It has been three years in the making and now the Catholic Church’s first integrated social services centre is set to open. Agape Village at Toa Payoh Lorong 8 is a key initiative of Caritas Singapore, the social mission arm of the Church in Singapore.
Caritas Singapore is the umbrella body for 24 social and charitable organisations which serve diverse groups regardless of race, religion or nationality. These include low-income families, youths at risk, people with physical, mental or intellectual challenges, those living with HIV/AIDS, people requiring palliative care, ex-prisoners and foreign workers. Thirteen member organisations of Caritas Singapore will be housed at Agape Village. Together with the other member organisations, Agape Village will make it a lot easier for people needing help to make use of the services provided by Catholic groups.
For example, family members of a terminally ill person may need professional counselling or assistance with household arrangements. Or, a prisoner’s wife and children may need counselling, support and other care. Instead of looking for the different organisations in different places, they will find what they need in one place, Agape Village.
Some Caritas Singapore member organisations have already begun running programmes in Agape Village ahead of its official opening. Voluntary welfare organisation Mamre Oaks, for one, launched its Centre for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities on Oct 1. Other groups have held retreats and meetings there. Ms Winifred Loh, a Caritas Singapore volunteer since 2012, is excited at seeing the vision of Agape Village become reality, having been involved “since the early days when it was an idea on a piece of paper”.
“With Agape Village, the Catholic social mission is positioned to extend its outreach and elevate the quality of care,” she said. The help offered to beneficiaries will be integrated and better coordinated under one roof, she added. To that end, Caritas Singapore’s IT manager Ms Ruby Gomez worked with Consulting Research Services to come up with a client-centred integrated case management system. Its implementation affects eight member organisations housed at Agape Village.
This system will help case managers, social workers, counsellors and service providers who may deal with the same person or beneficiary seeking help by capturing and providing timely and effective information about the beneficiary while observing the requirements of the Personal Data Protection Act.
Describing the culture inculcated at Agape Village, Ms Loh said: “The values are really aligned with Catholic Social Teaching, such as respecting the dignity of the human person. It’s very gratifying to see that space that we envisioned come true.
Now, we’re in the process of bringing people in to use its services and facilities.”
The facilities at the centre include counselling rooms, therapy rooms, caregiver support and training facilities, a dance studio, multi-purpose halls, multi-purpose rooms for Masses, retreats, talks and meetings, and training rooms for classes in digital innovation, cooking, baking, hairdressing and beauty and wellness. Clarity Singapore, a Caritas Singapore member organisation and mental health charity, started its art therapy sessions in Agape Village on Sept 30.
Its executive director, Ms Grace Ang, said: “Now we have a properly equipped art therapy room. Before, in our Yishun premises, we used a multi-purpose room that was also a space used for meetings. At Agape Village, the room has suitable lighting and decor. It faces a little garden. The ambience itself is therapeutic and calming.”
With the new premises, Clarity expects to do more to help people through art therapy sessions and to raise awareness too. “Not many people know that there are such mental health services in the community to support people with mental health issues,” said Ms Ang. “It’s also an opportunity for different groups to work and reflect together on how to provide care with a Christian distinctivene s s tthat b rings th e light, hop e and love of Christ to others.”
Ms Theresa Bung, principal therapist from the Family Life Society, another Caritas Singapore member organisation, is upbeat about the possibilities that can be created by being part of Agape Village’s integrated and holistic care.
The society started operating at Agape Village on Oct 1 and has received a good number of referrals for its counselling services, which include family and marital counselling, as well as pregnancy support. Agape Village also has social workers providing assessment, information and referral services for those seeking help. One of the first to attend an event at Agape Village is Mr Fong Kwok Onn, 65, who participates in Montfort Care’s Young-At-Heart (YAH!) programme for the elderly. He attended a session on creativity organised by YAH!
Mr Fong said he was impressed by the facilities available at Agape Village, which include cooking and baking classrooms, and said he was inspired to try taking up a cooking class there.
IF YOU NEED HELP
Counselling and social services:
To make an appointment for assistance, call: 9118 2708 Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm.
Pregnancy Crisis Helpline: 6801 7423
General enquiries: 6801 7400
Our Social Mission
by Caritas Singapore Community Council