Caritas chairman George Lim speaking on social issues facing Singapore at the Come and Encounter event.Caritas chairman George Lim speaking on social issues facing Singapore at the Come and Encounter event.

A Caritas-organised event to raise awareness of social issues in Singapore was an eye-opener, say several young adults who attended it.

“I found the event enriching and informative,” said Ms Valerie Lee from the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“For a country that is so affluent I found the statistics on the poor very shocking,” she added.

Ms Lee was referring to information provided by Caritas chairman George Lim in his talk during the Come and Encounter event. Some 70 people, aged 21-35, attended the event which was aimed at young adults.

It was held on Jan 12 at the Catholic Spirituality Centre.

Mr Lim shared with participants that, based on Caritas’ own research, 20 percent of households in Singapore earn less than $2,000 a month.

Some of the social issues facing Singaporeans include families at risk, the ageing population, migrants, and those with addiction problems, he said.

Mr Lim also highlighted marginalised groups such as prisoners, HIV patients, and people with mental or physical disabilities, that society often pays less attention to.

He urged participants to respond to the needs of these people and elaborated on the work Caritas is doing to serve them. He stressed that the contributions of young people are necessary in helping to shape a caring society.

The participants later broke into smaller groups with each group choosing to visit a Caritas member organisation or listen to a talk by other member organisations.

Some groups were then transported to Assisi Hospice, Boys’ Town, Clarity Singapore, Christian Family and Social Movement, Faith and Light Community, Infant Jesus Homes and Children’s Centres (IJHCC) or Marine Parade Family Service Centre, to learn about the work they do.

Catholic AIDS Response Effort and Caritas Humanitarian Aid & Relief Initiatives, Singapore (CHARIS), on the other hand, sent their staff to the event venue to speak to participants.

The group that visited Assisi Hospice was given a talk-cum-slide-presentation by Ms Joyce Ong, the hospice’s assistant manager (community engagement), who debunked the myth that a hospice is a gloomy place for those awaiting death.

Assisi Hospice provides a caring place for those living their last days in a holistic setting that looks after their emotional, spiritual and physical needs, she said.

All seven participants later signed up to volunteer at the hospice.

Ms Monica Zhang whose group visited Clarity Singapore, a service provider of community-based mental health, noted how the organisation “de-stigmatises mental illness by helping their clients move on and not labelling them, thus helping them integrate into society”.

Towards the end of the event, 37 participants signed up to learn more about Catholic social teaching, or to get involved in one of Caritas’ 23 member organisations or in the Caritas Young Adults Committee.

Several shared they learned much from the awareness event.

“I learnt that Singapore has the highest income gap in the world and that the Church is the only one with a shelter for AIDS victims” in the country, said Mr Johann Wong from the Church of St Vincent de Paul.

Caritas is the social services arm of the Singapore archdiocese.

By Martin See
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