PART 5: THE SOCIAL SERVICES MINISTRY OF THE METHODIST WELFARE SERVCICES
Esther Chai sees her role as Programme Coordinator at iConnect Student Care as a partner in raising pupils with a deep sense of values.
‘I HAD been living a very active life when I was single. When I got married and gave birth to a daughter, God gave me the opportunity to work with children and youth.
I am grateful to God for the opportunity to work with families, youth and children for the past 12 years in the Methodist Welfare Services (MWS).
The past seven years were with iConnect Student Care and my responsibilities include assisting in planning for the centre’s programmes, supervising the children and running the activities. I also liaise with the children’s parents to get to know the families well and help the children better.
Fifty to sixty-five per cent of our students’ fees at the centre are subsidised by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS). Some of these subsidised cases are also recipients of additional help with centre fees from our partner church, Toa Payoh Methodist Church. That clearly reflects that most of the students come from low-income families with very little supervision at home.
Many of the students are referred to us for guidance by the school. Some of them are referrals by the neighbourhood. We work closely with the school regarding the children’s behaviour and homework. As a team at iConnect, I hope we will continue to make a great impact on the students’ lives.
Working in the centre has its ups and downs and is not always smooth sailing. We have students with serious behavioural problems such as truancy and lack of respect for the teachers.
One of the boys, who enjoyed playing with friends, felt that he was forced by his parents and school to come to the centre. He often played truant and went “missing”. As a result, one of the teachers had to go and look for him, just like the “Good Shepherd who left the 99 sheep to look for the lost one”.
Of course there were children who gave us many happy moments. Some of the children were very appreciative of our efforts that they came back to thank us and bought cakes for us, even after they had grown up and left the centre.
Being a part-time worker at the centre, I am able to spend time with my daughter as well as contribute to the centre. What invaluable lessons I learn from the centre I can impart to my daughter and vice versa.
I wish the centre will have the financial means and capability to employ another staff because of the long hours of operation and personal attention required from children from families with multiple issues and difficulties.
When I have a bad day, I always remember two Bible verses “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice.”
Philippians 4:4 and “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” Colossians 3:23.’
iConnect Student Care @ First Toa Payoh Primary School is a community outreach of the Methodist Welfare Services and Toa Payoh Methodist Church.
Address: 7 Lorong 8, Toa Payoh, Singapore 319252. Tel: 6352-5996, Fax: 6252-5321.
The MWS needs your support to continue to assist disadvantaged children and distressed families. In the financial year ended 31 March 2007, some 5,500 at-risk children and youth, families, frail elderly, terminally ill and destitute persons were served monthly by the MWS.