Behind The SALT Mirror

Behind the SALT Mirror is a series of weekly sharings and reflections by the community workers and volunteers of Beyond Social Services as they go about their work with the different communities they serve. It serves as a constant reminder that actions, no matter how small is a reflection of who we really are....and the impact it has on the people we meet and interact with.

SALT is a mode of interaction with communities as the facilitators look for strengths, as opposed to starting from their weaknesses. From there, community responses to conflicts are stimulated and local ownership of issues are fostered. For more information on this model of community engagement, please visit http://www.communitylifecompetence.org/en

SALT Mirror #27

7 Nov 2012

Approaching a Parent Volunteer Meeting

It was a Friday evening and most of us would have been glad that the weekend had (finally) arrived. I was with a few other colleagues in AMK awaiting the arrival of our parent volunteers. We had arranged to have a meeting with the parent volunteers who have been running the tuition programme for our children in AMK. Some of them had expressed unhappiness to the staff about the way in which the tuition programme has been managed recently, about the confusion of their roles, and about the conduct of the children prior to the meeting itself.

Instead of going into the meeting to directly address the unhappiness amongst the parents, we took a more positive approach and asked them about their experience of volunteering at the tuition centre over the past year. We also felt that that would be a better way to stimulate discussion focusing on the programme itself than on the individual differences. During their sharing, it was established that they all had a common purpose of coming together to help out with the tuition programme – for the benefit of the children in their neighbourhood. We appreciated the parents for their involvement as parent volunteers as many of them are working adults with their own families to care for as well. Along the way, I felt there was a lot to be learnt from these parents. Some of them struck me as very giving people. They were willing to give their time to the children of the neighbourhood despite their own personal commitments and having young children to look after.

At the end of the session, there was the understanding that coming for the tuition programme as a parent volunteer was important to all the parents who had turned up that night. I'm not sure if every parent was able to speak his/her mind during the session but I left the meeting knowing that all the parent volunteers give their time to the children at the centre, whether their own children are involved in the programme or not, as they all feel that it is something valuable and important for the children in the neighbourhood. And at the end of the day that's what we are all working together for.

One learning that I would like to transfer to future sessions would be the note on which the meeting commences. If we had focused on ironing out individual differences then I guess we would have gotten stuck with that. Asking them about what had been good for them and what they would like to improve on allowed them to share both their positive and negative experiences without making it a complaining session.

By Thiviya

SALT Mirror #26

10 Oct 2012

Communities need Leaders worth their Salt

In a week or so, I would have spent 30 years as a paid staff in the social services with the same organisation. Before that, I had a 6 month stint in a non-profit where I was organising community service activities in neighbourhoods for 2 days a week. Of course it has not been the same job and I grew with an organisation that had 4 paid staff including myself when I joined to one with 102 today that I lead. I have been in this leadership position for about 15 years now and although I have always endeavoured to build a Community Workplace, I must say that it is only in the past year or so, have I experienced community both in my head and in my heart. Yes, there were periods of community bliss in the past but we were small teams of 6 to 10 persons.

Community

At work, I frequently had colleagues who were from a religious order living as a community among the people the organisation serves. Hence, the word "community" was often heard in conversations among colleagues but it never meant much to those of us who lived a secular life. I began dwelling on the meaning of community only after a volunteer psychiatrist introduced the staff team to the concepts of community as described by M Scott Peck in his book, The Different Drum. This psychiatrist was trying to guide us into becoming a more cooperative team and he spent a few months with us on a weekly basis journeying with us through the phases of community building:

1. Psuedo -Community
2. Chaos
3. Emptiness
4. Community

I am not sure if we ever got to phase 4 but it got me interested enough to join as a member of the Foundation of Community Encouragement and I would receive regular newsletters and information on Community Building. So began my quest for understanding, discovering and experiencing the meaning of community. The idea of a non-profit being a community appealed to me and so when I got into a leadership position, I declared that we were going to be a Community Workplace. I must have confused and bored a whole lot of people and was most fortunate for bosses who indulged in my "circular" organizational charts and clichés like "the first among equals." I guess they were kind enough to regard me as a young unconfident and reluctant leader rather than one out of touch with reality.

Recently, in a casual conversation with an older person who had in the past, pointed me towards philosophies he thought that I was seeking, I said "You know, I believe community comes with age. I could never fully appreciate its value until recently." Without skipping a beat, he agreed "Younger people are breaking away from their family, their background and are striving to establish themselves as strong independent individuals. The interdependence among members of a community would be hard for them to take."

I share this recent conversation because a young person breaking away from family and traditions trying to stand strong and different could be a metaphor for professionalized social services. Family and community are a fundamental source of people's well-being but to maintain its relevance, social services position the professional as knowing better or a superior source of well-being. All things being equal, a young person would probably fair better if he could acknowledge that he has come so far because of his family and community and learns to draw on their support as he seeks to establish himself as a distinct individual. Similarly instead of competing and replacing family and community with professional technology backed by evidence (the results are generally dismal anyway), social services can learn to cooperate with family and tradition to reclaim, reinvent or rebuild community. The operating tenet for social services must always be to work itself out of a job but each time government spending on social services increases, the sector claps because there will be more jobs in social services. Is such spending on social services alleviating, maintaining or increasing social problems? Are people living better lives within an extensive social service system whose raw materials for growth are their needs and deficiencies?

Organisaton

Over the past 10 years, my organisation has been operating with a staff of 100 to120 and unwittingly, our quest for community gave way to the pursuit of organisational excellence as our world generally understands or promotes. I have come to appreciate that productivity, efficiency, efficacy are important aspects of work but such organisational excellence does not necessary mean we do meaningful and satisfying work that enriches the lives of those we proclaim to serve. Even if we assess that good comes out of such good practices, its sustainability is largely dependent on resources that maintain a highly motivated and skilled team of paid professionals.

Within the sphere of organisational excellence is of course human resource management which often operates on the logic of incentivising the good and de-incentivising the bad. Simply put, rewarding desired outcomes or behaviours and punishing behaviours and outcomes that suggest non-performance. This carrot and stick approach keeps the staff on their toes and is also touted as a motivation technique. It seems to say that people are motivated either by greed or by fear. Perhaps so but is a working environment that perpetuates fear and greed appropriate for getting the best out of helping professionals in the service of others? Is it also desirable that these helping professionals may in turn motivate their service-users with fear and greed? As a leader, one of my key tasks is to nurture a passionate and motivated team. Does it then mean that I will succeed when I can encourage my colleagues to be more greedy and fearful? I would like to think that the social service professional is someone who is motivated by a higher purpose or by reasons other than money and shame.

To clarify, I am of the view that work needs to be well organised and resources utilised prudently. Well-designed and well-thought through systems make work light, productive and possibly even pleasurable. However, it would require more that the logic of prudent management for our human resources to excel. I believe we need our human resources to believe that they are part of a community that exist for purposes beyond themselves. As observed by Peter Block and John McKnight in their book, the Abundant Community; a community has an environment where there is generosity, kindness, cooperation, forgiveness, acceptance of the human condition and mystery. I believe that an important part of motivation is to create such an environment and so my endeavour toward a Community Workplace and my hope that my team brings these properties of a community with us wherever we work.

Community Workplace

For me a Community Workplace is one where the quality and sustainability of work produced co-relates with the quality of community experienced by the workers. However we can't really create a system that predictably brings about a community simply because a system is not a community. A strong community utilises systems to further their purpose but a strong system that is not within a Community Workplace discourages community. Therefore, members of a Community Workplace cannot simply sit back, relax and let the system run if they want to continue enjoying the benefits a community brings. They have to be active members of the community who regard themselves as leaders that maintain, nurture and encourage the relevance of their community. Communities need leaders worth their salt.

Leaders at a Community Workplace cultivate the following qualities within themselves as a way of life:

S
Self-awareness, self-regulation and strength of response
Being a leader is a commitment to self-growth with a view that leadership is really not so much about the size of the job or the opportunity but the strength of one's response.
A
Adaptive
The primary role of the leader is to get people to confront their most pressing challenges. Not doing so usually means hastening the state of dysfunction within a workplace, a team, a community or even a country. There is no road map and leaders embrace the unknown and adapt as they lead.
L
Love of self and being loving towards others
This four letter word may be offensive for a system that prides itself on objective, predictable and transparent processes. Yet it is people that have created systems and it is people that work within systems. It is also normal, good and desirable that people that need love.
T
Towards a higher purpose
A Community Workplace sounds idealistic but whether it can be achieved is not such an important question. Leaders are driven by ideals and recognise that a better world comes about only with such endeavour.

Our world is run by systems and we have grown accustomed to the convenience, comfort and assurance they provide. So much so, the logic of organisational excellence in embedded in us and sometimes we cannot imagine that any good can emerge without a system in place. Hence, as a community is not a system, encouraging community is an uphill task that would also require leaders worth their salt.

I have attended meetings where well-intentioned people sincerely want to improve and increase the sense of community among people. When a proposal from the community is received, organisational logic kicks in and concerns such as sustainability, efficacy and efficiency are put forth, often discouraging the proposer. The logic of community is different. Instead of sustainability, we need to value variety and trust that as long an initiative is relevant, it will be sustained. And when it is not, then its relevance may have passed. Efficacy is not so much about the quality of a service but the quality and strength of relationships among people when they care for each other. As for efficiency, we need to ponder why things are not moving as fast as we would like or anticipated. Is the lack of pace really impeding progress or is it slowing down destruction?

