Overcoming Limits Together

Eight years old and born into a transnational family, Amy* could not even read the alphabet. Her father left her mother in Singapore with a $15,000 debt on top of rent and living expenses. Amy’s mother works long hours at an F&B job to make ends meet, leaving Amy at home alone without any formal schooling.

When Amy took the pre-assessment for Steady Readers (SR), we discovered that she had no exposure to the English language. SR would not have been able to provide the sustained help she needed, so we suggested to place her in our Student Care centres (SCC). Our Casework and Counselling team made sure she got the financial assistance necessary for her to enrol.

The SCC team stepped up to support Amy. Even though student care only starts at 1.30pm, the staff agreed to come at 10am every day to help her settle into centre life. Being with so many children was a culture shock for Amy at first, but over time she grew her socio-emotional capacity, and now she even has a best friend at the centre. To get Amy the help she needed with learning English, our volunteer management executive matched her with a volunteer tutor who has 20 years of experience.

Meanwhile, a mentee from our Youth Services, Belle*, had been struggling with mental health issues for some time. She shared with her mentor of five years, Joyce, that she finds it overwhelming to go to school, so she has dropped out. Our Executive Director suggested that Belle could intern in one of our SCC centres, which might provide a positive and less stressful alternative to the school environment. Belle gave it a shot, and started interning at the centre that Amy enrolled in.

Taking care of the younger children gave Belle a sense of purpose and confidence, and she has really taken a shine to Amy. Just as Joyce mentored her, now Belle is mentoring Amy. On the other hand, Amy blossomed in SCC, learning how to interact with others even as she learned English. She has since passed the MOE entrance exams and is adapting to life in primary school. We are heartened to have helped these two girls find hope and purpose in life.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

Joy In The Darkest Valley

Uncle Joe and Auntie Naomi (not their real names) have lived in Singapore for over 60 years, but neither of them have secured citizenship. At 80 years old, Uncle Joe was still working to support his wife and their 11-year-old grandson. However, one day he fainted at his workplace and had to be hospitalised. The cause of his affliction turned out to be fourth-stage lung cancer. His case was referred to New Life’s Project Love for financial assistance.

Uncle Joe had previously applied for assistance at other social service agencies, but felt like the application process had many barriers to entry. Uncle Joe felt that as long as he is able to work, he would not want to rely on financial assistance. After a period of treatment at NUH, his condition stabilised enough for him to continue working. As Uncle Joe’s employment terms only provided him with seven days of paid MC, New Life provided the couple with assistance to cover the loss of income during his hospitalisation.

During the assistance period, New Life connected Uncle Joe with volunteer befrienders and worked closely with other services to help the couple with their rental apartment matters. As Uncle Joe was given a prognosis of two years, New Life also provided casework management support to explore end-of-life care.

When Uncle Joe’s health deteriorated in early 2023, he agreed to apply for long-term financial support under Social Service Office (SSO). New Life’s social worker supported Uncle Joe through the whole process of application, helping him overcome the barriers he faced, such that SSO approved to support the couple’s basic living expenses. The volunteer befrienders also chipped in to provide the couple with appliances once HDB had allocated the latter a rental flat.

No longer needing to work long hours to support his household, Uncle Joe now had peace of mind to consider other matters in life. He had time to spend with his wife, make preparations for end-of-life, and even explore his spirituality.

The practical help, home visits and important conversations that volunteers and staff had poured into the couple’s life brought comfort and love to their difficult circumstances. These conversations also helped Uncle Joe and Auntie Naomi to reframe their story and find joy in a tough season of life.

Uplifted To Fly Higher

Jia Xin and Jirad, 15 years old, are two good friends with a shared dream: to become a pilot. When their mentor Nathan found out, he brought the boys to a flight simulator where they could experience what it was like to fly a plane. Jia Xin shares, “I was touched by how Nathan paid more than half the cost of the flight simulator himself. He often does this, treating us to food or sponsoring things for us out of his own pocket.” Nathan also arranged for the boys to meet a pilot, so that they would hear first-hand what pilots do. Jirad said of this, “I really appreciate what Nathan did, because he gave me a clearer picture of my goal, which motivates me to achieve it.”

The trio have many fond memories together. Jia Xin recalled how they once went to East Coast Park to cycle and ended up talking about life lessons – how to save up for the future, discover their strengths and understand their values. Meanwhile, Jirad recounted that from Secondary 1 to Secondary 2, Nathan would meet him to study his weak subjects (Chinese and science) every week in the J10 youth hub. The boys think of Nathan as their older brother, an encourager and caring presence in tough times.

