Causes Week 2021: Enabling women to gain skills to access better jobs

Causes Week, which is into its 10th iteration, runs this year from Dec 21 to 25. It shines a light on various individuals and groups, and shows how they are making a difference through their chosen causes within the community, for children and youth, in sports and arts, among others.

Social Health Growth offers financial literacy classes for women, among other services. PHOTO: SOCIAL HEALTH GROWTH

SINGAPORE - Mr Alson Boo knew that he needed to do something to help single mothers in Singapore after he embarked on his own research in 2011 to see if there was enough social support for women who were left to care for their babies alone.

"There were gaps in the system, and it led to things like high adoption rates among single or unwed mothers," said the 42-year-old former banker.

Mr Boo's dream was to help these women gain better finances and have the skills to access better jobs.

Social Health Growth was born in 2012. From a small centre in Jalan Bukit Merah, it offered various kinds of help to women in the neighbourhood.

With just one staff member and a handful of volunteers, Mr Boo went door to door to spread the word about its services.

He set up financial literacy classes to equip women with the skills to find work and gain independence. He also started enrichment programmes and free tutoring for children, and gave out diapers and milk powder to mothers in need.

Nine years later, Social Health Growth, as a registered social service organisation, has expanded its reach with seven centres that have helped some 6,000 women and children.

Ms Nurfatin, 32, found out about the centre when volunteers came to her door. The housewife, who declined to give her full name, decided to join the computer and financial literacy classes.

"I learn a lot... We are able to share ideas and discuss them. It really helps me refresh my mind, especially in the computer literacy class, since I have not been working for the past two years," said Ms Nurfatin, who has two children - a two-year-old boy and a one-year-old girl.

Mr Boo keeps in contact with past clients. Describing a woman who held two jobs to provide for her child, he said: "She worked extremely hard to upgrade herself.

"She showed not only me, but herself, that she was capable."

Mr Boo said that working through the pandemic has not been easy for his staff and volunteers, who have had to digitalise their programmes.

"Being in a pandemic doesn't mean our beneficiaries don't need help anymore. In fact, that's when they need us the most," he said.

Social Health Growth also offers computer literacy classes to vulnerable groups, such as the elderly. PHOTO: SOCIAL HEALTH GROWTH

Mr Boo said he is happy when he looks at how far Social Health Growth has come, but believes there is plenty more that needs to be done.

He hopes to have helped at least 12,000 women and children by next year.

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Learn more about this cause by contacting Mr Alson Boo on 8786-6406 or by visiting Social Health Growth.

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