Working for community is not just a job but a journey toward a way of life where people care for each other. Hence, as life goes, there is never a straightforward answer and the necessity for leaders who can Stimulate discussions that strengthen relationships; Appreciate other members of the community even when we feel attacked or alienated; Learn and listen to see how it is actually our own load that is slowing us down and Transfer all learning and experiences to one's own life with the humility of a trainee. This is the never-ending journey for leaders worth their salt.

By Gerard

SALT Mirror #25

4 Oct 2012

Power of Local Responses (continued)

My handphone rang, I took a look at my ID caller and saw that it was one of our service users. I was not having the best of days so I thought to myself "What could the matter be now?" I answered my phone and the voice over the line said "Is, we want to do something." Immediately my eyes grew wide. Aminah, our service user then shared with me of how she and her husband wanted to make popsicles for sale to the children and youths in the neighbourhood from their home. Back when I was a little boy, there was a resident, Makcik or Aunty we would call her who sells popsicles of various flavours to children or anyone around the neighbourhood. These flavours would include Milo, Bandung, and Sour Plum etc. Almost daily, my friends would buy two or three popsicles for ourselves or family members.

Aminah and her husband also wanted to help themselves by earning some extra income for their family. With that idea, this family also started to weave ties that bind them to the community. Often, in adversity we find strength only if we see value in finding solutions. It is simple enough to find a solution to a problem at times. For example, if you are thirsty you drink a cup of water. Thirst gone, problem solved! The real value in a solution is realising what else is achieved besides solving a problem. Ok thirst gone, problem solved. Also, you hydrate yourself well, you keep yourself healthy, you are able to take care of your family with good health, and you are able to work, earn a living. You get more good things out of just providing a solution.

In turn, initially out of their own family needs to ease their financial contraints, Aminah and her family have also create a positive atmosphere where she has interacted well with the children around the neighbourhood about the flavours of popsicles they like and how much would be affordable for them. These children will go home and share with their family of where, whom they are getting the popsicles. Over a popsicle, they can share with their families how their day went, what goes on in their neighbourhood, who their friends are etc. I believe Aminah and her family will be able to reach out and get to know more children than they already. They will also create positivity about their own family, using initiative to help themselves and other numerous opportunities.

Ultimately, we can all create and weave the ties that bind. Be it popsicles, family or neighbour relations, schools, the clinic or simply our community, the neighbourhood that we live in. We are bound together by what we have in common which identifies us. To the community and me, Aminah and her family have been identified as resourceful and appreciated. So if you are around Ang Mo Kio, Blocks 641 to 647. Do ask the children where to get the popsicles, I'm sure they will point you in the right direction.

By Iskandar

SALT Mirror #24

28 Sept 2012

Power of Local Responses (continued)

A mother invited us for Hari Raya lunch in her place a month ago, She had also invited some of her friends and neighbour's whom residing in the same estate, these friends are some of parents who had attended the parent support group. Over the lunch, some of them was questioning if there will be any Hari Raya celebrations in the neighbourhood, a mother replied that there will be one, organised by Resident Committee, but it will be held in the Community Centre, which is 15 minute walk from their estate and the ticket price would be $6 per person. Hearing that, they murmured among them, why is it so expensive to celebrate ones festival, how can we go with so many children, so on and so forth? One of the mother suggested, Should we celebrate on our own. We can do pot-luck gathering among us. After all, we all can cook; our youth and children can support us.

Three days after the lunch, Madam A called us to ask for permission to use our premises to gather everyone, in order to plan for the community Raya celebrations. She further explained that, She had tried to use the Resident Committee centre, however it was under renovations. We agreed to render our assistant by providing the meeting place. Since then, a group of mothers, youths and children gathered three times to discuss on the logistic, the food, the games, gift and extras. They listed out everyone's roles, especially who will cook what dishes, who will help on decorations and who would be the emcee, who will call their Resident Committee Chairperson to book the venue, a nearby pavilion. They were lacking out a sponsor for the sound system, and through another community friends, they found a resident whom has the sound system and willing to sponsor for the event. They borrowed the table, chairs and other equipment from the nearby Mosque and Family Service Centre. Some of the mothers managed to find some sponsors for gifts as they had planned to reward those whom well dressed for the event. We, the Bukit Ho Swee Youth team were also invited and being part of the community, we decided to bring some fruits and drinks as our contribution for the pot-luck.

During one of the meeting, we ask them on how many people they are inviting as we are quit curious about the food, if it will be sufficient for everyone, and how are they going to invite them? Madam A replied that, they have decided to invite all those whom previously involved with community volunteering, their family, friends and some elderly whom staying in their neighbourhood and also their RC Chairperson and the committee members. Overall, they have estimated about 80-100 people, comprising of children, youths, adults and elderly. They get their children's to create a simple invitation card to exchange among them and to invite those neighbours whom they never engaged before. Madam S and her son are known to be a difficult family to be friend with, as they always get into trouble with other neighbours were also invited.

On the day of the event, everything happen as planned. It was crowded and lively. We ask ourselves if this is what they call it as a pot-luck as we surprise with the variety of food in the table. It was a good spread of meal and they all are delicious. There was singing, dancing and playing games, everyone was having maximum fun. There were three tourists who happen to pass by the area, decided to learn more on the celebrations. Some mothers explained to them what going on and they even invited them to have some food. There were a group of ITE students, apparently invited by a youth enjoying themselves, they were all amazed, as they commented, this is the first time they ever experience such Raya celebrations and they hoped their community would have similar celebrations in the future. The whole crowd was mingling and moving along the flow, when Mdm. A make an announcement to invite all those dressed up well to come forward. Mdm S was selected to receive the gift as she was in her nice "baju kurung and songkok- a malay hat", for the party along with others. As Mdm. S walked over to collect the gift, we could sense that everyone is noticing her and she was getting all the attention she needed from the crowd. At the end of the evening, everyone stayed back to assist in cleaning the venue.

Last Friday, this group of resident gathered to talk about the event, they brought in two new mother and a youth which they met during the event. Generally they all felt it was good celebrations as a Community. The atmosphere was great, very welcoming and accommodative to everyone. The food was great, everyone played their part to chip in something. They felt that they could have invited more people if they should have measured the amount of food that being brought. A mother shared, she was having difficult time before the event, and she felt great after the event. Its was nice to sit down and talk and get to know more friends in this setting, she said. They also felt that there should have been more games prepared for the children and youths. They hope, more youth will come forward to assist on the logistic and games on the event day and the Emcee could have explained a bit more on the background of the event, to create more awareness of community spirit. Some commented they should have invited the other races such as Chinese and Indian for such celebration to really it make it like" Kampong style". Overall, everybody agreed that it was a success, they pad each other's back for a great celebrations. We also thanked them for allowing us to be small part of them and we praise everyone for displaying great community spirit.

I wonder if this kind of event or similar event could really create an impact in the community, in line with our beliefs for greater engagement, partnership and restorative neighborhood.
If yes, how can we enhance the community spirit more? If no, what are the alternatives we have in addressing the community with its unique dynamic, which generally I believe are influenced by underlying currents called fears, greed or love?


"We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community."
~Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the Legendary Social Activist~

By Mark

SALT Mirror #23

19 Sept 2012

Celebrating Local Responses from Within the Community


For this sharing of SALT Mirror, we would be starting with our understanding on "Local Response", sharing of our experience during a support group and how we supported it.

Local Response believes the community has the strengths to utilize and exchange resources, to address and responses to community problems.
One of the mother, Mdm L took the initiative to connect members from her neighbourhood to share and to learn from one another.

Pre-session
• She invited mothers from her neighbourhood whom she felt would benefit from the support group
• Explained about the objective of the group and brainstormed with them on the venue (A place within their community) for the session. Decision was made to hold the session at Community Centre (CC)
• She got in touch with the CC and managed to book a room for the session for Free of charge
• She collated the details of the mothers and children attending the session for follow-up
• Mdm L made an introduction to the CC In-Charge with the Community Workers present

During the session
• She co-facilitated the session. One of the highlight of the session was when Mother R shared her financial concerns and lack of educational support for her children, Mdm L provided information on the tuition programme that has been functioning in their neighbourhood. In addition, shared contact details on the agency to contact for her financial difficulties

Post Session
• After the session, she gathered feedback which led them to have the next session at the bowling centre. She continues to actively play her role as the leader of the support group.

We supported her by:
• We provided briefing that allowed her to have better understanding on the objectives of the support group and her role as a co-facilitator
• After the session, Mdm L was asked about her thoughts / feedback about her overall efforts
• We also appreciated and affirmed her contribution

This explanation might seem detailed. But we wanted to highlight the tiny steps Mdm L took which eventually led to the functioning of the support group. We focus much on the result of a session/ programme failing to celebrate little efforts that the service user plays as a member of their community. Thank You.

That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. Neil Armstrong

By Banu

SALT Mirror #22

5 Sept 2012

What is salt and SALT?


Ok the salt we know is the white stuff that is added to food to make it taste better or some of us might say if we are cooking gives flavour to the dish. Too much of it is bad when added and so we should know what the correct amount to use is.

