CHANGI Prison seems like an unlikely place for a great idea to sprout, and during war time too.
But that was where Australian philanthropist W T McDermott first suggested having a Boys' Town in Singapore, during chats with Brother Vincent of the Brothers of St Gabriel. Both were interned at Changi during the Japanese Occupation.
And after the war, that idea took off. Boys' Town Singapore was established in 1948 based on a similar institution in the United States. The Catholic charity is dedicated to guiding, sheltering, educating and training underprivileged boys.
In its early days, Boys' Town mainly provided shelter, basic education and vocational training to orphaned and very poor children.
Today, it has four distinct arms: Assumption English School, Assumption Pathway School, the Boarding Home and Boys' Town Alumni. The organisation still provides boarding and residential care for boys aged 11 to 18.
Aside from the under-privileged, it also takes in boys who face other challenges growing up, including problems at home or in school. Boys' Town offers assistance to boys who may need a change of environment to reach their full potential.
Competency-based learning helps boys of different learning abilities progress at a comfortable pace. Apart from lessons, the boys also take part in leadership training programmes as well as sports, music and other CCAs.
These activities provide a structured environment in which they discover and develop personal gifts, interests and abilities.
Counselling and moral/religious education are also a part of everyday life, stressing the holistic development Boys' Town aims to encourage.
That these programmes work is evident in how past residents feel their lives have been changed.
Aaron Dass, was sent to the home at the age of 14. He reacted well to the boarding school environment and has remained so convinced of the good Boys' Town does that he gave up a job in the army as a weapon specialist to become a programme supervisor there.
While he says his current job is a big challenge, Aaron feels "it's fulfilling to try to mould a person's life as much as possible so that they can benefit".
Leslie Teo. 17, says his experience at Boys' Town made him "more confident and more independent" and helped him learn to be proud of himself.
About Boys' Town Singapore
Boys' Town Singapore was founded in 1948 to offer residential care to poor and orphaned children. It also takes in boys facing difficulties in school or at home. It offers residential care as well as a range of educational and skills-based activities.
Can you help: Boys' Town welcomes volunteers to make a difference by getting involved in various areas of life at the home, including cooking, driving, tuition and photography. Volunteer forms are available, along with further information, at http://www.boystown.org.sg/volunteers/volunteer.html.
Make a donation: Go to http://www.boystown.org.sg/volunteers/donate.html for details on how you can support Boys' Town.
Who's Who at Boys' Town Singapore
Chairman: Gerard Lee
Chair (HR Committee): Jeremy Tay
Chair (Audit): Lionel Tseng
Ex-Officio [and Executive Director]: Irene Loi
Board of Governors
Brother Dominic Yeo-Koh
Dr Seng Boon Kheng