Both boys appreciate Nathan’s willingness to listen and understand their struggles. Jia Xin shares, “I used to be impulsive in my speech, often saying something hurtful without thinking or using vulgarities. As a mentor, Nathan would sometimes be on the receiving end of my thoughtless words, but he patiently listens to me without being offended. Through his guidance, I have learnt to be less temperamental and more self-controlled and respectful with my words.” Jirad adds, “Not many people would be as patient and supportive with us. What I treasure most about this group mentoring relationship is the trust we share, so that I can tell them how I feel without being judged.” Because of the faithful support of their mentor, both Jia Xin and Jirad have been empowered to grow in maturity and achieve their dreams.

Prepared To Go Further

Before my stepson Hemen came to Singapore last year, he was studying in a Tamil school where English is taught a bit less. I’m Singaporean but my wife and her children are Malaysians. I told him that “the Singapore education system is totally different from what you are used to, you have to catch up fast”. When he took the placement test to enter primary school, they put him in P2 instead of P4 because they found that his English is not that good. The school recommended that he enter the Steady Readers programme. I asked Hemen if he wants to enrol and he said “Yes, I’m willing to go, I want to improve”.

Hemen has been in the programme for about nine months and already I am seeing a great improvement. He’s still very shy to speak, but his homework is improving, his English spelling has improved a lot. Last time he will bring his homework back, then he’s very scared to show me the homework. But now he can do it by himself in school. I ask him, “Are you sure you finished the homework? Did you read everything properly?” He will say, “Pa, I read everything, I do”. Then my wife and I check, and it’s okay, he has done a good job.

The biggest change I have seen is that Hemen now goes to the library to borrow books to read by himself. He will borrow English storybooks, he reads about 3 books a week. Once in a while I will buy newspapers and tell him to flip through when he is free, see if he can understand. For him to improve in reading is important so that he can communicate with people. In Singapore and all over the world, English is the first language which everywhere we go, we speak. Steady Readers really brings forward his standard of English so that he is prepared for higher levels of education in P5, P6, even secondary school. I’m very happy at his improvement and I think the programme is very beneficial.

Previously when Hemen first came to Singapore he can’t even read the road signs. But now as time goes by, he can read all these. Sometimes we travel in the bus, I will ask him, “Can you read that sign?” and he will quickly read it out. I tell him, “Even if you get lost, you no need to scared, you can read all this, find your way home.”

Stepfather of Hementhiran
Steady Readers beneficiary

Building A Loving Home

It was an extremely tough and uncertain period for us to get through, but New Life really helped us get through that critical season of difficulty.

When my son was Primary 1, I got to know Dancia at church. She cares for my family very much. It was she who introduced us to New Life and KCC, and recommended that I enrol my son Qi Yong into the programme.

My ex-husband had violent tendencies. He has a gambling habit and owes a lot of money, so every day when he gets home he would start to beat us up. For my children’s safety as well as my own, I wanted to move out. Thereafter because I divorced him, we moved out around the second half of the year when Qi Yong was in Primary 2. That year, we moved house ten times. That gave my two children a lot of stress and unhappiness. Dancia found out about our situation and spoke to one of the New Life teachers, who helped us apply for Project Love’s financial assistance. They eventually helped us move into a temporary sheltered home.

Last year, during the COVID-19 period, the first thing the New Life teachers did was to raise fund among themselves for my family. They also helped me apply to Project Love again for my daughter’s polytechnic school fees. Project Love sponsored about eight months of her tuition fees, as well as assistance with living expenses – I’m truly very happy and grateful. I’m grateful to New Life to have so many people helping and caring for us along the way.

Not long after school started last year, Qi Yong became very aggressive. When he gets angry, he thinks he can resolve the problem by throwing things, shouting, swearing or throwing a temper tantrum. Because he has witnessed his father’s violent outbursts from a young age, it has negatively affected him. Qi Yong actually has a good heart, just that when he loses his temper he can’t help himself. He is very enthusiastic and helpful whenever he sees that his teachers need help.

Since coming to KCC his teachers have seen improvement – although he still has trouble regulating his emotions, he no longer has violent outbursts. After attending KCC for half a year he adapted to the environment, and has learned to accept the teachers’ suggestions and reminders. Recently he told me, “Mama, let’s try this. I am trying to be a good boy. Let me see if I can go one week without losing my temper or getting angry.” I was pleasantly surprised by how far he has come.

