SINGAPORE – Fifty-four parishioners  from Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea and parish priest Father Edward Lim visited underprivileged children at a Catholic boarding home and a Muslim orphanage in Tanjong Pinang, Bintan in response to a call to Small Christian Communities (SCC) to do meaningful mission work.

The two homes had been identified by the SCC as needing financial and other assistance. Parishioners raised funds for them.

During the May 16 visit, the group also prayed at the Bintan parish of Christ the King and met Father Henri Jourdeain, a French missionary priest who came to the area 32 years ago and helped the Catholic community there grow from 800 then to 6,000 today.

At Asrama Putra Santo Parsisius, a Catholic boarding school, they were greeted by Father Mense, the director of the school and two young volunteers from France. The school, which houses 44 boys aged between 11 to 18 years, from mostly poor families, was in rather poor condition. The sleeping quarters was sparsely furnished, and the toilets in a state of disrepair.

At the girls’ quarters, which houses 23 girls aged 12 to 18 under the care of two nuns, there were well-maintained facilities for studying, a prayer room and a kitchen. However, the sleeping quarters was poorly furnished. Nevertheless, the girls seemed to be happy. The nuns explained that they try to provide every opportunity within their means to help the girls achieve their potential in their studies and personal development.

Cash and food were given to both the homes, the parish, the priests and nuns.

At the Muslim orphanage, located in a remote area, the roof leaked and the mattresses were torn. It is home to 74 children, aged two to 11, under the care of three lady volunteers. Some of the children were abandoned by single parents, some are orphans, and some are there because their parents are too poor to look after them.

The home was given a cash donation and supplied with rice, milk, mattresses and pillows. Sweets and chocolates were distributed to the children, and they, in return, danced for the group.

The trip was a learning experience for all participants and, at dusk they returned to Singapore, feeling that they had accomplished their mission.

Scc leader Malvin Poh and St. Vincent de Paul member  Adrianus Voldi Sinarta, who played major roles in organising the visit, said they were happy that everything went according to plan.

Lucella, a Secondary Three student at Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School in Yishun, who went with her parents and two sisters, said that she had learned a lot from the trip. “I could easily relate to the children because they are of the same age as us. But I was sad to see the conditions under which they lived.”

- By Lawrence Thomas

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