The SALT that has been introduced to us doesn't differ. It's the way how we approach and how we go about it in our work. All of us in one way or another have been practising SALT countless of time without realising it and it's only fair to say SALT is nothing new in our work and our lives., We are given an opportunity to share our work, thoughts and experiences in our J.B. and SALT meetings. We can learn all we want about SALT but if we use it only when we want to and with whom we want to then all the learning is irrelevant and wasted. I'm guilty of it sometimes. I must say that SALT has made me APPRECIATE and LISTEN to others more.


On my recent home visit to a lady's (service user) home, she was very reluctant to talk to me. Perhaps it's because, I'm a male and secondly there were other CWs involved in her case before and felt very upset about relating the issues to me all over again. Well, this is just my hypothesis. As it turned out, after LISTENING to her awhile longer, she did say that reliving and explaining all the experience all over again made her upset.


Anyway, somehow despite her unwillingness to talk, I explained to her my purpose of my visit and that I'm always in the neighbourhood and if I don't talk to her today I could come back at a time more convenient to her. Ironically as I was about to leave, she invited me in and we settled down to talk for a while. I could sense the discomfort of talking to a male was not there anymore and she began to talk and relate about her issues. I was mindful to STIMULATE the conversation and Appreciate and Listening in this particular home visit and I left this home feeling good. I realised then, that the acronym SALT was really useful in helping me to attend to this service user. It helps me keep in mind useful things I can do in a home visit.

And so, I end by saying, the salt and the SALT are important, let us use the salt sparingly in our food and more of SALT in our work and in our lives.

By George

SALT Mirror #21

30 Aug 2012

Who Are the Star Players?

Recently, I had the chance to speak to a resident whom I had not met for a while. I'll call him, Amin. It was simple yet informative. I honestly struggled to stop myself from asking questions. Amin shared all these incidents of how other residents made promises to work together but broke their promises time and again. His family was very disappointed at the treatment they have received. As I listened more, I realised that Amin is more than willing to contribute to his community but was often 'rebuffed' without any explanation. The manner that he shared his experience with me says that his family and him still harbours hope to contribute to the community while helping themselves too. He kept saying he was thankful that he met me as he had lost my contact number.

Amin also shared with me his resources and how he can contribute. As he shared, I kept thinking about his very first sentence to me. He said "I hope you can help me". The longer our conversation went on, the more I felt like he was helping us! It was late but Amin certainly made my day and lit me up. I have not helped his family in any way yet but he kept thanking me appreciation.

I realised that as Community Workers, we also give hope to our service users as they have heard of some of the good work that we have done. Busy as we are trying to get things done and helping others, somehow we fail to see that there are diamonds in our backyard. Service users like Amin are in abundance, if we care enough for us to discover and work with. The belief that we give to support our service users gives them hope that there is the community spirit after all. As we continue in our work, let us not forget that our service users are the 'star players' and often they hold all the aces. They may not show their hand until they know they can win. Don't be discouraged by that because it's not about winning all the time. Sometimes people like Amin don't need to win, they just need assurance that they won't lose.

By Iskandar

SALT Mirror #20

24 Aug 2012

Expanding Resources When Appreciating and Trusting More

Yes, it is now my turn to write about SALT. Sorry I'm late! I am still learning how to apply SALT and to recognise it in the work we do.
I hope it will be a pleasurable read for you ;)

On Wednesday when I did DK, I happened to walk pass my ex-client's home. The door was open and there were 6 children inside. They do not live there. I recognise all of them as they participated in our outreach activities. I was curious why they were there as the youngest member of the family is 18yrs old and the visiting children were 9-10yrs old. I thought "Are they friends?" It turned out that my 23yr old ex-client was the one who invited them. His simple explanation was that he knew them and they were all his neighours (living in the area, not just same blk).

After that, I reflected why I questioned him… Can't a young man be friends with people younger than him? It is rather unusual to me but not to him and his family. Could it be it is Hari Raya? Maybe. Am I discriminating them based on their age? Would it not be great to encourage more of this type of friendliness/ behaviour? How to encourage this?

If there were any crisis or conflict in any of those children's houses, I would never have thought to approach my ex-client for help. When I set limits to who I ask for for help, I am actually limiting my own solutions, resources. I need to work on Appreciating and Trusting more and I have Learnt from this experience and now can Transfer it to all of you!

By Anne-Marie

SALT Mirror #19

15 Aug 2012

Creating Space for Local Response

I see the power of local response during a SALT Visit cum BBQ at Sembawang

  1. Before the event itself, we had difficulty getting the participants to help prepare the tea-break and BBQ. All were busy. Two residents who were not able to attend volunteered to do the preparation and they even brought down the food to the bus.
  2. While waiting for the others to come, participants were helping to call the others who have yet to come.
  3. During the SALT Visit itself, they looked out for each other. They helped one participant who had a baby, to find a comfortable place and position for the baby to sleep. They prepared and gave food to one participant who was busy with her children.
  4. All of them spontaneously helped out in the BBQ and especially the cleaning and washing up after the Tea-Break and BBQ. The whole process of cleaning up after the BBQ was done so quickly and thoroughly . . . even before I could give any instructions. Extra food was packed and distributed evenly to all participants.

Wow! It seems that I don’t have to do anything. One of my colleague who was facilitating the SALT Visit commented, “What you have done was to move away a ittle, to create space for these people.”
So, at the end of the day, what did I learned?

  1. Well, I have to let go and not take charge of everything.
  2. My old ways of instruct and advice made way to believing that participants have the capacity to take charge. This experience made me believe and trust in their capacity to respond.
  3. I see their care, kindness, thinking of others first and how they do what they know is necessary to do . . . all these strengths of the participants.
  4. All these made my work light and easier to manage. I actually had FUN that day.

The colleague I mentioned earlier reminded me, “Generally, people do care for each other. Sometimes too much presence of the ‘outsiders’ in their life, crowded the space for people to give and to care.”

By Christina

SALT Mirror #18

8 Aug 2012

When Considering the Agenda

It came as a surprise when Yet told me to write this current SALT reflection. Personally SALT is still very new to me, during the sessions chaired by Gloria for LB and BHS teams, there are more questions than answer in my head even this minute.

At the last SALT session we talked about whether we should have an agenda when meeting the clients. Here is something I experienced.

As part of our CE work, Wanyi, Sam and myself went for our 'night duty' to walk walk and chat with some household. Before we start, Wanyi being the organised one among the three of us wrote our 'agenda' for the night, who we would like to visit, what we want to chat about with them and etc. On the list we had about six household, the last on the list was someone new to our community and is working with another VWO, but we would like to touch base with this family, we agreed we would only visit this last household if time permit. Life have a funny way of shaping things, half of the family we wanted to visit were not at home, casually we went to the last household, turns out that he got most of our attention.

This father shared with us his frustration in trying to get his seven year old daughter a visa to stay in Singapore so that she can attend school. The father is a Singaporean but was away for many years, his daughter was born in another country, he had a business in that country and was doing well. If I heard correctly his wife passed away a few years back and he actually brings his daughter to his work place while working. Under the advice of friends, he made a bold move by closing the business and come back to Singapore about a year ago, but there were and still are many obstacles ahead of him. He told us that the authorities (like ICA) wanted to check the authenticity between him and his daughter, although this didn't sit well with him but he went along with all the tests. Up until now, his daughter is on a social visit pass and couldn't not attend school. Because she is not attending school, he didn't work and is staying at home with her to provide care and home schooling. This father is doing an excellent job, his daughter greeted us in Mandarin, English and Tamil. We asked this father whether there is anything we can do for him, he said he is very disappointed to return to Singapore but will take things one step at a time, he appreciate us dropping by to visit them but at the moment there is nothing we could do as they are suppose to move out of the rental flat soon.


After parting with this family, we sit down to think about how we can maybe work with this family's caseworker to better understand their situation and what sort of assistance we can provide to see that this seven year old get to school. There is no ending to this issue as we are still trying to find out more information.

I ponder about how our agenda have changed from wanting to greet the family to finding their needs and frustration. Is there a need to have an agenda? Do we share with the people we work with about the agenda? I guess there is no hard and fast rules, some people might like structure so having an agenda is good for them, some people don't. It might work for some people but not all.

That is all from me for this issue, hope it make sense. There is a saying; "if you can't convince them, confuse them".

By Sebastian

SALT Mirror #17

27 July 2012

Creating Space, Sharing Gifts

The idea was 'conceived' with good intention: Let's get this group of school kids doing CIP to childmind the little ones while their non-working mothers take a break for an hour or two to chit chat and chill out. And so the whole team went about diligently calling and inviting mothers with young kids to join the parents support group. The first session started with 8 parents but dwindled to 6 then 3 mothers over the next 2 sessions despite calls & personal home visits to remind and invite.


In the midst of nursing our concerns over the dwindling numbers and 'hypothesizing' about the sustainability of this group, we didn't realise there were already 3 wonderful things happening:


The Gifts – 3 mothers shared the joys and pains of motherhood. Mdm Aminah has 2 boys aged 4 month & 4 years old. Mdm Sofia has to leave her youngest infant daughter with her mother while she handled her 2 boys aged 3 & 6 on her own as her husband is imprisoned. Mdm Tania has a daughter aged 11 and 2 boys aged 9 & 6. Her greatest struggle is handling her 9 years old ADHD son whom she has to send and fetch for extra tuition and follow up with his medical appointment. I was very impressed by her innovative ideas to use 'reminder' cards in addition to the behavioural reward charts in managing her kids' misbehaviours. She even brought along the cards the following meeting and share with the group on how to use those cards.


