CHCSA has been serving the needy and less fortunate in the community tirelessly and faithfully for the past 15 years.
Contributed By Jeremy Chua
Established in March 1996, City Harvest Community Services Association has been living out its tagline of “Touching Hearts, Changing Lives” for 15 years and counting. More than merely providing financial assistance, CHCSA has based its services upon a multi-pronged approach aimed at uplifting and empowering its beneficiaries. These include adding value; meeting service gaps in the community; building futures; equipping their clients to live a well-rounded life and improving the quality of life for the underprivileged through direct services and assistance.
The “Church Without Walls” program in City Harvest Church in 1995 was built on the belief that besides preaching the gospel, the church must meet the practical needs of the community. As these community works grew, the co-founder of the church, Sun Ho, spearheaded CHCSA to grow and touch more lives. Advocating excellence and genuine compassion toward people, Ho was the driving force in CHCSA’s early days.
CHCSA was registered with Registry Of Societies on Aug. 16, 1997, a year after its inception. This set the precedent for CHCSA to ensure their credibility and trustworthiness. In 2000, CHCSA received full membership with the National Council of Social Services, and was officially registered under the Charities Act in January and February respectively. CHCSA is also an Institute of Public Character and is ISO-certified.
“I started out with CHCSA as a FIRST Hand volunteer in 1999,” said Darryl Loh, executive director of CHCSA. After getting a more in-depth look at CHCSA during her internship with them in 2000, Loh decided that this was the organization that would let her put her degree in social work to good use.
“In all that the team was doing to serve the community, there was always this element of blessing and faith. They approached every problem and obstacle believing for a good result, and that nothing is too impossible to be accomplished. The environment was different from other organizations, and because of that, CHCSA was a very exciting place to work in.”
As a new social worker, Loh witnessed Ho’s dedication to the causes of CHCSA. “Sun emphasized excellence, integrity of work and, most importantly, valuing the clients we help. As social workers, there’s a tendency for us to want to dispense advice and help our clients solve problems, and we can get caught up with that and forget to tend to the heart. Sun was aware of this fact, and, wanting the best for the clients and for our growth as well, she set in place standards for service. We replied to every e-mail within three days of receiving it, and Sun herself went through every e-mail correspondence that dealt with counseling. She had that desire to see people treated with dignity, respect, and as equals in society,” recalled Loh. This is a deep-seated belief and attitude that has defined CHCSA for the last 14 years.
CHCSA’s true impact is best seen in the lives it has changed—and it has changed many. Through the organization’s work, youth-at-risk have turned into model sons and students, abused children have regained confidence and now excel in school, neglected elderly people have found new friends and gained quality of life.
Loh cites a client who had two grown sons, but her husband kept a mistress. She lost her younger son in a fatal accident, and her older son became estranged when he discovered his father had been taking the hard-earned money he gave to his mother, to pay for his mistress’ lifestyle. Two CHCSA volunteers began knocking on this lady’s door every week in 2006, but in her depression, she never let them in. Finally in 2008, their persistence paid off, and she invited them in, and found herself pouring out her troubles to them. The volunteers roped her into the COPE Happy Cards program, and gradually she found she was no longer in depression. In 2010, she signed up to be a volunteer at the COPE elderly leadership camp, and has since been a regular volunteer, going to visit other elderly folk on Saturdays and helping in programs. In the way those two COPE volunteers touched her life, she said, she could now do the same to other elderly people around her.
To CHCSA, every client is important, regardless of race, language or religion, and deserves the best care and attention. It has come a long way from a church-started initiative to a viable community-based organization that loves all and serves all.
Said Loh, “We don’t have any hidden agendas. We don’t help people just because we want them to come to church. We just genuinely want to help people, and we believe that common grace is available to everyone.”
VOLUNTEERS MAKE A DIFFERENCE
CHCSA has received recognition and appreciation for their service to the community by many organizations, including Red Cross Singapore, the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, the Health Sciences Authority of Singapore, Ministry of Health, and the South West Community Development Council. This is mainly in part due to the dedication of the volunteers, all of whom undergo an in-depth training phase to better serve the community in their various services. Dubbed the “Enablers,” these volunteers are the backbone of CHCSA. Volunteers have to be SHARP—Sensitive, Happening, Always positive, Responsible and Pro-active.
As an organization that relies heavily on volunteers, CHCSA understands the need for volunteer management. Loh points out, “Enablers do what they do because they want to help people, to have a sense of purpose and meaning, and they believe that they can make a difference. So, we try to ensure what they are doing is meaningful and change the way they see themselves.
“Volunteers don’t get paid but they are priceless. The work they do must make them feel self-actualized, and they must be treated with respect. Finally, we must value them enough to accept criticism and feedback. By doing so, we build up not only the volunteers’ respect for the leaders, but also better the organization as a result.”