Connecting local responses around the world
A 15 year old girl, whom we will call Nancy, came by to our office in her school uniform this afternoon looking rather cheerful. It was her way of saying thank you and letting us know that all is well with her. Last December, she was ordered to spend 2 weeks confined at the Singapore Girls Home as a slap on the wrist for breaching her supervision order. The judge told her that it could have been 18 months if not for her voluntary work which we described in our report.
Since birth, Nancy has been in the care of her grandparents. Four years ago, her grandfather who was the main breadwinner had to stop working because of health reasons. Making ends meet on grandmother’s income as a part-time cleaner was difficult and Nancy told us that she disliked the sombre mood at home and listening to the worries of her grandparents. Nonetheless, she remained respectful to her grandparents but experienced a sense of loneliness that got stronger day by day. Unfortunately, in her quest for companionship she found herself with a substance abuse habit and a string of offences that felt like a rope around her neck.
Nancy told us that once she got caught by the police, she felt even lonelier as no one seemed to believe that she was sorry or would like to make amends. Hence, it was not long before she was up to her nonsense and down in the dock. Breaching a supervision order is serious and even Nancy was resigned to being institutionalised. However, we proceeded to draw up a care and supervision plan that we could propose to the Court. We figured that it was the least we could do to impress on Nancy that there were people who cared for her. Three mothers from her neighbourhood responded to our invitation to discuss the matter with her grandparents and her. During the meeting, Nancy spoke honestly about her loneliness and struggles. She suggested getting a job to increase the family income but all the adults insisted that she remained in school. Her neighbours then offered to assist her grandparents with their household chores and created a schedule for Nancy to spend time with their families.
We have always known Nancy as someone who enjoyed helping out with the activities in her neighbourhood. Volunteering gave her a sense of purpose, an opportunity to exercise leadership and to be connected with others. We are glad that judge took the chance of allowing Nancy to continue being an active member of her neighbourhood; taking the view that integration is better rehabilitation that isolation.
“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.” – Johann Hari