Mr Tan Cheng Han (far left), the conference moderator, with panellists at the Social Mission Conference: (from left) Ms Teo Jin Lee, Mr Han Fook Kwang, Dominican Friar David Garcia and Mr John Lim.

Jared Ng

Understanding the needs and circumstances of youth at-risk, assisting the poor in their holistic development and learning about the Church’s teaching on integral human development.

These were some of the issues discussed at the recent Social Mission Conference organised by Caritas Singapore.

The biennial event, which began in 2008, aimed to look at the Church’s social teaching of integral human development – where the whole person is developed and all persons are included in the development of society.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, was the keynote speaker at the July 21 conference held at Catholic Junior College.

Archbishop William Goh, in his opening address, spoke about integral human development which includes the physical, material, psychological, spiritual and social aspects. To hinder the growth of any of these, especially the spiritual, would be to hinder true happiness, he said.

Two speakers addressed the issues faced by the poor and needy in Singapore.

Dr Ng Kok Hoe, Assistant Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at NUS, spoke about the challenges faced by those using social housing in Singapore.

These included poor housing quality, noisy neighbours, cramped conditions and a lack of privacy.

Mr Jeremy Khoo, Chairman of the Caritas Advocacy and Research Committee, shared the needs of youth at-risk.

Most youth at-risk, such as those involved in substance abuse or school disengagement, often “need the presence of a supportive adult or role model,” he said.

Cardinal Turkson invited participants to reflect on their unique contribution to human development. “Development is the vocation of every human being, it seeks to promote all dimensions of the human person,” he said.

“Development must be shared, not limited to a few people or nations.”

Cardinal Peter Turkson: "Development is the vocation of every human being, it seeks to promote all dimensions of the human person."

Participants were given a choice of three breakout sessions to attend.

In the session on the elderly, two Church-run programmes – GoodLife! Makan and Share a Pot – were shared with participants to highlight the types of services offered to seniors. These two programmes centre around food and also offer the elderly an avenue to socialise, exercise, participate and contribute to society.

Participants also learned about issues affecting the elderly such as negative stereotypes, social isolation and dementia. The other two sessions discussed issues facing migrants and the family.

Four speakers then shared how to move from developing persons to developing society.

Mr Han Fook Kwang, Editor at Large at The Straits Times, said success should not be measured by wealth but by acts of charity. He gave the example of the 2016 Singaporean of the Year award winner who helped an elderly stranger.

Mr John Lim, Senior Director of Social Policy and Services Group at the Ministry of Social and Family Development, spoke about strengthening social services and shared what individuals can do to support the development of Singapore.

Ms Teo Jin Lee, Chairperson of Agape Village, spoke about the services of the various member organisations in the social service hub.

Dominican Friar David Garcia, a moral theologian, said that the laity are called to serve the Church not just in their ministries but also in their everyday life. 

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