Integrated social service centre opens its doors

Ms Mabel Thang (far left), who has mild intellectual disability and left hemiplegia which limits her movements, with her mother Jenny in Agape Village's cooking training room. Ms Thang attends cooking classes, yoga lessons and art and craft classes a
Ms Mabel Thang (far left), who has mild intellectual disability and left hemiplegia which limits her movements, with her mother Jenny in Agape Village's cooking training room. Ms Thang attends cooking classes, yoga lessons and art and craft classes at Agape Village.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Agape Village offers comprehensive suite of services from Catholic charities; it's open to all

Agape Village, a centre offering social services from Catholic charities, officially opened its doors to the public yesterday.

The four-storey building houses 13 member organisations from Caritas Singapore, the social service arm of the Catholic Church here.

It will also match the needs of its beneficiaries to all 24 of Caritas' affiliates, including family, children and youth organisations and welfare services, and is open to people of all races and religions.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, who attended the opening ceremony, said the integration of services is a "significant step forward" in addressing problems in the social sector.

While there are still other agencies that the organisations in the centre have to refer beneficiaries to, the range of services provided by Agape Village is a "fairly comprehensive suite".

"Coordination helps us to understand the complexities of issues, and to remind us to look beyond the boundaries of our own terms of reference," he said. "This is how we need to approach the social service sector itself."

The $16 million building sits on a 30,000 sq ft plot of land in Toa Payoh Lorong 8, the site of the former Braddell Primary School, which was offered to the Church by the Government in exchange for the Thomson Road land that was formerly occupied by the Marymount Centre, a welfare home for women and children, and vacated last year to make way for the upcoming North-South Expressway.

Facilities at Agape Village include an art therapy room, computer rooms, a dance studio, music rooms and a cooking training room.

Abilities Beyond Limitations and Expectations, a charity which helps the disabled, also operates a rehabilitation centre for people with disabilities as well as a respite centre for their caregivers.

Charities like Mamre Oaks, a centre for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, which started operating last month, also uses the facilities at Agape.

Instead of being cooped up at home while her family is out at work, Ms Mabel Thang, 36, who has mild intellectual disability and suffers from left hemiplegia (a form of cerebral palsy), attends sessions at Mamre Oaks' day activity centre at Agape, like cooking classes, yoga lessons and art and craft classes.

"She has something to look forward to every day and is able to make friends at these activities," said her mother, administrative executive Jenny Thang, 59.

"She now opens up to me a lot more."

Speaking at yesterday's ceremony, Archbishop William Goh expressed his hope for Agape Village to be "a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shade from the scorching heat of life".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 22, 2015, with the headline 'Integrated social service centre opens its doors'. Print Edition | Subscribe