Bond-building scheme for rental flat residents bears fruit

The Youth United Programme facilitates the building of relationships among rental flat residents through activities and common interests.
The Youth United Programme facilitates the building of relationships among rental flat residents through activities and common interests.PHOTO: ST FILE

Poll finds participants feel safer and are better able to handle problems at home

When residents of a rental block in Ang Mo Kio grew worried about a neighbour who was often heard crying, they alerted "Mummy Jan".

That is what they call mother-of-two Diljan Shaik Arif Ali, a 39-year-old housewife who is always ready to help, such as by distributing donated food items to her neighbours along with other volunteers.

When Madam Diljan found out that the neighbour was suicidal due to marital woes and post-natal depression, she alerted Beyond Social Services, and the charity referred the neighbour to the Institute of Mental Health.

Madam Diljan invited the mother of three home for meals and checks on her if she does not hear from her. The woman is now happier and working as a school bus attendant.

"Making someone else smile makes my day," said Madam Diljan.

It is such strong neighbourly ties that Beyond Social Services hopes to foster through its Youth United Programme, which facilitates the building of relationships among rental flat residents through activities and common interests.

Through such ties, residents come together to tackle their neighbourhood's and their own issues.

A survey released yesterday showed that the eight-year-old scheme has had encouraging results. The survey polled 371 participants of the programme - comprising young people, their parents and grandparents - and tracked them over a year. It also interviewed a control group of 212 residents who were not part of the programme.

STRONGER BONDS

The programme works as it gives people a sense of belonging... Social support builds resilience.

MR SAMUEL TANG, Beyond's manager for communications and research, on the charity's Youth United Programme which facilitates the building of relationships among neighbours in rental flats.

It found that those in the scheme felt safer in their neighbourhoods, compared with those in the control group. Adults in the programme felt they were more able to share their concerns with their neighbours, while youngsters in the scheme found their neighbours friendlier. They also felt they could better handle problems at home.

When people get to know one another, they will find ways to help each other, said Mr Samuel Tang, Beyond's manager for communications and research.

For example, when Beyond staff found out that youngsters hanging out at the void deck of a rental block were keen on floorball, they roped in a floorball club to teach them the sport. Beyond also organised tournaments and invited parents and neighbours of the youngsters to cheer them on.

In turn, the young people came together to do their bit for their neighbours. For example, they collected unwanted items from neighbours to give to others who wanted them.

"The programme works as it gives people a sense of belonging," said Mr Tang, adding that the bonding helps them understand one another and encourages them to come together to make decisions.

 
 
 

"Social support builds resilience," he said.

However, he noted that it takes time to build relationships and see positive changes in a community.

Mr Danny Muhammad Azrin, 18, was apprehensive when he moved into his Lengkok Bahru rental flat in 2014. The Institute of Technical Education student had heard there were gangsters and illegal activities, such as drug-taking, going on in the neighbourhood. He said: "I was afraid to go out. So I went only to school or I stayed at home."

At first, he did not have any friends among his neighbours. This changed when he joined a photography club organised by Beyond.

"I have more friends in the neighbourhood now and I'm more confident," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 22, 2018, with the headline 'Bond-building scheme for rental flat residents bears fruit'. Print Edition | Subscribe