The Connected – 3 mothers staying in the same area were once strangers in the neighbourhood but now became friends, sharing about parenting, make-ups, cooking etc. Mdm Tania's sharing on the effectiveness of using the 'reminder cards' in managing her son's challenging behaviour was picked up by by Mdm Sofia in addressing her 6 years old son's vulgarity towards her. During the following meeting, Mdm Sofia proudly shared how the 'reminder cards' have helped his son improved some of his manners.


The Hospitality – Mdm Sofia and her 2 sons visited Mdm Aminah who welcomed them in her house. Mdm Sofia related that her 6 years old son ran into Mdm Aminah's bedroom and Mdm Aminah's son asked him, "How come you enter my mother's room without asking her permission?" In being hospitable, the little boy also transferred what he learned from his mother about boundary to his new friend.

We weren't quite sure of what to expect from this parents support group except creating a 'space' for mothers to chat and chill out. While some of the mothers have started working, the group has become a lot smaller. We will continue to create this space and invite mothers/parents to come and share their gifts with one another.

For now, I am contented that we have shared the gifts of these 3 mothers, their children and a group of students on CIP who have been faithfully coming despite the small number. We are connected among each other in sharing our needs and yes, we too are experiencing the warm hospitality of the Lengkok Bahru kampong to continue running our programs there.

By Adrina

SALT Mirror #16

11 July 2012

The Power of Parents Support Group

Dear all,

As i gather my thoughts and reflections for writing this ‘Salt Mirror’, i was also coping with the ‘sian feeling’, why i was ‘arrowed to write’ and the procrastination of writing. J well, here i am writing. Hope you guys will enjoy reading.

As most of you know, Bukit Ho Swee Team has been having our Parents Support Group (PSG) at two different locations which we named the hillside (Blk 94 Havelock RC) and valley side (Blk 5 FSC), i’m going to share my thoughts and how inspired i was by one of the participant at the recent PSG at the Valley side. There was this grandmother, very nicely dressed, lightly make-up, brought her 4 grandchildren (4yrs, 3yrs, 2 yrs and 10 mths), she was helping her son (single-father) who was struggling to keep his security job and looking after all his young children.

This grandmother shared openly and very positively with the group about her childhood, growing up poor, being a single mother and now having to cope with 3rd stage breast cancer, going through a major operation to remove one of her breast, undergoing chemotherapy and having all the side effects of the chemo (hair bald, fatigue, vomiting, frequent urination etc). Despite all her pain and struggles, she remain very thankful and grateful to her family, her friends and her 2nd husband, who was always there for her, encouraging her, keeping her company when she was at her lowest period. She felt the love and care from all the people around her.

When she told her husband that she needed to remove one of her breast, she told her husband to look for another wife as she would not be attractive anymore but her husband chided her and said ‘nonsense, no matter what happens, i will go through thick and thin with you in health or in sickness. I will definitely not leave you’. When she heard that, she was so touched and this make her even more determined to fight against the cancer. Now this grandmother is using her strengths and positivity to support her son, grandchildren and also other people around her.  

As she shared all these and as i looked at her (all the thoughts and feelings just stir in me), i realised she was so radiant. She was smiling and at times laughing while she talked. She was actually talking for quite a long time but i guessed no one seems to mind cause everyone was just listening to her and one by one, each mother started to open up and shared their own life experience and their struggles but everyone ended up saying, no matter how hard life is and or how much struggles we may have, we just have to remain positive, be strong and things will be better rather than complain and continue to be negative about life.

One mother even commented this grandmother went through so much yet still can be so happy and looked so pretty. As i end this reflection, i would just like to share a picture that Yet shared with me (pls see attached). I hope it inspires all of you!

An anthropologist proposed a game to the kids in an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told the kids that who ever got there first won the sweet fruits. When he told them to run they all took each others hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When he asked them why they had run like that as one could have had all the fruits for himself they said:... ''UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?''

'UBUNTU' in the Xhosa culture means: "I am because we are"

Ubuntu!

By Joanne

SALT Mirror #15

13 June 2012

"Value of Salt"

Salt is an essential nutrient and is the world’s oldest food additive. Mankind has been using salt for many centuries, in the course of which we've amassed many uses (some speculate thousands) for this amazing substance—uses that go far beyond mere seasoning.

Commonly used as food flavouring and an additive to help preserve food, this common mineral is so valuable.

The SALT Process has indeed become valuable in our daily thinking and working, adding flavour to our lives and the lives of those we work and interact with: STIMULATE, APPRECIATTE, LEARN and TRANSFER.

In May, a group of Single Mothers came together, to share, support and spend time together.

There were young mothers present who needed guidance and support. One participant was actually motivating them by sharing her life stories. It was encouraging to the others, as she told them to be positive and have hope.

It was amazing how these mothers were open to share their stories especially of how they have coped with their challenges. It was a real Support for each one present, as they Listened to one another, knowing that they are not alone and that they have each other.

One participant said, “For the sake of my children, I must carry on in life and have hope.”

Another participant said, “I’m happy to be here, to Learn and Listen from the others.”

They did Learn from one another’s stories, and determined to Transfer it in their lives, especially ways how others have coped.

We also witnessed how people are able to respond spontaneously and support the other person –

One single mother, who was just asked to leave her new job, went out and broke down and cried. Her boss felt that she will not be able to do well in her work as she has children to look after. She felt that it was unfair because she has looked for resources, like childcare for her children and have made all necessary arrangements for them.

The other participants went to comfort her. One putting her arms around her shoulders, they just allowed her time to cry and to speak out her anger and frustrations.

What they were doing was to LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN.

The facilitators present learnt that we do not need to provide solutions all the time. The Community is the expert of their own Life World. We were Touched and Appreciated their openness, their Strength to move on in life amidst their challenges and uncertainties. 

All we did was to provide a platform for them to come together.

The mothers present knew exactly and fully understand why they were coming together. Their honest sharing of their life stories, encouragement and support for one another – this itself fulfills the objectives of the purpose of their coming together – A SUPPORT GROUP FOR SINGLE MOTHERS – not with experts who ‘knows best’ and provide solutions, but with members who journey with them, believing in their capabilities, connecting them and learning and sharing together.

The SALT Visit ended with all the facilitators telling them how proud they are to hear that they have dreams – it gives hope and we admire their strength, even though they have challenges, they have dreams for themselves and their families and want to move on towards this with support from each other.

Just like the substance – Salt, which gives flavor and preserve food. The participants themselves have given flavor to their lives and preserved each other’s motivation and hope to move on.

By Christina

SALT Mirror #14

7 June 2012

"Encountering Strengths, exploring Dreams, now taking Action"

Along the journey for the past one month, I have encountered some challenges and some strength working in the community.

Recently, a  group of community  volunteers gathered to review their dreams as community which they created 4 month earlier, below is the review, what they have archived so far and some plans to move forward:

Leadership:

Christina and the youths has recruited 2 other youths for arts performance.

Aliff  15, and Rasul 15, has been voluntarily and actively involves in the Kayaking activities.

Indra 21 is finally recruited into National Service.

Mdm Siti has been working full time for the past three month in a restaurant, and she has been appointed as the outlet supervisor. She had also recommended and hired quit a number of our service users, youths and parents alike. Besides, she has been actively caring for 4 children, siblings in nearby community whom leaving with their single parents.

Mdm Siew Hiang and daughter 13th year old has been volunteering in Life program at Block 5 daily, to pack food and clean up the dishes.

Their Plan Of Action (POA):  to reach out for more youths, more parents and elderly in the community. Plan events and support community events.

Education:

Children are going to school regularly, has shown improvement in attendance and results.

Mdm Mae’s daughter 12, has been selected to enrol in Singapore Soprano program.

Jeffrey 18, has enrolled in ITE.

POA: To Keep monitor children’s attendance and ensure that they are attending community tuitions program. Pc’s for e-learning for some family.

Talent:

A group of kids performed at the “Youths got Heart” event at Singapore National Library & Beyond Graduations Awards Ceremony.

POA: They would be practising for their next community event comes school holiday, also would like to take part in dance competitions in the future.

After the review, they begin to share on some of  their challenges they facing in the community especially with their own community leaders, they felt that their work as volunteers were not recognised by their Leader and his existing committee. Most of the time, They will be informed on the happening/events or activities in the community on last minutes and expected to fill in the blank due to poor response of the other residents, and at time the children were not even provided with a drinks or a snacks when they attend certain event. They felt frustrated and not belonged in the community as they are not included even in the planning of the event for the community. Thus, some of them has decided not to volunteer or support any of the event or activity run by their Resident Committee (RC).

We felt that we should support them to resolve this issue. So, we ask them what we can do together to resolve this issue. After some discussion, we all agreed to meet their Resident Committee Leader, Mr A to clarify things, which they called it as a feedback session, and they needed us to support them by getting the Mr A to agree for the meeting.

