I recently spent my Friday evening with a group of parents and teenagers at a family service centre. We were gathered to celebrate the academic achievements of the youth in the community, and it was great to see a room full of supportive parents.
But more than a Friday night party, the celebration was significant in the support and encouragement it provided to many parents, many of whom face their own struggles – of not having enough time and money to raise children as a single parent, of not having the ability to help their children with school work, of not having the bandwidth to ensure that their children are in good company.
If I had not known the challenges facing these parents, I would have thought them no different from any other. I witnessed the same love, generosity, and grit that any parent would put into raising their child, made all the more admirable in the face of adversity and the circumstances surrounding them.
In a country where poverty is relative and has diverse root causes, it is easy to arrive at preconceived notions of the poor. Even more unfortunate is the way these notions shape the perceptions of those with the ability to influence, and the privilege to give. When we believe that the poor make bad decisions due to character flaws or misplaced priorities, we tend towards presumptive prescriptions.
Agents of change
A mindset shift presents itself in Asset Based Community Development (ABCD), where problems morph into possibilities, and needs transform into strengths, capacities and assets. Local non-profits like Beyond Social Services, Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre and South Central Family Service Centre are already blazing this path.
As funders, if we choose to pursue an understanding of the communities that we are passionate about, and believe in their fundamental strengths alongside their daily struggles, we may truly come close to enabling empowerment in the fullest sense of the word.
Let’s continue to challenge ourselves, to approach giving with respect for the communities we serve, compassion for their circumstances, and humility for the humanity that they embody.
Principal Consultant, Communications & Development
Community Foundation of Singapore