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.

Framing Interventions through Trauma-informed Lens

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.

Seeding Sustainable Change

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.”

You too can seed sustainable change today by donating to the MWS Creating Change Campaign! Learn more here.

What can I do to help?

1. Understand

Take your time to question your beliefs, and find out more about poverty in its many forms. Understand it well enough to explain it to friends/family.

2. Care

Care in your own way! As a first step, you can donate and/or volunteer. You’ll be surprised at how little it takes to help change a life.

3. Share

Sharing is caring! Get others to understand and care about poverty in its many forms. How about sharing this article as a conversation starter?

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