We had a meeting with Mr A, to inform him about this tension in the community, and he was so hesitant to agree for the meeting as he felt that these volunteers are started demanding things even want to have their say in everything, some are taking advantage and he is pressured by his own committee of him being over supportive to this volunteers, which they also claim as pro- malay volunteers. We reflect the statement together base on few event organise by the volunteers and realise that, it’s not all true, as whatever event had taken place had fair invitation and attendance of different races. Beside all this, the RC has been very busy with a new transition happening in the community as there are new residential flats opened recently, and there is so many issues arising among the new residents. We did assure him that this volunteers are here to support him and his committee, they are not here to compete or replace the existing committee. After further discussion, he decided to attend the feedback session.

On the day of the feedback session, I was a bit nervous if it going to be any explosion :), we begin with a light refreshment, we had everyone to sit in the circle so that everyone can face each other, we had some volunteers to take care of the childrens. Mr A begin to address the group by thanking the group for being so supportive in the community for the past 2 years, and he further explain his challenges and everything that happening in the community. After that, the volunteers begin to voice out their concern and challenges. Both party listen to each other and begin to understand each other’s view and challenges.  At the end of the session, they begin to share ideas of what they can do together in the community.

Just before everyone leave, we had a short de-briefing with everyone, and the volunteers commented that “They felt, their voice has been heard, they are now understood their RC better, and they felt humbled as their leader came down to meet them, and they were amazed with their leaders openness for the session, some of the youth volunteers also felt honoured to have a closer encounter with Mr A. They are inspired to support their leader in anyway they can”. Mr A thanked them for all their support and understanding,” I hope we can do quarterly feedback, update and planning sessions”, he said.

As I’m reflecting this whole session and how we arrived to the point of having the dialogue and resolving this tension , I have learned on how important it is to create that space for people to meet and have a dialogue, I felt this method does apply for all aspect of life involving human being. For this to happen I have to believe in the power of people and they do have a strength that can complement each other needs in their community.

The volunteers are in the midst of planning for the next community event together with their RC and CC, so my journey continues as a partner and peacemaker :)

“To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, and to be certain of the things we cannot see”. Book of Hebrew.

By Mark

SALT Mirror #13

30 May 2012

"Asking ourselves why people act the way they do"

Here’s a video I came across which I’d like to share with all of you. It evoked a lot of emotions within me. I’m sure many of you would have various interpretations after having watched this. =)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDVawKB1FwY&NR=1&feature=fvwp





There are always reasons why people act the way they do. When you have to do the right thing, you don’t worry about what happens next. You just do it. And you trust that doing the right thing will get you through somehow. Sometimes when we are caught up with too many things around us, we fail to realise what the other person is going through or has been through. Just like the video, such things happen in our lives and in the communities we work with. As workers, we sometimes cannot seem to understand why people act the way they do, and so we get frustrated. Can you identify with the characters in the video? 

Therefore, communication and clarification of doubts is important. 

It’s been three months since “Behind The SALT MIRROR” started and we’ve been receiving positive affirmations from our fellow colleagues. Personally, it has motivated me and re-ignited my passion for the work after hearing that stories actually inspire people. Do you feel the same way as I do?   

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.  ~Leo Buscaglia

By Marilyn

SALT Mirror #12

16 May 2012

"Cloud of Beauty"

One of my favorite past time is watching the sunset.  My heart leaps with joy at the sight of the clouds, dancing in the colorful display of lights.  I thank God for such a magnificent sight and acknowledge that He too has created all humans, beautiful and for a purpose.

Recently I met a Chinese lady by the name, 白云(Chinese pinyin: “Bai Yun”), which means cloud in mandarin.  Naturally I praised that she has a beautiful name which surprised her and she enquired why.  After hearing my sharing on the beauty and the purpose of clouds to humanity, she was close to tears and thanked me for sharing this truth with her.  Our names are given by our parents, with good intentions, to represent who we are and what they hope we would become. “Bai Yun” despised her name since childhood because of the negative words her aunt had said which affected her self-confidence till today.   I heard of another story of a youth of ours, who often received sarcastic or racist remarks from his classmates and friends. Instead of caving in, encouraging words from our staff have built him up.

Both stories illustrate how powerful our words, be it affirmative or condemning, have on a child’s development and growth.  Every child is created at birth, beautiful and with great potential but the journey through life is thwarted with obstacles and challenges and these prevent us from developing our full potential.

Recently, at one of our regular SALT sharing, a colleague asked “How can you give when you have not received?” He shared his struggle in affirming the strength of others because he rarely received this himself.  I found myself listening to what could have been my own inner self speaking. Sometimes, I entertain a voice that tells me that I am not good enough and become paralyze by it. However, when I receive praises, I do not know how to react or accept them gracefully.  I questioned whether this is true.   Have you ever doubted your own potential by listening to the negative voice inside you?   I blame this on the fact that we are brought up in an imperfect world that often fails to see our strength but magnify our own fears and weaknesses.

One good suggestion given to my colleague was to start affirming his new born son and slowly, he would become good at this skill.    My work has given me many opportunities to exercise the skills of supporting, affirming and empowering youths and families to move forward in life.  I know that exercising this skill will closely transform me inside, to acknowledge that I too, have immeasurable potential given by God and to accept others’ compliments gracefully.

I am glad I have spoken the magical words to “Bai Yun”, refilled her life with hope and meaning.   She went away happy.   My wish for her, in the words of Rabindranath Tagore, is “Clouds come floating into her life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to her sunset sky.”

By Maizy

SALT Mirror #11

16 May 2012

"Tribute to Mothers"

I greatly appreciated the opportunity given to me to listen to two mothers share their stories.

Mdm. E taught me that strong, deeply rooted desires and believing in “I CAN” (a person’s capabilities), is a path that leads to their achievements.

Mdm. E had a very hard life, a life of rejection. Listening to her, I could feel so much positive vibes in her, even though she has not experienced love and appreciation since childhood to her early adult life.

She shared how her husband, Mr. A,(who was then her boyfriend), was always going in and out of prison and getting involved with ‘gangsters’(her own words).

She said, “I told him that if deep in his heart he desires to change, I know and believe he can change. He has to make the decision and I will support and stand by him.”

Change Mr A did. His turning point was when he realised Mdm. E had confidence and believed that he is capable of change. Mdm. E proudly said that now her husband works very hard, holding two jobs, cares and spend time with the family.

Struggling financially in their initial married life, they had a Dream – to own a place of their own. They worked hard towards this dream and soon early 2013, they will have their purchase 3 room flat. Now she has seen a glimpse of her rainbow, because she was strong to face the storm in her life.

What is her hope as a mother?

      Together with her husband, to bring up their two children in a loving, caring family environment.

 Another mother, Mdm. L, opened my eyes and helped me to understand Louise Hay’s words –

                “Love is the biggest eraser there is. Love erases even the deepest imprinting because love goes deeper than anything.”

It is the love of this mother for her children, that made her sacrifice so much.

Mdm. L twice owned a flat, but sold them off, to help her now ex-husband in his enormous debts. When he refused to change, they divorced, but Mdm. L continued to keep in contact as friends, invites him to their present rental 2 room flat and brings her children out to have meals with him.

Why did Mdm. L do this, since they are divorced?

Said Mdm. L, “I can’t take his terrible gambling habits and debts. We can’t be together, but whatever it is he is my children’s father. I want my children to know that their father is around and experience having a father. We must never hold grudges against others. We all are human and make mistakes. We must   let go and move on. When my father-in-law was very ill, I went to take care of him – he has accepted me before and was good to my children”

She continued, “ I’m struggling, but for my children, I will be strong. I’m happy they’ve grown up to be good children. My hope is that they do well in their education and earn a good living.”

 The stories of these two mothers, reinforces what many of us believe – The Human Capacity to Think and Respond to Their Life Situation.

I like to end my sharing with this quote as Food for Thought:

                 “If Human Beings are Perceived as POTENTIALS rather than problems, as POSSESSING STRENGTHS instead of weakness, as UNLIMITED rather that dull and unresponsive, then THEY THRIVE AND GROW TO THEIR CAPABILITIES.” – Barbara Bush

By Christina

SALT Mirror #10

16 May 2012

"In the Shoes of a service-user/Participant"

I recently attended a painting workshop over three days that helped me to discover more about myself at least, to go beyond my fears. Being a leisure paint/art person I chose to attend this workshop because the criteria was, “ No painting or art experience is required.” which fitted quite well with me as a leisure artist. Also, I just wanted a break, to relax.

At the workshop I was surprised in many ways. A green horn like me, who usually uses small art paper to paint, I had an easel on the wall, a large paper and various size brushes which I was not used to. I had to actually stand and paint pictures instead of my usual sitting at the table with small paper, and some paint on a palette. Wow...artist in the making!! Ya Sure!!    I thought to myself.

Worse still, I had a room full of many real artists around me, where painting a picture was no sweat at all for them, for within an hour they painted amazing portraits and landscapes to my dismay.

With all these fears before me, I wondered why am I here? or should I just get out of sight quickly. Then the instructions of the facilitator crept into my ears… to focus on my picture:

1.      Paint from your heart and not your head.

2.      You are not to judge/comment/compare with another’s painting.

3.      Discover what your picture speaks to you only.

I slowly became engrossed in my painting and the energy within me changed. My picture spoke to me and the fears just escaped away like bubbles. The facilitator helped me to focus more on improving my picture. He teased out ideas with me that helped to create new ideas to my picture. I felt different.

