Children enjoying a friendly game of carrom at CareNights.

Spotlight on Morning Star Community Services

Audrey Lee

The Morning Star Community Services (MSCS) centre at Sengkang could have passed off as another one of the many activity centres that one would see in a heartland estate.

But this centre, conveniently located just a stone’s throw from the Sengkang MRT station, is a special social service centre that provides free childcare for young children whose parents’ combined gross income is up to $4,000, and meet certain other criteria, for example, working overtime or taking a second job.

Morning Star’s CareNights run in the evenings from 6 to 10pm every night. They operate Monday to Friday at Morning Star’s three centres, one in Sengkang and two in Bedok. (MSCS has six centres in all).

One Friday night, I popped into the Sengkang Centre at Block 261B and was greeted by an enthusiastic group of children, aged between 6 and 14 years old; there were less than 10 children.

Each session is run by a facilitator who is a staff of MSCS with the assistance of volunteers. Ms Catherine Wee was facilitating on the evening of my visit, with the help of one volunteer. She explained that during the Covid-19 lockdown, the centres conducted their activities online via Zoom. CareNights had just resumed in July with many measures in place for the safety of the children, including regular temperature checks and washing of hands before meals. That evening, everyone wore masks and observed social distancing.

Catherine shared that CareNights aims to provide a homely environment for the children with lots of tender loving care and individual attention, and to help them discover their strengths or talents through art therapy, performing arts, indoor games or sports. In addition, character building activities teach the importance of social values such as gratitude, responsibility and respect. During current affairs night, the children discuss various topical issues. Friday evenings are movie nights. After the children are done with their homework, they can watch a movie of their choice, played from a computer and projected on a screen.

The programme also creates opportunities for family bonding and parenting education through separately organised facilitated activities and workshops. Parents and teachers alike have attested to the positive changes they observe in the children; parents especially are very appreciative.

Said one parent, “The centre has been a great alternative to other care-giving centres as there are patient and dedicated facilitators to help look after my son as I have to work. They also help to coach my son in his schoolwork.”

Another grateful parent shared that “CareNights is a good resource centre which has helped my son greatly. He looks forward to attend CareNights daily. He has friends, and the staff are very nice and they guide him well.” This parent was also especially touched by the dedication of the centre’s facilitators who would give weekly calls to check in on the family during the Circuit Breaker period.

Lily Sahota, who has been volunteering with the Sengkang centre for the past three years, said “It takes a village to raise a child.” She sees her role as primarily being present for the children and to lend them a listening ear, and believes the facilitators and volunteers help to provide a sense of consistency for the children who may often not get the same love and attention at home.

Morning Star is certainly a beacon of light to the families who need such services so that their children can receive the love and attention they need in a home away from home.

Morning Star Community Services was established by lay Catholics more than 20 years ago in response to the late Archbishop Gregory Yong’s call for more Catholics to serve the Church. Its mission is to ‘Strengthen family relationships in Singapore’. It was officially opened by Archbishop Yong in 2000 and is now under the umbrella of Caritas and a registered charity and Institution of Public Character (IPC). Its social mission is to render help that will benefit the community in Singapore as a whole without regard to race, language or religion by empowering individuals and families. CareNights was launched in November 2016 and since then has served and benefitted close to 110 families.

For more information on Morning Star Community Services and the services that they provide, please visit : www.morningstar.org.sg/

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