown from 9 to 12 at the centre, which also receives support from around 40 volunteers. The centre can accommodate up to 30 residents at any one time. It has served 23 clients so far.
Several strong, passionate women from the GC WSCS serve as the backbone of RSG. Being in the CGC, they provide oversight of the hostel on behalf of MWS.
The team of dedicated RSG staff have created a holistic developmental framework, which includes support programmes, mentorship, tuition and counselling, aimed at equipping and empowering the girls to break free from their troubled past and start anew, staying true to its motto of being a haven for growth and transformation.
Lydia: “Give them the chance, this respite, to reflect and find their own feet again.”
Joon shares that “we hope that every one of them will experience truth, self-reflection and restoration, and ultimately better re-integration with their families and society.” She adds: “Helping the girls get back into mainstream education is key, as acquiring specific skill sets can lead to meaningful employment.”
Looking into the stories of each young resident, it is not difficult to see common themes: trauma, abuse, hardship, rebellion, crime, falling through the cracks, and ultimately, a desire for redemption, normalcy and success on their own terms.
Joon elaborates: “They have been thrust into disadvantaged positions due to challenging life circumstances and home environments. We need to give them the best chances of getting the most out of their lives.” She continues: “To reach their full potential, they need to have our utmost love and support.”
Lydia stresses: “Our God-given purpose is to help. Everyone is different and the journey of transformation is not easy, but if we can get every girl to be mentored by a female Methodist, each girl can be transformed like a butterfly.”
Lydia is appealing to fellow Methodists to support the girls by becoming mentors or running rofessional or personal development programmes for them. Alternatively, Methodists could donate to fund operations or sponsor continuing education for the girls.
Reflecting on her personal journey with RSG, Lydia said: “Before this, I had never met anyone like these girls, so it was a real eye-opener for me. Being involved in RSG has made me more acutely aware that we are truly blessed. So we must reach out to bless others.”
Joon: “My prayer is that our girls can find their true worth in God and be the women that God wanted them to be.”
HELP Residence@St. George’s by: * VOLUNTEERING – email firstname.lastname@example.org *DONATING – visit www.mws.org. sg/Dispatcher?action=DonorHelp Find out how you can contribute to the work of MWS – call Ms Bernadette Sandra at 6478-4709 or email email@example.com
Picture courtesy of Methodist Welfare Services
Adeline Huang is an Executive (Communications and Fundraising) at Methodist Welfare Services, and worships at Christ Methodist Church.