Poverty is a complex issue. But with empowerment and support, sustainable change can be attained. 28-year old Alina*, a homemaker and a mother of 6 young children, knows this full well.
“I left my job even though my family was struggling financially because I wanted to take better care of my children. So my husband and I tried to be careful with our spending by prioritising the needs and education of our children,” shared Alina.
It was challenging though, to rely on her husband’s meagre income as a driver. Ben* was known for his sense of responsibility and a positive attitude both at work and at home.
He shared his hopes of upgrading his skills to secure a higher income. However, the opportunity cost of attending courses without a steady income was too high.
“Ben was then diagnosed with a muscular condition which will lead to long-term organ failure. At that point, I felt so lost, and that’s when I approached MWS,” said Alina.
While Alina’s situation is not uncommon among the clients who come through our doors, Edna Sim, Assistant Senior Social Worker at MWS Family Service Centre (FSC) – Tampines, did not see her as ‘just another case’.
Applying the principles of trauma-informed care that MWS FSCs have adopted since 2019, Edna empowered Alina by paying close attention to Alina’s unique strengths and needs.
“Poverty is a complex issue. As social workers, our good intentions and desire to see clients’ situation improve rapidly can sometimes lead us to push certain plans without sufficiently considering our clients’ experience, hopes and strengths,” Edna reflected.
Initially, Alina was highly resistant to receiving community resources and intervention. Edna empathised with Alina’s embarrassment in seeking support and recognised that it was important that Alina felt safe and heard.
Edna therefore explored with Alina her needs, strengths and hopes at a pace that was comfortable for her. This allowed Alina to gradually open up and agree to tap on community resources. Subsequently, community partners jointly supported the family in providing meal deliveries during the circuit breaker and laptops to facilitate her children’s home-based learning.
After recognising the importance of clearing debts and saving up, Alina’s family signed up for MWS Family Development Programme too.
With the person-centred support and resources received from the MWS FSC, Alina was able to work on improving her skills and employability. She is currently undergoing a course with WSQ certification and is on track to join the early childhood sector upon her graduation.
As a result of the positive changes in her life, Alina now has a renewed outlook on life. Her family has demonstrated resilience despite their multiple adversities, and have grown closer as a family. “Although life still presents difficulties, we feel better equipped to manage the stress more positively and calmly,” said Alina.
As social worker Edna looked back on her journey, “I am greatly inspired by Alina’s resilience and positive attitude. Her ability to take things in her stride is a great virtue. We simply came alongside to bring that out from her.”
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