In this series on Catholic social service organisations, Catholic News features Boys’ Town. It celebrates its 70th anniversary as a place for young boys who need care and guidance to nurture them for their adult life.

Boarders are given the opportunity to grow and develop their potential.

Jared Ng

What started as a residential care for war-torn orphans after World War II has today evolved into a continuum of services and a one-stop children and youth centre.

Boys’ Town helps children and youth from disadvantaged and disengaged families who have faced hardships resulting from troubled home situations, financial struggles, abandonment and abuse.

The charity serves both boys and girls, from infant to young adults and its services include residential, fostering, youth outreach, clinical intervention and family reunification.

Boys’ Town aims to create “an environment for the boys to receive an education,” said Executive Director Designate Roland Yeow, 41, who was a former Boys’ Town boarder. Not only that, they also receive character formation as well as opportunities to grow and develop as a person, he said.

Dr Yeow, who has a PhD in management (organisational learning), said the charity’s programmes centre mainly around sports. “It’s not just play ... we want to facilitate elements of teamwork and also use sports as a form of therapy.”

For 17-year-old Timothy (not his real name), much of his time is spent studying so that he can reach his goal of enrolling in an Institute of Technical Education (ITE).

Besides the sports activities, he shared that he enjoys the “friends and brotherhood” in Boys’ Town.

Another boarder, 17-year-old Damien (not his real name), said his time in the charity so far has taught him to “respect others, treat others with care and be independent.”

Sports is part of the curriculum for character building.

There are currently about 40 boarders in Boys’ Town.

This year also marks 70 years of mission for the charity and a special Mass was held on Aug 17 to commemorate the milestone.

Archbishop William Goh in his homily, spoke about the love of God that has been brought across to boarders through the programmes, staff and volunteers of Boys’ Town.

He said that this tangible presence of the love of God will help boarders “to be socially integrated, to grow in moral character and to be contributors to society.”

Other events held this year to mark the 70th anniversary included a Emmanuel Service Festival on May 18 that saw boarders and staff participate in social programmes including spending time with the elderly from GoodLife! Makan, a programme by Montfort Care that offers a place for seniors to have meals and companionship.

The event was named in honour of the late Brother Emmanuel, who was director of Boys’ Town for more than 30 years.

He passed away on Aug 31 last year.

Archbishop William Goh with Gabrielite Brothers Dominic Yeo-Koh (on his right) and John Albert (on his left), priests and altar servers after the 70th anniversary Mass of Boys’ Town.  Photo: VITA Images

On Sept 15, there will be an open house in Boys’ Town with a photo exhibition of its key services and tours of its facilities.

The residential services in Boys’ Town are divided into four categories:

- The 10-bed Shelter which admits boys between the ages of 10 and 13 who have suffered traumas including physical or sexual abuse.
- The 51-bed Group Home which admits boys between the ages of 11 and 18 who come from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
- The 10-bed Hostel which serves as a temporary place to stay for older youth who have no family or other forms of support. Usually between the ages of 16 and 21, these youth require a place to stay while completing their National Service or tertiary education.
- The 12-bed Therapeutic Group Home takes in youth aged between 13 and 17 who have gone through multiple complex traumas and are emotionally dysregulated on a regular basis.

Part of the residential services also includes the Boys’ Town Alternative Schooling (BTAS) programme.

It is designed as a temporary supplement to mainstream education and follows the Ministry of Education’s approved curriculum. BTAS offers a holistic, customised and structured environment for students from upper primary to upper secondary school. Classes are run under a low student-teacher ratio, allowing more personal time for student-teacher interaction.

The programme addresses the needs of boys that typically cannot be met at a regular school, such as students who have behavioural issues, have missed school for a few years or are at risk of dropping out.

It aims to prepare these students to return to their regular school or to graduate from the programme with an N or O Level certificate and enter tertiary education or the workforce.

To complement its existing youth services and programmes, the Boys’ Town Adventure Centre was launched in 2016.

It provides challenge courses, mountain expeditions and outdoor sports certification for both boarders and the public.

Whether it is scaling a natural rock wall or traversing water rapids, participants are made to reflect and learn how to work around the environment they are in.

The centre has an adventure tower and bouldering room within the Boys’ Town campus.

Dr Roland Yeow, Executive Director Designate of Boys’ Town, sharing some moments with the boarders.

Boys’ Town also runs an outreach programme, YouthReach, that helps vulnerable boys and girls, typically between the ages of 10 and 21, who face a range of issues such as self-harm, struggles in school, association with gangs, under-aged sex, conflicting relationships and addictions.

The programme, based in Tampines and Toa Payoh, sees youth workers befriending vulnerable boys and girls in the area through specialised intervention to develop personal, social and educational growth.

YouthReach was first set-up in 1999 by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary as a drop-in centre for at-risk youth. It was handed over to Boys’ Town in 2010. Each year, the programme engages more than 300 youths.


In 1948, Boys’ Town was started by Gabrielite Br Vincent with the support of Australian philanthropist William Thomas McDermott. It started caring for orphans and poor children who were victims of World War II. In 1955, its facilities were extended with the construction of a new administrative building and dining hall.

In 1999, Br Emmanuel stepped down as Director General after 30 years of service.

A Training and Research Department was set up in 2009 to build a stronger pool of youth workers to better understand the evolving needs of young people.

The charity marked its 70th anniversary with a series of events including a Mass celebrated by Archbishop William Goh.

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