“It is far easier to build strong children than to fix broken men”


This lady is Adelyn Poh.

16 years ago, her sister was murdered by a young person. A young person whom without the love, guidance and care of a functioning family, took to crime…and in this case, a fatal crime.

Since then, Adelyn dedicates her life to running an organisation aptly called “CARE” – Children-At-Risk-Empowerment.

“When I saw how much pain and havoc from just one person who’s family does not know how to care for him, I knew I had to do something…”, said the stoic chief.

When a child grows up, especially up till edge of their teenage years, they are at their most impressionable. They are easy to influence. For a child that is growing up without the guidance of a wholesome family, they are what we call “at risk”. And the corrupt of our society is all too eager to befriend and exploit them.

In the course of my community work, I have met with people who in their gravest time, need urgent help. For example: families struggling to make ends meet, individuals in their advanced years who need monetary assistance. People who are on the verge of bankruptcy. People who run foul of the law and in deep repentance.

The one common trait I find similar in all these stories is rooted in their childhood – a deprivation of guidance. Even then, children may not take kindly to such guidance.

I remember when I was a kid, I loathed adult interference with my life.

“Ah boy ah, got do your homework or not?”

“Ah boy ah, you better go and bathe now i tell you!”

Then there were the nags. Do homework, eat vegetables, don’t talk to strangers, don’t do this, cannot do that, no, no, no… everything that came out of the mouth of my aunts were words telling me what I cannot do.

My grandmother used to tell me (in Cantonese), “We scold you because we love you… if it is other children, I won’t even care! You better appreciate our scolding!”

When I listened to Adelyn speak, I reflected upon my growth as a young boy and it dawned upon me how important adult guidance was. At 34 today, I wished I had not thrown the tantrums I had to my grandmother, or bit my aunty on the shoulder when they instilled discipline on me.

“You can be angry with us all you want – in the future you will understand it is for your good”, said my aunty Lai Wah when I kicked furniture all over the house in a fit when I was 10 years old.

And she was right.

Adelyn told stories of aggressive children, children filled with spite and hate, children who gave themselves up to depression…even on the brink of suicide. She told stories of how volunteers at the organiation who worked and turned these lives around, surfacing high flyers that would otherwise not have had their talents discovered.

The work of the people at CARE is not easy. Working with children already isn’t easy, let alone those with family or psychological deficiencies. Some high involvement volunteers attach themselves to children for years… and they have to make this commitment. When a child entrusts him/herself to you, you couldn’t just “resign” from the job.

The organisation also has difficulty raising funds. To uphold each child’s dignity, they shield the tragic stories from public and keep up a good brand so that kids will want to be associated with CARE. Without the emotive stories, sometimes people fail to see the need to contribute money.

The Singapore Government matches all public donations to them dollar to dollar. This year, they aim to raise $1m.

It might seem generous of the G, but think about this: the amount of tax payers money needed to rehabilitate a prisoner is (about) $40k a year. But the amount of grief a criminal inflicts on society is infinite.

Old wisdom tells us “It is far easier to build strong children than to fix broken men”.

In contrast, the amount it takes to nudge a child in the right direction costs far less and is far more rewarding.

“You know what is our true pay cheque?” Adelyn asked me.

“The true pay cheque comes when a boy draws and writes, to the best of his abilities, trying to tell you how much you mean to him. How much you have changed his life for the better.”
If you’d like to volunteer with CARE, you can contact Ms. Adelyn Poh at [email protected], visit their website at www.care.sg or go like their Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/CARE.Singapore









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