With new courage, I began to see the expert artists around me in new light. I drew energy from them, from their picture and their skills. I began to admire their pictures and got inspired by them, their persistence instead of being frightened or intimidated by their presence.

I began to ponder on what made the change. I realised that I found meaning in my own picture that I painted. I listened to my heart more and less of my head. I allowed myself to be stimulated by the colour and drawings which gave me new insights and creativity. Then I began to just appreciate other paintings, the expert artists and most of all my own painting from the heart.

The whole experience at the workshop made me wonder how the families, children and youth that I work/journey with feel when I am with them. What are their fears as a service user when they come to me for help?

I became more conscious about how important it is to lead them to listen to themselves, to their heart, to their strengths within them, to go beyond their fears. I also learnt that the environment/community around can become an important source of support and strength when you begin listening with the heart and less of the head.

The expert artists were just expert at their art. They were not judging, or comparing their art with the rest or even me, a small fry there. They were just being themselves, good artists with lots of energy, which eventually encouraged me to be myself with my own painting.

Having learnt about SALT, I hope to consciously Stimulate myself  to go beyond my fears, to Appreciate myself for who I am and  what I cannot be, to Listen with the heart starting with myself and to Transfer by being mindful of how a service user that comes to me maybe thinking and feeling when asking for help. I feel excited to share this new energy, learning with those around me in whatever way I can and be.

By Chris Joy

SALT Mirror #9

9 May 2012

"The Concept of Family"

For 20 years of my life, I've experienced the warmth of being in a three-generational family, all living under one roof. My grandparents have passed on several years back, but till date, I still count the fact that I once lived within a three-generational family as one of my greatest blessing. Being rather young, and growing up in a rather sheltered family, it is little wonder that the only 'family' I understand, is my biological and nuclear family. Unknowingly, my experience has shaped my concept of the family unit. Later, I went to school and sociological views on the family taught me that the family unit does not only mean people grouped together by blood ties – it also refers to people who make a choice to be closely and exclusively related. Frankly, I've never thought much about it. I had rather cynical views on people and relationships – how can people not related by blood call themselves family, and share all of life's joys and go through struggles together?

Being the anxious, young me with an aspiration to serve and make the world a happier place, I started my journey of doing social work with little life experience. Most of my work thus far have been with families. Over the past 19 months, I have experienced a whole repertoire of feelings as I journey with the families I serve – happiness, disappointment, joy, pain, and more. In recent weeks, I've had my concept of the family unit changed and renewed through an incident that I will always remember.

Recently, I had the opportunity to host some mainstream writers to connect them with some of the families we serve. The purpose was to help the writers gain a better appreciation and understanding of our families, and also to write some fictional stories for a community writing project.
On an eventful Wednesday night, three writers, a colleague and I were having a casual conversation with a mother over coffee at a local coffee shop. Halfway through our conversation, we witnessed a commotion that changed my concept and appreciation of 'family'. A young boy had tried to hit an older man with a stick. Apparently, the older man was the perpetrator. There were several other young adults screaming and crying out loud to their mom over the phone telling her not to commit suicide. They passed the phone to me. I had a brief 30 seconds on the phone with their mom. I heard her cry and threaten suicide. The children shouted in fear to the phone, telling their mom they love her and need her in their lives. One of the boy was so aggravated that he puked and had an asthma attack. A large crowd started to gather at the scene. The ambulance and police arrived. It was a complete mayhem. My heart froze at the first instance when I heard their cry of desperation to their mom to keep her life. Surely, they love her. Their mom's life was on the line. They were helpless.

I later found out that the boy who had an asthma attack was the only biological child of the missing 'mom'. Three other teenagers crying and screaming at the scene were actually her god-children, or children 'sworn' to her by choice. I was rather surprised, but more pleasantly than not, at the fact that the three other teenagers were genuinely concerned about a lady they regard and call their mother. You see emotions in its most brutally honest form in crisis or incidents like this. Surely, they are a family. If there was something that struck me, it has to be the significance our service users place on "family". I observed that the positive concept of "family" is a stronghold and motivation for many of our families to keep working hard towards the betterment of their lives together. Now, I disagree with my previous concept of family. I have learnt, that indeed, we can pick our family. We find our true family in the most interesting and unexpected places. Family isn't always blood. It's the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. It has encouraged me to continue to see the family unit as an anchor, and to build on its strength and significance in my work ahead. The family itself is perhaps the most empowering tool we can use to reflect strengths.

Oh, in case you are wondering, the children were reconciled with their mom later that night, all thanks to the vigilant police who managed to find her in the vicinity.

I have been enriched and humbled by my work with families, and I look forward to more encouraging and enlightening experiences in my journey ahead.

By Charisa

SALT Mirror #8

2 May 2012

SALT – It's a WAY of LIFE indeed!

On Sunday, we had a soccer friendly amongst the youths and J.P Morgan. Since Boy A helped me to co-ordinate everything and was the I/C I sent him an SMS saying "You make an awesome youth leader, you guys did great today! Thanks for everything" His reply was "your welcome, I just want to make sure everything goes by plan. I won't give up on those around me. I may get mad at times, but I would control"

If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you. What we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down. -Mary Pickford

On Monday, to my delight, I came across this:

"Guys, I need everyone's contact number. We need to do some team bonding. We'll have a meeting soon. I need to keep you all updated. Thanks. The tournament is in 1 month time. We need to train, have some meetings & chill together to get to know each other much better. Hope everyone turns up for every session. Thanks for understanding and do co-operate. - Your Sincere Team Captain"

He posted those words on a facebook group which they recently added me on.

This were the exact words of an 18 year old youth who has been with Beyond since he was in primary school. He's been through a lot in life and those who knew him would have much to say. His life was a roller-coaster and his younger brother used to be ever so fearful of Boy A. Time passed by, things got better and I'm happy to say that Boy A is now an active member of the Henderson community. The fact that there is so much hope within himself for a better life ahead of him is enough for him to be an inspiration to his fellow comrades.

These were the comments from two other youth in response to Boy A's post.

1) "Dude! great to hear, that u are taking initiative to bring all the Henderson youth's n get them to bond n understand each other! Proud of you Bro! Hail Boy A!

2) "Great to see you doing this. You such a good leader. Proud of you man"

Boy A's reply:
"Hey. Thanks! Seriously appreciate the comments. I'm back on track guys"

When I read all of this last night, I couldn't help but smile from ear to ear. It's simply amazing how these youth, despite their personal struggles and challenges they face, take the time to affirm and encourage one another.

After smiling to my laptop screen for about 5 minutes, like a little mad kid, I sent an SMS to boy A to say " you have no idea how proud I am of you! Glad to know you're back on track! Stay focused and live your dreams! Always remember that we're here for you.. I've got your back" =)
Boy A then replied to say "Hey! Thanks! Yeah, I'm back on track because I know that I'm not alone. I'm still living my dream. I will one day make everyone proud. Life has plenty of things to do. I'm not just doing for myself, but for everyone. I will share my dreams when I meet you k sis? "
Doesnt life just become so much more beautiful when people are able to accept one another's differences and journey alongside through it all? Knowing that one is not ALONE makes a HUGE difference. These youth who have no idea about what "SALT" is are already practicing the principles of SALT in their daily lives.

Honestly, after knowing Boy A for a long time now and having known his past, it's not easy to believe all he says as we know sometimes he adds salt n pepper in conversations. However, a colleague and I have told ourselves that everyone deserves a second chance and people do change. We have made it a point not to judge Boy A according to what he WAS, but to be there for him and to support him as he tries his best to become the person he wants to BECOME.

SALT is a way of life for me and for these youth. I wish for all of you to make it a part of yours too if it isnt already. I must admit, it is not the easiest to practice, but it's worth the try! =)

"I am here again, in a familiar place feeling something I've felt before, wondering why it's still here, why I didn't deal with it more fully before. But I'm glad I have a second chance at it ... and I know that if I need a third chance, I'll get it. I also know that if it comes up again, I'll recognize it sooner and deal with it more readily. This is growth. And, I am happy to be alive."

By Marilyn

SALT MIRROR #07

26 Apr 2012

The Power of Appreciation

I was so glad that a platform was created at our working place, for us to come together, bi-weekly, to share our way of thinking and working, in line with the PRINCIPLES of SALT.

Those who were able to make it came together in fellowship of the BEYOND COMMUNITY, sharing experiences and supporting one another.
Last session, we came together to share on the POWER of APPRECIATION. We shared on how we have appreciated others and what impact it has, and how others have appreciated us and how did we feel about it.

Appreciation is more than gratitude, but if someone has not experienced appreciation, it may not be easy. We can always start by being grateful of things we have, of people in our lives, what we did.

The positive energy that flows from appreciation is incredible – it makes people want to respond/give/do more and to appreciate others in return.
I remember reading a quotation from Mother Teresa, "There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread."

The experiences from my colleagues were inspiring and it made me convinced on the Power of Appreciation, so I would like to share their experiences with you.

- Joanne and her team had a Family Strengthening Day for Mdm. A, her family and extended family. During the planning and the day itself, the team was wondering whether Mdm. A would be participative.

