NUS Chua Thian Poh Community Leadership Centre (CTPCLC) annual symposium is back in 2019. CTPCLC was established by Mr Chua Thian Poh with the mission to nurture Singapore’s next generation of community leaders who are driven by their passion to address social and community challenges in Singapore. CTPCLC exposed students to different community development model and frameworks, and provide them the opportunities to engage in field research on various community issues in Singapore.

CTPCLC Symposium 2019 provided a diverse range of projects addressing issues relating to foreign domestic workers, health, ageing and others. Guest-of-honour, Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs welcomed questions during the panel discussion, sharing her knowledge and experience with the students and audience.

Charmaine and her team members

This year, Charmaine, one of SNCF’s scholar and Su Qi, former intern of SNCF took part in CTPCLC symposium 2019 with 2 other group members Kimberly and Roxanne. Their research project was on Moneylending among Foreign Domestic Workers. We had the opportunity to interview Charmaine to find out her journey and what inspired her to choose this issue.

What made you choose this social issue?

This topic piqued my interest because I grew up with close relationships with my foreign domestic workers, and always saw them as family. Over the past few years, I have grown interested in issues surrounding community development. Given the foreign domestic workers’ socio-economic status, they are a community that face many structural vulnerabilities. Whilst much has been done to improve their welfare and livelihoods as they seek a better future in Singapore, these vulnerabilities have made their negotiation of financial structures a tricky one, and one that can affect many other facets of their lives. So when I saw an opportunity to make a lasting change and impact in their migrant journey here, I thought why not!

Charmaine presenting their research!

What was the focus of your research?

CTPCLC’s philosophy is very much based on the notion that communities are in fact their own resources and their own assets. This is very different from the usual top-down approach that many people involved in the social sector use. Whilst the top-down approach may be effective in the short run, in the long run, it is not sustainable and also compromises on important factors such as the dignity of the community. Instead of focusing on the gaps of the system, we focused a lot on the potential and possibilities of our community and sought to gain a deeper understanding of them instead of treating them as a single entity – foreign domestic workers (FDW).

Results of research:

Our in-depth interviews with them have helped us humanise the process and form an intimate understanding of the reasons behind the choices they make. Some very interesting insights are that culture plays a huge role in the borrowing behaviours of FDW. For example, the Filipinos view borrowing as a social activity and as a helpful avenue, whereas the Burmese FDWs were extremely averse to moneylending practices with none of our interviewees even slightly involved in borrowing.

After gaining an understanding of the context from the FDWs themselves (instead of external sources), we realised that many negative stereotypes regarding moneylending amongst FDWs (such as excessive spending beyond their means) have been vilified and amplified on mainstream media (simply because they catch audience attention). Thus, we had to really challenge these assumptions during our project, and the whole process was very humbling and I’m very blessed to have been given this opportunity.

Charmaine group’s research project was only one of many in CTPCLS Symposium 2019. There were also…

Investigating Effectiveness of Peer-Support Groups for Ex-Offenders provided by CARE Network Partners

The transition of a newly released ex-offender from prison back to the society is often a challenging process to most of them. This research investigated the role and effectiveness of various pro-social networks like peer support groups that help reintegrate the ex-offender into the community. They provide them a second chance and a safe space to bond and support each other while preventing recidivism.

A Landscape Study on the Disability Sector in Singapore

This research identified clear gaps in service provision for adults with disabilities. In Singapore, voluntary welfare organisations (VWO’s) remain to be the biggest contributor in the provision of adult care services for persons with disabilities (PWDs), dominating the landscape with 72 VWOs compared to just 9 social enterprises (SE). We also have Runninghour, a service co-operative who helps integrate people with disabilities and visually impaired through running.

Closing ceremony group photo, spot Ms Josephine Teo who is in red.

CTPCLC symposium 2019 provided a lot of insights into the current social issues that are surrounding Singapore and the challenges we faced as a society in trying to solve these issues. One thing that Ms Josephine Teo brought up was the importance of proper usage of data numbers. Data and statistics are more often than not necessary to back up claims, especially for research projects. What we learnt from Ms Josephine Teo was that data numbers themselves require context as a single number can be manipulated in various ways to tell different stories and it is very easy for people to be misled with the misuse of proper data.