“Our greatest strength as a people comes from the gifts of caring, aware communities and neighbourhoods.” – Frances Strickland, educational psychologist and former First Lady of Ohio
Last Friday, 26 mothers with 21 children in tow squeezed into our classroom to listen to 7 representatives from a volunteer group who call themselves Sincere Hope. The group comprises 13 parents residing in Jalan Bukit Merah who despite their personal challenges decided to care for their neighbours especially older persons and large families. About SINCERE HOPE
The group oversees educational and recreational programmes and redistributes food that they have convinced supermarkets, cafes and other well-wishers to donate. They have also made it a practice to engage their Member of Parliament and government grassroots leaders in a manner that builds mutual trust. “At first, we were quite scared to talk to our MP, so we showed him photos of our children having their tuition at the hawker centre. We were so happy that he allowed us to move the tuition programme into the Residents’ Committee Centre.” This mother elaborated that the MP’s positive response boosted their confidence tremendously and now when the opportunity arises, they discuss the goals they have for their neighbourhood with those in authority.
When asked how they managed to do so much voluntary work when they had challenges of their own, one shared that it was the mutual love and support members had for each other that gave her strength. “It was not always smooth. Once I had too many problems at home and so I stopped volunteering for a month. My group members always asked me if I was ok and when I came back they cheered!” She then added, “It is because we fully understand what it means to have problems, so we don’t blame each other but accept that sometimes people have energy and sometimes we don’t. ”
Those listening were inspired and told the group that they were very proud of them. They then met in their respective neighbourhood groups and started discussing how they could improve things in their own neighbourhoods.
As social work is about helping people to help themselves, it is often said that we should be working ourselves out of a job. Building competent communities is our way of doing this and these would be neighbourhoods where people own their challenges and act on them. To this end the first mindset shift for all of us is that having a challenge, or a problem does not make us incompetent. The folks from Sincere Hope have shown this to be true.
Enjoy your weekend.
“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
― Paulo Coelho