They decided to see how the day goes and to give Mdm. A the support and encouragement that she needs.

The team was amazed of how Mdm. A did everything – preparing food, serving meals, making sure all went well and Mdm. A participated very well during the sessions.

During the de- brief, Joanne and her team praised Mdm. A for her participation and pointed out all the things she did for her family. They affirmed her strengths and showed appreciation for what she has done.

In Joanne's words, "Mdm. A's face became so radiant, she felt great being appreciated."

Mdm. A told the team that she looks forward to the next Family Strengthening Day. She said that she will do the contact for her family and extended family, planning/preparing of meals, etc.

- Sharon – This is a lady who a lot of other colleagues find very hard to engage. The truth is, she is as simple and honest and sincere as one can get, but she can be quite loud when she gets upset. Her children were always crying or demanding attention and whenever they walked into one of our offices, it would feel like a tornado was coming in.

Pascale shared "even though she was loud and always seemed to have some problems or another, I admired her a lot. I remembered how she had this long bicycle with many seats and she would cycle all her children with her.

She was equally harsh with me initially and very distrustful when I tried to get to know her.

I spent many times a week getting to know her. She had one of the cleanest houses I had ever seen. I learnt to respect her a lot when she sometimes would share her meagre meals with me and invite me to stay for dinner.

She was proud of the fact that she knew many languages even though she could not read or write.
As I reminded her of her strengths and appreciated her for who she is, she appreciated me for being there for her, listening to her when she needed to talk.

Last year, I stepped in and helped her to re-connect with her caseworker.

Sharon asked me what I told her caseworker. I said, ['I told your caseworker that you are a lovely person, hardworking and honest. Out of all the people I've worked with in the past 10 years in BEYOND, you are one that I truly valued and appreciated. That you need a lot of listening ear and need to know that people are sincere with you and treat you well. I also said that you went through a lot when you were younger, which is why you appear to be aggressive, but that underneath all that behavior, is a really kind heart.']"

Sharon then said laughingly, "me? kind heart?

Then Sharon said, "True, I have a kind heart and never want to hurt anyone, but people always hurt me."

Pascale continued, "The next day I learnt that Sharon went to meet her caseworker, and their relationship is getting better now."

A week later, Sharon phoned to ask whether BEYOND would help a family who has a child who is disabled, just like the way we have helped her. So, now this family has been connected to us by Sharon.

Pascale concluded, "It was amazing how the power of appreciation works. Sharon felt truly appreciated for who she is and her strengths reinforced, she was able to give back by helping someone else in a worse situation that her."

- Stella, another colleague, shared, "I was with this mother, who just needed someone to listen to her, so I sat with her and listened, listened, listened. I affirmed her strengths as she shared and appreciated her for her openness and the things that she has done. When this mother has finished sharing, she stood up and gave me a hug. I felt and saw in that simple gesture of her hug – her appreciation for me and for my appreciating her."

From my colleagues sharing, I see the enormous difference that occurs when people are thinking and feeling appreciated.

Appreciation is a powerful life principle that we all can live by. It seems magical. It empowers people and makes them want to do more.

Believe in the Power of Appreciation and take time to appreciate ourselves/others and observe the difference it makes to our daily life.
William James said, "The Deepest Principle in HUMAN NATURE is the Craving to be APPRECIATED."

By Christina

SALT Mirror #6

19 Apr 2012

What is my journey? What is my motivation? What do I get out of it?

When I was told to do the community work, to engage people, build rapport and get them to participate or volunteer in their community, I was a bit relented even though I grew up in the village, where community are strong and vibrant. But, After a year of using case management approach, which is mostly one to one as individual, or to one family and getting of impression of how secularized the people here, there was so many question on my head, what this work all about? How to go about it? Who to engage? How to engage? What to aspect? How about if it's not going to work? How about if people reject this approach? How about people misunderstood it? So, the beginning was full of uncertainty and risk taking just like going into jungle without a compass.

So, how the journey begin: The starting point is simply by believing. I reflected on how my leader has a lot of belief in me and my colleague by setting us apart to focus on this work. I'm aware of my limitations and weaknesses, but Her belief in my strength was the motivating factor. Its changes my perception about me, about people I'm working with and the people I'm going to engage and build partnership with. I simply realise everything is co-exist, the good and bad, poor and rich but the best thing is I can always focus on the strengths and the good stuff as "the strength will always stay, while the issue, limitation, weaknesses will go away given a time and space for it, after all I believe God didn't create any junk! even a junk has been a good source of income for some people.

As I start the journey deeper, I was surprised with almost everything people has to offer, they are so welcoming, friendly, caring and being very helpful to one another. They too have heart to do good and to contribute and give back to the community they resides. I was literally force to "unlearn my concern and expect the unexpected". After series of interactions in the form of meetings, casual talks, movies, night fishing, long boarding (a longer version of skateboard), swimming, badminton, birthday celebrations, with children's and youths and their families. Those hidden treasures begin to surface; a 13th year old boy, our service users step up to offer his time for tutoring other younger kids in the community. He want to do it out of gratitude for the service we have been providing to him and his family.

Another service user, a youth whom had a difficult childhood, whom also was convicted for petty crimes, in and out boys home step up to coach other youths on drama performance which base on his life story for one of the community event. He was also an expert on "longboarding" and attracted few other youths to spent their time meaningfully in this activities. A mother of three, offered to child mind two other kids while their single parent out for work. A group of volunteer get together and start organising their first event in the community, they shared ideas and plan everything and was supported by their community leaders and the event turnout to be so successful. It was endorsed by their Member of Parliament to be a yearly event. One of the youths whom was part of the organising team shared how he is proud of himself and about his community spirit. He said, " we were no body, but now we are somebody". This group of people went on to volunteer and organise more events in the community, and came out with a collective dream as a community, to nurture leadership, talents and educations for the young. They look out for one another especially for the young and elderly. All this convicted me about believing in the power of people and how they are so resistant and resourceful in their life. I am amazed with how this people has become my source of inspiration to carry on this work.

Along the way, I do bump into challenges, obstacles and doubt, there will be some people choose to functions alone, don't believe the importance of including people let alone collaborating with them, some still feel that they have the answers and they know better. Well, they probably need more time and space to get it, even if they are not, it doesn't matter anymore, as they are co-exist. I have learn that every community has its dynamic and I should be able to respect them as they are. Besides, I can always count on the blessing compared to the blunders. I'm also glad that I was not alone as I have the" power of we" a team to fall back to clarify things, to brainstorm idea, to support me and guide me along if things get tough.

As I look back now, I realise how important is the power of believing, appreciating strengths, learn to unlearn, expect the unexpected, accepting weaknesses, accepting differences, a little gesture of smile, a casual talk, a small act of kindness, a little time spent, even in the very insignificant activities does matter in the course of doing this work, I'm certainly discovering myself more and It makes my journey beautiful. The bottom line is I'm happy! Thus, I believed and my journey continue with the spirit of gratitude for everyone whom has been part of my journey.. Hope to discover more treasure in time to come together as "WE". But, Do we believe?

By Mark

SALT Mirror #5

11 Apr 2012

What is in this journey?

"What is our motivation? What drives us at work? What do we get out of our journey?" These are questions for our reflection this week after a nun shared her motivation and challenges in journeying with under-aged girls exploited for prostitution.

So what is mine? Shortly after I joined Beyond Social Service last June, I fell sick so often and I wondered why. Looking back, I realised that one of the reasons was because I was not emotionally ready to handle the multiple challenges faced by families we serve. I was overwhelmed by their problems and I did not know how to manage them.

It was not until last October, when I was invited to a SALT visit to observe a group of facilitators at work that I witnessed the positive energy that grip this community. They shared their pains but also they dare to dream. Tears were shed and joys of laugher were heard. I too was enriched, renewed and empowered by their sharing. There was hope for me to remain, to learn from these people we serve.

One inspiring example was Mdm A, a single-mother with 7 children whose husbands have abandoned her and her 7 children. She shared how she overcame her challenges, from being a service user to a leader within her own community. She acknowledged that those who journeyed with her played a vital role in helping her stand up. They believed in her and affirmed that she has strengths which she never knew. Her journey of healing and transformation began only when she herself believed that this was possible and took steps to move her life forward.

Just two week ago, I accompanied my colleague for a home-visit to a 12-year old youth, with 4 young siblings from a single-parent family. I was pleasantly surprised to see Mdm A there. She revealed that she took her afternoon off from her family, to be a care-giver to these young children when they return from school. She cook, clean the house, fetch the young children from childcare. She wants to ensure that these children have an adult at home to look after them when their single parent is at work. Mdm A was able to empathize with the pain of others and has extended her compassionate heart to journey with her friend. I admire her inner resilient and courage to close her past and a heart of gratitude for her generous contributions to the community. She is an inspiration.

I applaud my colleague(s) who have patiently journeying with Mdm S. Consciously or unconsciously, they have applied SALT in their work by Supporting, Affirming, Listening, linking her to resources so that she could be Transformed and in-turn Transfer her joy and talents with others.

