Social Service: A Thankless Job?

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By Keiran Koh (22S06M)

Many of you might have seen the high-profile crowdfunding campaign for Devdan in August 2021 on Ray of Hope. The toddler was born with Type 2 Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a condition which leads to progressive muscular weakness that eventually impedes breathing and walking. 

The cost of little Devdan’s treatment was a hefty SGD 2.868 million, which was the largest campaign ever launched on Ray of Hope. Thanks to Devdan’s family and friends who actively publicised and shared the campaign, it went viral. Within ten days, 29,000 donors helped the campaign hit its ambitious target and Devdan was able to complete his treatment on 25th September. 

Many of us are familiar with donating to online fundraising campaigns and we feel good being able to use our own pocket money to support a meaningful cause. More often than not, our attention is focused on the beneficiaries and benefactors. However, we tend to overlook the organisations which connect donors with those in need, making helping easier. 

Through the lens of social service organisations, let’s take a walk through their realm of expertise.

Ray of Hope

Ray of Hope (ROH) is a crowdfunding charity that connects people who want to help with those who need help. The ROH promise has two parts: Firstly, that all the beneficiaries are verified by caseworkers to ensure that their needs are genuine and accurately reflected on the campaign page, and secondly, that 100% of the donations goes to the beneficiary. ROH covers the credit card transaction fees, campaign marketing fees and raises funds separately for its own overheads. 

Large-scale campaigns for medical needs, such as Devdan’s, tend to get the most publicity, but are an exception on ROH’s platform. The majority of ROH campaigns are for individuals who need help with living expenses, utilities and necessities for their families. The target goals tend to range from $2,000 to $4,000, to tide the individual or family through a period of difficulty. ROH is often the last port of call for those who have fallen through society’s safety nets, such as migrant workers, foreign spouses, single parents, the elderly and ex-offenders. 

A recent campaign, The Empowering Women Fund, was started by RGS Class of 1991, to support ROH’s female beneficiaries  in commemoration of their 30th year since graduation. The initiative quickly hit its initial goal of $30,000, as word spread amongst alumni. To ensure continued support for female beneficiaries in the future, ROH launched the Empowering Women Giving Circle, now an ongoing public campaign, with the seed money raised and generously contributed by the Class of ‘91.     

It is worth noting that ROH’s work goes far beyond crowdfunding. ROH frontliners also work very closely with beneficiaries and volunteers, and its partnership team forges relationships with ground-up groups, partner organisations and supporters to connect and strengthen the sense of community.

ROH’s frontliners work closely with beneficiaries to understand their needs.

“ROH turns ten in 2022. We have come a long way and we have learned a great deal. The lesson that resonates with me is that there isn’t just one kind of success story. Each takes a different shape and form. Getting through a rough patch or making it through the week, step-by-step, is also a success. We are happy for every client’s success.’’

 – Dr Alicia Altorfer-Ong (Partnership Director at Ray of Hope)

The Salvation Army

True to their core values of compassion, humility and integrity, The Salvation Army serves without discrimination. Its diverse programmes reach out to the marginalised and the most vulnerable of communities, which include isolated migrant workers, inmates and ex-offenders, seniors and at-risk children and youths. 

Depending on the different causes, TSA would then establish care centres and programmes to address the need accordingly. For instance, there are currently around 1,200 children and youths in Singapore who are separated from their natural parents due to various circumstances. Guided by the belief that families are meant to be together, TSA works to bring about family reconciliation through its centres and programmes. 

One such example would be Gracehaven—a residential home for children and youths who are either in need of protection or require rehabilitation. Through individualised programmes and trained social workers, the children and youths are provided with the help most suited to their needs, with counselling sessions and recreational activities held at the home for these individuals. Over and above the priority of engaging these children and youths would be the family work of reunifying them with their families as early as possible.    

While most members of the public would often think of orphanages and children’s homes as being the best means of protecting abandoned and at-risk children and youths, The Salvation Army is committed to its belief that children and youths are better raised in a family environment instead. On the non-residential front, Gracehaven works closely with the Ministry of Social and Family Development as a fostering agency to recruit foster families to provide conducive and stable family environments for affected youths to thrive in.

GraceHaven’s social worker looking after a youth.

Another care programme would be Carehaven—a residential programme that provides protection for vulnerable migrant domestic workers. All of these migrant domestic workers are women, with a large majority of them being mothers (with quite a number being single mothers) separated from their children who are left in their respective home countries due to the need to find work and income in Singapore. 

The domestic workers who come under the care of The Salvation Army are caught in challenging situations such as abuse, underpayment or illegal deployment. Activities at Carehaven are carefully curated, with mind-stimulating handicraft sessions and light-hearted singing sessions held to improve their socio-emotional well-being. The team at the centre also imparts valuable knowledge such as computer application skills and financial literacy to equip them for future re-employment.

CareHaven’s social worker tutoring migrant workers.

“The language in helping another person is not transactional, it’s relational.”

– Mr Marcus Moo (Director of Social and Community Services)

Rafflesians can volunteer to become an Academic mentor and conduct lessons and training classes for youths or become an Activity facilitator and organise workshops to impart valuable skills. 

Engineering Good

Engineering Good aims to bridge the digital divide faced by low-income individuals and empower the disabled with technology. 

Scores of low-income individuals fall behind in this increasingly digitalised world, due to lack of access to devices and poor digital literacy. By collecting, refurbishing and distributing devices, EG provides for children’s home-based learning needs and gives adults an opportunity to find jobs online. EG conducts workshops and webinars to improve the beneficiaries’ digital literacy and teach them the relevant skills to flourish in today’s digital age.

Oriented around the specific needs of the disabled, EG also specialises help for each individual. Through their BeSpoke projects, EG enquires the needs of the disabled individual personally and engages in design-thinking to devise a technological solution to allow them to continue their daily activities as smoothly as possible. 

3% of Singaporeans are disabled, but most of them would rather stay at home due to difficulty in going outdoors. EG strives to lower these physical and psychological barriers so that they are self-sufficient and can flourish in this community.

 “If someone doesn’t fix it for them, no one is going to.”

– Mr Johann Annuar (Executive Director at Engineering Good)

Precisely because providing such aid is economically unviable for corporations, charities and social service organisations exist. EG wholeheartedly believes in democratising technology to enable the low-income and disabled to thrive in this digital society,

We encourage Rafflesians to join their Tech for Good (T4G) programme to help develop technological solutions for the disabled and the elderly. 

Social service is indisputably a noble job. Though most might not necessarily have the commitment to devote their lives to social service, we encourage all Rafflesians to do their bit and show their support by volunteering, or donating, be it with your time or by monetary means. We hope Rafflesians can offer their skills and talents to benefit the community.

Please do visit their websites and graciously offer up your time and effort to make a difference in our community.

Special Thanks to Dr Alicia Altorfer-Ong, Mr Marcus Moo and Mr Johann Annuar.

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