New Life’s teachers have been paying attention to my son, they are very meticulous. Last year in mid-June, they conducted a family visit via Zoom to tell me about Qi Yong’s progress and how he has been in KCC. They also gave suggestions on how to communicate with him. I feel that this communication between parents and teachers is very helpful.

I want to say a big thank you to all the staff of New Life. The gratitude in my heart cannot be expressed in words. It is a deep gratitude that comes straight from the heart. Because of New Life, we have such a blessed and warm home today.

Mdm Chang Jing
Mother of Qi Yong
Kids Champ Club and Project Love Beneficiaries

Reader Today, Leader Tomorrow

Our family moved to Singapore from Malaysia in 2016. My daughter, Yuki started Primary one last year. As a foreigner without having English as the first language, she found it difficult to catch up in school. This affected her self-confidence and she felt intimidated when speaking out. She also had low self-esteem. Since she is enrolled with Steady Readers and Kids Champ Club Programmes, I observed that she became more confident in expressing herself. She can now communicate well with her peers without feeling shy or intimidated. I hope to see her grow up to be more resilient in facing challenges. I am very thankful for the patience of New Life mentors for always guiding her. They never give up on her even when she’s not doing well at first. I really appreciate these programmes for helping her improve. Thank you!

Karen Tea Pei Khem
Mother of Yuki Lee (8 years old)
Steady Readers & Kids Champ Club Beneficiary

Learning Leadership & Responsibility

Playing computer games at home all day long can be very boring. But ever since I came to New Life Youth Hub, I made new friends and we always have fun together. The staff have been extremely willing to support me with several issues I face. Whenever I share to them that I am unsure of what I should do, they willingly provide me with guidance and advice. I am one of the older youths in the hub. Therefore, I’ve learnt to be more mature by assisting the staff by taking care of other members, teaching them how to use game consoles and ensuring that the hub is treated with care. I am thankful to learn about leadership with new responsibilities. These experiences have allowed me to have extra patience with people and helped manage my anger. Thank you to all New Life staff for trusting in me and mentoring me to become a better person.”

Jackie Ang
17 years old
New Life Youth Beneficiary

Financial Support for a Single Mom

I’m a divorcee with three children. The youngest one is enrolled in New Life childcare. All of them are currently under my custody, care and control. I heard about the New Life financial assistance called Project Love from a staff. My ex-husband contributes only about $200 per child and all of them are in school. This is insufficient as we have a lot of expenditure such as enrichment classes, tuition, personal insurance, medication, school fees and grocery. Project Love helped me to pay half of the school fees and that’s a great help as a single mother. I really appreciate every donor’s kind-heartedness. Without this programme, I have to struggle very hard. Thank you, New Life. Without your support, I don’t know what to do.

Ms Priya*
Project Love Beneficiary

Moulding the Youth Through Dedicated Guidance

Hidayat was a beneficiary of Steady Reader’s Programme and later referred to Kids Champ Club (KCC). Since young, he lacked self-confidence and was not willing to express his feelings openly. New Life’s dedicated and exemplary volunteers were very patient with him and took the extra effort to genuinely understand and not judge him. Under New Life’s guidance, my son grew to be more understanding and is now more willing to speak up. He has not missed any single lesson and is always looking forward to it. I am glad to see him grow and learn a lot in the programme. Thank you, New Life, for the wonderful job. I will not hesitate to recommend your programmes to my friends.

Cody Ng
Father of Hidayat (Pri 4)
Steady Readers & Kids Champ Club Beneficiary

Bringing Hope to a Youth’s Life

My friend who is currently a member of the Youth Hub at Fajar invited me to go with her in the hub. I got curious so I went. The place looks really cool and the staff are very friendly, so I signed up too. And the fee is only $4 a year!

Then I also started hanging out here at Junction 10 and I really like the place because I can chill after school and make new friends. My life before I became a member was out of my control. Everything was very hard for me. I didn’t know how to handle my personal problems in my family and I just wanted to give up. I felt that there’s no more hope and could not fix anything at all. Even worse, I thought that I should just end my life. But when I spent more time with the New Life staff, my hopeless perspective to all my problems changed. They helped me to handle my struggles very well and gave me solutions like referring me where I should seek help. I am thankful I can open up and trust them. I really appreciate the time that the staff spent talking to me, making me realise my worth and reminding me that everything is still going to be alright. After all those talks and encouragements, my life started to change. I became a better person and I learnt how to cope with my problems in a better perspective. I am really grateful for New Life for bringing hope to my life.

13 years old
New Life Youth Beneficiary