Monsignor Eugene Vaz says there is still much mission work to be done for the needy in Singapore. Photo by Daniel Tay
SINGAPORE – For the past eight years, Daryl Spykerman, 27, IT engineer, has been making mission trips with Acts29 to Payatas Estate, a dumpsite in Quezon City, Philippines, to serve the poorest of the poor. Acts29 is a youth organisation committed to evangelisation through mission and dialogue.
Before embarking on his first mission trip, Mr Spykerman, then 19 years old, led a “good and carefree life” but coming into contact with the poor at Payatas was an eye-opener for him and helped to deepen his experience with Jesus.
“He’s actually there and amongst the people at the dumpsite. I really felt I was coming into contact with Jesus through these people,” Mr Spykerman told some 800 particpants at a Catholic social mission event held at the National University of Singapore Cultural Centre Hall on Saturday Aug 22.
“It was a big and life-altering experience,” he said. “This is what inspired me to continue to go back there to get to know the people and to find out how we could help them.”
Acts29 is one of the many affiliate organisations that does charity and community work under the Caritas Singapore Community Council umbrella. Caritas organised the Social Mission Alive! evening to celebrate and showcase the work of the staff and volunteers in its affiliates in addition to the lives and journeys of its beneficiaries. Other participating organisations included the Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Iterant People (ACMI), Family Life Society (FLS) and Catholic AIDS Response Effort (CARE). It is hoped that the event would inspire more people to come forward to volunteer.
In his address, Monsignor Eugene Vaz challenged the audience to evaluate one’s self-giving, whether it brings about “a transformation and healing of our very broken world” or it is something that “keeps ourselves very busy and makes ourselves feel very tired and good”.
“Self-giving isn’t just for the sake of oneself but really for the sake of the other,” Monsignor Vaz said.
Mr Spykerman feels one has to go beyond fulfilling the most basic human needs such as food, drink and clothes. “Are we able to give them Jesus?” he questioned, “Because if we are not able to do that, then we’re only doing humanitarian work and not evangelising.”
Acts29 regularly visits the Payatas dumpsite during the Singapore school holidays where they work with Paaralang Pantao, a school for the poor, and supports a food programme which provides lunch to the school children every school day.
“When we went in the first two years, we looked at things we could help them with such as education and food,” Mr Stykerman said, “But after that we also started to focus on the Gospel values and the teachings of Jesus.”
While endorsing the overseas missions, Monsignor Vaz said there is still much mission work to be done for the needy in Singapore such as the poor and migrants, and encouraged the crowd to respond to the needs of these people.
While volunteers from the various groups put on a captivating song and dance performance, what captured the hearts of the audience such as Gregory Teo, 26, recent graduate, Sabrina Lee, 26, analyst, and Christabel Jen, 15, student, amongst many others, was a video featuring the recipients of the various CSCC affiliated organisations services “before and after” testimonies. On one side of a cardboard was the recipients’ lowest point or problem which they flipped over to reveal how their lives have changed or benefitted from the help given.
Mr Teo said, “The cardboard testimonies were useful in summing up all the good that has been done. It was uplifting and brought home a message in a straightforward manner that the organisation is here to help transform lives.”
That evening also saw the announcement of the winner of the ‘Social Mission Song-writing Competition’ which went to 17-year-old St. Joseph’s Institution International student Sarah Chong.
The evening had also left the likes of Mr Teo inspired. “I am thinking of helping out at Matthew25,” he said. Matthew25 helps to feed the poor.
Christabel who came with other Confirmation class students from the Church of St. Bernadette said, “I will most likely do missionary work in the future, and help the poor and those in need.”
Henry Tsen, one of the organising committee members of the event had received feedback from various catechists who brought the Confirmation class students that it was “a great catechism class”. All that the catechists talked and explained on self-giving was shown at the event. Some catechists even expressed hope that it would be an annual event.
By Darren Boon