BEFORE you can effectively help others, you must first find out what they really need, says Sherlyn Khong, a founding member of acts29 – a group that aims to bridge the gap through local and international outreach programmes. Its name symbolises a continuation of the Acts of the Apostles, a book in the Bible which ends at Chapter 28.
acts29 officially came together in 2003, but its work had already taken root many years earlier, when Ms Khong visited a dumpsite in the Philippines. What had once been a village in Quezon City in the 1970s and early 1980s became a dumpsite. Villagers were given compensation but, unable to build homes elsewhere, most made do with homes in and around the area. A school known as Paaralang Pantao – School for Humanity– was established to provide basic education for poor children aged five to 12 and it has since become the basis upon which acts29 has built its mission.
Trips to Paaralang Pantao are now organised twice a year during the school holidays in June and Decem-ber. Volunteers spend two weeks there, helping with classes, praying with the children and taking them on excursions. A small group that is not afraid to make big plans, acts29 piloted a project last year called “Through My Eyes”, giving cameras to seven children from the school to take pictures of the world outside the dumpsite.
Said Ms Khong, 33: “When they have a chance to go out and be exposed, they will have a better chance of adjusting to the world outside the only one they know.” Plans are in the pipeline for an exhibition and sale of these photos next year. “We want these children to be pro-active and realise they can do something to change their situation. Also, the photos give them a voice that allows others to see the world they live in,” Ms Khong said. The group is also commit-ted to raising money to obtain birth certificates for the children.
These can cost between S$30 and S$50, and Filipino children need birth certificates before they can formally register at public schools. That sum is too big for many poor families to bear. So far, acts29 has obtained birth certificates for at least seven children and hopes to raise that number to at least ten each year. The group is also working on keeping the children in school.
There is pressure from families to find a job. Many become garbage truck assistants or scavengers, and some end up as peddlers of drugs and illegal VCDs or child sex workers. To prevent this from happening, acts29 sources sponsors to keep the children in a public school for S$300 a year.
Aside from its work with the Filipino children, acts29 also runs its Angel Network project which sees members visiting flats in certain areas of Singapore and befriending residents, especially the elderly who live alone. Members provide whatever assistance the residents may need– help to go for a medical appointment, finding Teochew VCDs for those who do not understand English or Mandarin, or just keeping them company.
The Angel Network also links the elderly with nearby churches or community centres for support. The work is so fulfilling that Ms Khong left her job as a teacher to devote her time fully to the cause. “It has taught me to be less materialistic, and to look at the bigger picture in life,”she says.
What is acts29
A group of youth and young adults who see mission work as a way of life. They aspire to live a life of simplicity and believe in walking in solidarity with the less fortunate.Can you help?
Volunteers who have a willing heart are welcome.
Who to call Call
Daryl Spykerman at 9027 9475 or visit acts29’s website: www.acts29mission.org
Spiritual Advisor: Fr Terence Pereira Admin
Coordinators: Sherlyn Khong, Daryl Spykerman
Ministry Team Leaders (Evangelisation, Hospitality, Prayer, Service):Sherlyn Khong (coordinator), Sylvester Singh, Alvin Ng, Madeleine Tan
Finance Team: Daryl Spykerman, Ignatius Lee, Deborah Ho
Payatas Mission Team Leader: Maylene Grace Batol
Angel Network: Ignatius Lee
Support and Resource Team: Sherlyn Khong, Geraldine Teo, Jarvis Tan
Medical Advisor: Dr Victor Loh
- Source : CSCC