Connecting local responses around the world
Despite their seemingly negative view of the situation 12 mothers showed up at a meeting to explore how they may assist these children. We were pleased with the turnout and began by reiterating the purpose of the meeting. However, despite everyone nodding in understanding, it did not take long for the group to start complaining about the children in the manner they usually did. We gathered that they feared approaching these children as different people shared how their attempts to do so failed. Some also feared that the children’s family would accuse them of interfering in their family matters. Neighbour relationships would sour and that would make their daily lives very unpleasant.
Thankfully, 2 single mothers who were sisters joined the meeting. They were late as they had come from work and after listening for a few minutes; one of them said “You are talking wrongly to these children. They are fighting you because you are scolding them.” It was tensed moment and we quickly intervened, “I am not sure if I understand you. Perhaps you could say more.” This person then shared her view that these children probably needed adults to treat them well. The fact that they are out of their home probably means that they do not talk to their care-givers very much. She was sure that if an adult spoke to them nicely, they would respond positively.
That changed the mood of the meeting and people started talking about the importance of healthy social and recreational activities for the children. We listed the activities on the board and helped them narrow it down to a “Family Day” as the first thing they wanted to do. We then got the meeting to schedule a date and we introduced a project management framework where they had to think through the necessary actions needed to make the project happen within different deadlines. The people listened attentively as the discussions progressed but we were fearful that we may be overwhelming or intimidating them and so we quickly said that we should just focus on the next step which was to let the children know of our plans and we will meet after that.
It was decided that the mother who spoke up for the children was the natural choice to approach the children and after setting the deadline for her to do so, we ended the meeting. Over refreshments, we got people to exchange phone numbers. We also shared how impressed we were by their concern for their children and thanked them for allowing us to be part of their plans.
After 3 months of shared responsibility with this group of mothers, we succeeded in getting 53 families on a weekend stay at a hotel. 83 care-givers and 170 children enjoyed a rare “staycation” where they got to know each other better. The families checked-in on Friday and various activities were held to get people talking, playing and basically mixing with each other. On Sunday morning, an elderly lady who had felt threatened by the children told us that the “children are not so bad after all. They served me during meals and they actually sing quite well.” The comment from this lady assured us that we were on the right track.
Responses to the Discussion Points
Possible and Probable Social Service Interventions in Singapore
2. As an organisation guided by the helping principles below, what indeed can be an alternative to calling the authorities and sending the children to an institution?
We utilised the community development approach which assumes that for any serious and sustainable change to occur, help must come from within the community—individuals, family members and wider communities. This is because an activated community is more in touch with the complexity of family situations and cultures, and can do more than prescribe standardized treatments based on typical diagnoses.
In the situation presented, we reframed the community's grouses into concern for the children involved and harnessed the goodwill into efforts that reshape the community as a whole to include children/youth that were marginalized.
3. What possible working frameworks could guide you in such a situation? Explain the advantages of doing so.
We adopt the Community Life Competence Process advocated by the Constellation, a network of facilitators who focus helping people gain competence in addressing issues troubling their community. More information is on this link http://www.communitylifecompetence.org/en/8-community-life-competen...
As such we believe that the main ingredient for any social programme to succeed is that its intended participants must have a genuine stake in its success. We call this the “local response.” To nurture and continually strengthen the local response we employ the SALT process which is a format for a strengths-based approach. Below is how the Constellation describes SALT
When facilitators meet with communities they look for their strengths. They do not start from their weaknesses. We call SALT our mode of interaction with communities.
S : stands for Stimulate, Support
A : stands for Appreciate
L : stands for Listen, Learn and Link
T : stands for Transfer, Team