Colours of Love

Long-term employee commitment in CapitaLand Kids’ Programme to add beautiful shades to lives of underprivileged children

Issue: May 2012

Beyond financial aid, CapitaLand Kids’ Programme aims to provide children from single-parent homes with consistent care and quality time that they need
Beyond financial aid, CapitaLand Kids’ Programme aims to provide children from single-parent homes with consistent care and quality time that they need

When the Rachel Lim lost her father in 2010, the family also lost its sole breadwinner. At that time, Rachel was only seven. As Mr Lim did not have any health insurance, there was no insurance payout to sustain the family after his death. Mdm Chan had to start working to maintain the child and household expenses. However a year later, she was diagnosed with nerve compression and was not able to work. To this day, Mdm Chan still suffers from the intense pain in her neck and arm and has to be reviewed by the doctor monthly. Due to her health condition, she is not able to support the family financially. Despite her family’s difficulties, Rachel who is in Primary Three managed an overall of 82.3% passes in her exams last year. She has demonstrated that she is a keen learner and looks forward to attending school every day.

While financial assistance can improve the living conditions of children from single-parent families such as Rachel, it is the befriending, care and support for them that mean much more. Last month, in line with CapitaLand’s credo of “Building People”, its philanthropic arm, CapitaLand Hope Foundation, has embarked on a long-term support programme for 10 underprivileged children called CapitaLand Kids’ Programme (CKP).

Apart from providing financial support for their education needs, the 10-year CKP pilot programme will also track the growth and development of these CapitaLand Kids to ensure their access to education will not be compromised by their disadvantaged family background. CKP will be administered by Community Foundation of Singapore where “Help Every Lone Parent Family Service Centre” (HELP FSC) is appointed as the voluntary welfare organisation to facilitate the programme.

Believing in the cause of supporting these children that have suffered loss, either through the loss of a parent from a divorce, separation or illness, CapitaLand is encouraging its employees to work alongside with the social workers as a CKP Mentor to provide support, care and counsel to the 10 CapitaLand Kids. Although CapitaLand has been actively engaging its staff volunteerism every year by organising a series of group wide volunteering programmes, this is the first initiative that appeals for employees’ long-term commitment in a corporate social responsibility activity.

“Through the CapitaLand Kids Programme, we are committed to support the education needs of 10 underprivileged children and to promote a long-term staff volunteerism programme that allows our employees to develop greater volunteering and mentoring skills through caring for our CapitaLand Kids,” said Tan Bee Leng, General Manager of CapitaLand Hope Foundation.

“This partnership with CapitaLand is the first of its kind at our centre - where the collaboration will extend up to 10 years. This is a very meaningful long-term developmental programme to ensure that these children from the single-parent families are able to attend and complete their education - from primary to secondary education,” said Lim Seow Beng, Executive Director of HELP FSC.

For the Love of Children

To facilitate greater learning and provide staff with greater exposure to volunteer skills and platforms, CapitaLand invited three volunteer facilitators to speak at a lunch talk for staff last month, in conjunction with the CKP announcement. Speakers at the lunch talk include Roy Kwek from National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre, Sunny Chan from RSVP Singapore -The Organisation of Senior Volunteers, and Chrys Ong from HELP FSC.

Roy Kwek from National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre sharing about the different volunteering platforms
Roy Kwek from National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre sharing about the different volunteering platforms

According to HELP FSC, the majority of the issues faced by children from single-parent families are emotional and behavioural ones which make up nearly 40 per cent of the problems. One in 10 loses a parent as a result of death. The majority - more than 80 per cent of the children - are left with only one parent because of divorce or separation.

“These children lack role models at home because the only parent left is often busy providing for the family and may not have the time to talk to or play with the child,” said Chrys Ong, senior social worker from HELP FSC.

To underscore the importance of volunteers, Ong shared about a 12-year-old boy who was under her care. He was failing all his subjects and was in a Foundation Class. A university student looking to volunteer was asked to give him weekly tuition. Within six months, the boy topped his Foundation Class during his Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE). Two years later, the two are still in touch and the boy wants to go to University like his role model.

The 10 CapitaLand Kids selected will also be invited to CapitaLand events such as Family Day where they can mingle with CapitaLand volunteers and their families, or at CapitaLand P.E.E.K (Providing Educational Exposure to Kids) sessions where they are hosted on exclusive, behind-the-scenes tours of select CapitaLand properties to give them real life lessons in Science, and General Knowledge and get them interested in the Environment.

Equipping Loving Hearts with Helping Hands

CapitaLand employees interested in being mentors are not expected to be counselors. Instead, they are to be role models, friends, and guardians to these children, providing them the listening ear they need.

“It comes down to one word, ‘passion’. If you have the passion, you will make the commitment and find the time,” said Ong of the most important criterion for any volunteer. “As long as you enjoy being with children and understand that they will misbehave at times, that is enough.”

The volunteers also do not have to do it alone. Training, guidance and advice from seasoned social workers are all available to help them.

Kozhanova and her colleagues at the recent lunch talk given by volunteer facilitators
Kozhanova and her colleagues at the recent lunch talk given by volunteer facilitators

As the crucial link between CapitaLand and the children, the volunteers will attend a short focus group discussion where HELP FSC will assist in screening the volunteers and matching them to the children before confirming them as mentors. The mentors need not go it alone, though. Once confirmed, they will attend a half-day social worker training. In addition, guidance and advice from seasoned social workers who work with these children are available to help the mentors along.

“We have also structured the mentoring programme in such a way that in the first six months, you start out with a group of other volunteers,” explained Ong. “Then, the volunteers can be matched to the individual child or they can decide to continue mentoring the child as a group.”

Mentoring need not mean money, those who attended were reminded. Spending time over a simple meal, chatting over a drink or simply playing with the child actually mean more than any store-bought gift. Most importantly, the activities need to build relationship and understanding, and help mentor aid child get to know each other. Volunteers are encouraged to commit to at least one year as it takes time to develop the trust in the mentorship.

Maria Kozhanova, Senior Executive of Investor Relations at Ascott Residence Trust Management Limited, attended the lunch talk and was one of the first to register her interest as a CapitaLand Kids’ Programme Mentor. “I enjoyed the lunch talk as it gave good insights into the various volunteering opportunities in Singapore, “ shared Kozhanova, who had volunteered her time at orphanages in Russia, “ The CapitaLand Kids’ Programme is a good avenue for me to volunteer for a good cause and I am committed to mentor the child as long as I am based in Singapore,” said the 24-year-old.

“Our mutual goal is to see to the long-term growth and development of these children, so that they can grow up to be responsible and independent young adults,” said Lim.

“These children have already experienced loss. So, we want to ensure that there is a measure of stability in their lives,” explained Ong.

Corporate philanthropy and staff volunteerism have come together in a beautiful way to give children a chance to improve themselves and rise above their difficult circumstances. Through CKP, the lives of children as well as volunteers are bound to be filled with warm shades of love.

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