A recent open house shared the vision and mission of POD: to befriend, engage and help youth-at-risk.
Contributed by Dannon Har
POD is a youth-oriented community service started by City Harvest Community Services Association in collaboration with Tampines Changkat Citizens’ Consultative Committee and the Ministry of Community Development Youth & Sports.
The open house event was carried out in an aptly casual setting, but had focus and purpose. Several grassroots leaders who arrived early were greeted warmly by the POD staff, and they readily participated in a game of giant “snakes-and-ladders”. The tokens, board and dice were more than 10 times the usual size. Participants who landed on a “snake’s head” had to answer a question related to Singapore’s culture, such as “Name the four main racial groups in Singapore.”
Guest-of-Honor, Irene Ng, Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC and the grassroots leaders mingled and interacted with the POD staff and residents while waiting for the presentation to begin.
Program executive Alvin Low presented to the audience the need for youth-centric community services. With a show of statistics, Low explained that many young people have been turning to crime in recent times due to a variety of factors, such as, a lack of identity, being unengaged, and having no place to vent their energy. Low also pointed out that POD is actively engaging youth by having both center-based programs as well as workshops conducted in schools.
“We adopt an innovative approach in the way we conduct our programs in schools; we try different angles, use games and role-play to the youth,” explained Jonathan Goh, 39, POD’s center manager. “Our programs are also very practical; whatever is taught can be applied immediately.” Goh cited an example of a project by POD with the students of Ngee Ann Secondary School; together with senior citizens from CHCSA’s Cope services, the students managed to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the greatest number of hand-made lanterns.
It hasn’t always been smooth-sailing for POD—not everyone in the community understands what they are trying to do for youth-at-risk.
“While some of the feedback we’ve received from residents are favorable, a number are negative. It is understandable as some people, for the lack of sufficient information, shun these troubled youth and their less than desirable behavior,” Goh noted, stressing that welcoming these troubled youth is the first step toward helping them to change.
POD strongly believes in befriending these troubled youth first before asking them to change. “We have a very open concept, we welcome any youth, and we always befriend them first,” said Goh. “We want POD to be a place where they can find acceptance, and in time to come, desire for a change in their lives.”
Within POD’s premises, house rules such as, no smoking and no vulgarities apply. In fact, it has become a culture for the youth in POD to monitor themselves and make sure that even new additions to POD adhere to these rules.
“Young people today just want someone to hear them out,” says Janet Kong, an energetic resident and grassroots leader in her 50s. “Youth today don’t express themselves much, even to their own families. They would rather look to friends who understand them better.” Kong feels that youth are fortunate to have centers like POD, which help them to use their time effectively, and provide opportunities for them to showcase their talents.
Kong’s point was underscored by Nelson Quek, 20 and Sia Hui Shan, 20, who performed “No Boundaries” by Adam Lambert; a song that without a doubt exemplifies the cry of today’s youth, pursuing their dreams in a world with no boundaries.
|CN PHOTO: Michael Chan|
“POD opens up many opportunities for us and gives us a platform where we can hone our talents,” said Quek, once an aimless youth, but now one who can confidently play his guitar in front of an MP and grassroots leaders.
“I discovered talents here that I never knew I had,” added Sia, who sang on stage with Quek’s guitar accompaniment.
POD’s method of reaching out to the youth may be a painstaking, and at times, misunderstood process; however, over the years staff of POD has seen some heartening results. “Changing someone’s life through mentorship might take a long time but it pays off in the end, when these youth are transformed into people of destiny,” said Low.
POD’s drop-in center is located at Block 316, Tampines Street 33 #01-186. It opens from 10.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. on weekdays. For more information, log on to www.chcsa.org.sg/youth.htm.
A Transformed Youth
Siti, a beneficiary of POD, tells her story.
When I was young, I was often compared to my cousins and siblings who were deemed smarter and more capable than me. I’ve always felt inferior and undeserving of my parents’ affections.
When I was in Primary 5, I started to spend a lot of time with a group of fun-loving friends from my school. Wanting to be accepted by them, I picked up habits such as smoking and shoplifting. My parents tried to control me but I rebelled.
My relationship with my mother became more strained when I was caught smoking in Primary 6; it worsened when I was in secondary school as my mum started working.
I was defiant to my teachers and adopted a “devil may care” attitude about school and life. I thought, since nobody cared about me, I did not need to care about the consequences of my actions either.
My nightmare started when I began to date Hadi. Our relationship was sweet in the beginning, but I soon realized that he had anger issues. He would often take his anger and frustrations out on me. He would pinch and slap me, or grab me and violently shove me around. On one occasion, he hit me so hard that I fell backwards down a flight of stairs. Hadi also tried to control everything that I did. My relationship with my friends grew distant and my studies deteriorated further.
No longer able to tolerate living in such fear, I initiated a breakup. Hadi flew into a rage and waited outside my school gate. He dragged me out by my hair and hit me, punching me twice on the mouth and chest. He pinched me repeatedly until my neck had blue-black marks. He shouted vulgarities at me in front of everyone.
The incident left a scar in my life and I began to have nightmares ever since. I kept to myself and grew antisocial.
I came to know about the POD center through my friends. The staff were friendly and patient, and I felt comfortable with them. Over a period of time, through my friendship with the people at POD, I grew to trust them and shared with them about my family and my past. They did not nag at me or tell me what to do. They simply listened and encouraged me when I was down. They also motivated me to focus on my studies through setting study goals and guided me along the way.
In time, I soon realized that I was partly to blame for the strained relationship with my parents. As a result of my stubbornness, I had become bad-tempered and impatient toward them. Through the encouragement of the POD staff, I took steps to mend and improve my relationship with my parents.
Now, I am a confident and happy young lady with supportive friends and family.
I am also currently helping younger students, teaching them to dance for their upcoming cheerleading competition. I am focused in my studies, alert in class, and occasionally emcee for various events in my school. I am now noted in my school for my talents, instead of my problems.
My life would have been different today if not for POD Center and its staff. Thank you for what you are doing among the youth.