So you may ask what my motivation at work is, what drives me and what I get out of my journey. These are my reply. (1) Money - to meet my basic needs and the hope to have enough for rainy days and old age and not be dependent on our society. (2) The opportunity to learn at work and grow. Life always throws up many surprises that we may not be able to handle. I am grateful for the many inspiring stories this job offers for my personal growth. (3) To become a better human, to be able to tell myself at deathbed that I have completed the race with much joy, sharing life and love with my family and those at work.

For now, my journey continues as I learn to smell the flowers amidst these challenges.

By Maizy

SALT Mirror #4

4 Apr 2012

Some time back in one of the meetings with an organization, we all were asked to describe what our regular work day is like. Well, after giving it a brief thought, I said I do not have a regular work day. My work days are rather medium or large!! I mean, not a day passes for me when I don't learn anything. Every day I meet people, talk to them, learn so much from them and get inspired from them. Do u think it's a regular work day.. Nah, don't think so!! Consciously or unconsciously we build a relationship with the people which is much deeper, much more firm than a social worker and beneficiary relationship.

The last quarter has been full of happenings in our Henderson community. Well, undoubtedly it was tiring for all of us but at the same time I feel it was an extremely satisfying experience. Not that only The HENDERSON TEAM did some magic, but magic was created when we journeyed with the people, the residents of the community.

We strongly believe and have tremendous confidence in the community that when they have opportunities and willingness to talk to each other, they can do a lot by themselves. Then our role is not directing but accompanying them and supporting them in every way possible.

Be it a recent birthday party celebration in the community or a small discussion with some of the mothers struggling with issues of lack of child care in the community, I was at times so tempted to problem solve but, tried, tried my best to not to jump in but stimulate more discussions around it and creating opportunities for the community to resolve it. For eg, in a discussion, where mothers were busy stating all the problems they were facing since there was lack of child care facilities in the vicinity. We, facilitators asked a very simple question what do you think can be done together. And that was a breakthrough and then the mothers started focussing on their strengths rather than the deficits. And this gave all of us an opportunity to learn from each other and we saw a lot of hope and positivity in whatever we were trying to do together. 

Recently, we did a dream building session with a group of resident volunteers in the community. It was truly amazing to see how they share some common dreams about their Henderson Heights. One of the youths was so agitated and expressed lot of concerns about the youths in the community. The facilitator acknowledged her agitation and asked casually what according to her can be done, promptly she said, all these things affect her as well and she wants to do something, but alone she cannot.

I think, this is what we call the 'power of we' and working together to achieve the dreams that the people see for their own community.
Thus, I happily say the people I work in partnership with make my every day really large...!!

By Rumpa

SALT Mirror #3

28 Mar 2012

"The Power of WE"

The question of how to develop and strengthen the social capital of the community has been on my mind over the past months as I walked around the neighbourhood of Henderson. It was by coincidence that two of my teammates chanced upon a small notice in the RC about an upcoming youth volunteers meeting. Last Friday night, Anne and I attended the "Youth Volunteers Network" meeting that was initiated by a 15 year old Youth leader of the Henderson RC. We contacted them to ask if it was okay if we attended the meeting. Anne and I went down with the intention to just listen to what's been planned. Little did we know, we were going to be overwhelmed by the ideas and suggestions that were discussed.

Just to share two points which I was in complete AWE of! The volunteer committee came up with the idea of having a tuition programme for children/youth once a week. This was with the aim of helping those who were struggling to even complete their homework. In the hopes of finding some volunteers to run this programme, this youth leader contacted his former teachers to ask them if they would be keen to volunteer to teach the children English as he realised that many children could barely read. To his surprise, they were very forthcoming and he managed to get five teachers to come down every Sunday to run the programme.

As some of us might already know, Henderson was voted the "dirtiest estate" in Singapore! Thus, on Sunday, there was a "Happy Block Campaign (My Estate, My Home, My Pride)" where many residents gathered to pick up litter around the neighbourhood. I was amazed when the youth leader mentioned that he informed his school principal about it, and that his principal made an announcement during morning assembly to encourage students to volunteer!

In addition to that, they are also planning their very own volunteer training that is planned to take place sometime next month.

At the end of the day, I was just sitting there in COMPLETE AWE of the great leadership potential this 15 year old displayed...... and I still am by the way!!! =) =) =)

Anne and I shared with them what Beyond's currently doing and said that we would love to be a part of their future discussions as well. We suggested that since we are both trying to do quite similar things, it would be great to collaborate and work together towards the goals for the community.

Indeed, GREAT things happen when we work in collaboration and not compete against one another. 3 lessons learned for me this time!

1) Had it not been for my 2 colleagues, I would have missed out on this great opportunity to attend the meeting (TEAMWORK is KEY at all times)

2) Acknowledging the fact that no matter WHO we are or who we represent, we are all on a learning Journey TOGETHER and we can LEARN from one another. In order to learn, we've got to also be OPEN to change, and keep in mind that we don't always have the answers to each situation.

3) If not for collaboration and communication we would have found ourselves struggling to reach out to the SAME target audience to achieve a common goal, separately!

In just two hours, I was reminded that I should not underestimate the POWER of WE and that I should be open to the various opportunities of learning from the "EXPERTS" which are the residents themselves.

By Marilyn

SALT Mirror #2

21 Mar 2012

I was privileged to be a participant of the Indo Competence Salt Visits at Jogjakarta. SO, WHAT WAS MY LEARNING?

1. I learnt that it is important to LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN, so that learning can take place.

In order to Listen Attentively, I must be conscious of this - to be fully present for the other person(s), accepting, respecting the person(s) who is in front of me, as fellow human beings.

This I witnessed in all the communities that we visited in Jogjakarta, They supported, cared and accepted each other as family. They had genuine love for one another. I realised that when this happens, the barrier infront of us will be removed and there will be tremendous possibilities.It brings to my mind ,BEYOND'S compass - "I, WE, TOGETHER WE"

Example. In one of the communities, one person uses her own money to provide for the daily needs of her community. When they fall short of money, one of them will sell sex, to provide the community with food.

2. BELIEVING that communities has the strength, resources and capacity to respond to their challenges.

Example 1. As one person from the Transgender Community put it beautifully, "There are challenges, but NO DEAD END."

Example 2. Society may probably perceive them as "pitiful" and as though they have limited education and abilities, but these communities have proven that they have the capacity to respond to their life situation. Like one of them said, "Where there is a Will there's a Way." They build their own network, working with the police, govt. bodies, schools and also patrol their area. With their creativity, they make and sell handmade batik products and costume jewelleries to generate income.

Example 3. Just two weeks ago, Rumpa, Pei Ling and I did a SALT VISIT to Henderson Community. The participants brought out issues of Childcare and Child-minding.

As the discussion was going on and everyone was thinking of "What can we do to solve this issues as a Community?", one participant said, "I know the Principal of the Childcare, which my child attends, very well. I will speak to her and see what she can do."

Another said, "I will speak to the person in charge of T-Net Club, maybe some of your children can attend T-Net. I heard that the person in charge helps the children with their homeowrk.. I will also take care of her(another participant's) child, while she works on Saturday."

Two said, "I enjoy taking care of younger children. If there are any, I will help."

Another of our organisation's compass, " Believe that People are Gifts with unique strengths and abilities and are leaders in their own right."

Like many, I used to intervene, believing that I'm the expert and have the solutions and answers. Now, experiencing the above examples, the basis of my intervention is my belief in people's strengths to respond to the challenges they face.

Pesronally, the Principles of SALT is genuinely from inside, embedded in the human person. Its not a Tool or Mechanisim, but its a way of life . . .a way of thinking, working, talking. All aspects of our life. A Life of Listening, Learning and Believing.

A man not only needs to know how to fish, he needs to have the freedom to do it and a place to do it. That's where community comes in. We have to help each other.

By Christina

SALT Mirror #1

14 Mar 2012

"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them."

"Back to the Basics of Being HUMAN!"

Society may regard the trans-gender, sex workers, men having sex with men as outcast but a group of 28, recently had the privilege to visit these communities, have unearthed gems and many were touched and transformed in the process. "Respect, resilience, resourceful, honor, sacrifice for common good of others" is strength we identified at the recent International Salt Visits at Yogyakarta.

We would never think we could learn so much by simply being present to them, listening, appreciating, understanding their struggles. Before we set off for the visits, the team was introduced to the "Are we Human" exercise, to reflect the meaning of being human to one another. This simple, yet powerful exercise has set the tone for the entire SALT visits and we were reminded to "do to others what you would like others do to you", without social status dividing us.

Being raised in a meritocracy society, many will acknowledge that the educated are consider "better" human persons than those least educated and as such, they are more capable in many aspects - work and personal life. As a community worker, I am often seen as an professional service provider, providing solutions to family problems. I struggle with the question often asked by families "What can you do for me?" as I don't always have any solution for them.

Being personally present to witness how the community has transformed during the first few SALT visits in Singapore and in Yogyakarta, I found renewed passion and energy to apply what I've learned in my work. At the recent meetings with the community in Singapore, we did the Human exercise and was rewarded with good responses. Everyone respected and appreciated one another's strength, and slowly the discussion was directed at how they could use their strength to support the community. This is a paradigm shift for these service users and myself as we failed to see the strength. I am truly humbled by the encounters and I am excited to see the end results, trusting and believing that "every community has the capacity and resources to resolve their own problems".

By Maizy