Empowering families and individuals to make a difference

Children engage in various activities during the CareNights programme

Children engage in various activities during the CareNights programme.


FEB 23 2020
Patricia Ang

A look at Morning Star Community Services  

William Ho was proving to be a difficult child. He had a bad temper and was unable to relate with others around him. And it was also difficult to get him to focus on what he was doing.

He was only seven years old when his parents referred him to the Morning Star Community Services’ student care centre in Hougang.

William was put to the NOVA Learning Intervention Programme. Initially, he resisted the care, counselling and coaching of the facilitators. In fact, he was often rude and harsh with them.

The turning point came when he realised that despite his bad attitude, “the NOVA facilitators gave me lots of love that was undeserved and unearned. When we misbehaved, they corrected us.”

The NOVA Learning Intervention Programme is a school-based programme that provides support to mainstream Primary 1 and 2 children with Social- Emotional Learning (SEL) difficulties. Students enrolled in NOVA programme are referred to by the school after they have been observed to be struggling with social-emotional issues due to stressful personal or family situations.

It is a free structured daily programme for four hours after school from Mondays to Fridays.

In time, William graduated from Temasek Polytechnic in 2016 with a Diploma in Mobile & Network Services. Now he is serving his National Service.

William is one of those who have benefited Morning Star Community Services, which was founded in 1999 by a group of lay Catholics responding to the then Archbishop Gregory Yong’s call for the laity to serve the community. Guided by the principles of the Catholic Social Teaching, the focus has always been on strengthening family relationships through upstream, prevention work, early intervention family programmes, workshops and counselling.

Freddie Low, Executive Director of Morning Star Community Services, said, “We have grown from a single-service organisation led by volunteers, to a mid-sized non-profit structure of 60 staff serving more than 600 families through six programmes. We have our Church and Caritas Singapore to thank for supporting our mission to strengthen family relationships in Singapore.”

Services offered by the organisation include after-school care, counselling and therapy, parenting workshops, NOVA Learning Intervention Programme and CareNights@Morning Star.

There are six after-school care centres with an enrolment of some 400 students. About 20% of the students are under the Student Care Financial Assistance (SCFA) scheme. The centres place great emphasis on character formation through the acquisition of virtues so that they will grow up to be responsible citizens who will inspire and invigorate the community of the future.

Evidence-based parenting workshops offer parents practical skills and knowledge to strengthen family relationships. These workshop sessions are usually highly interactive, with guided role play and group discussions to reinforce strategies taught. Strategies could include strengthening parent-child interactions and attachment, reducing harsh discipline and fostering parents’ ability to promote children’s social and emotional development.

The CareNights@Morning Star, which caters to children between six and 14 years old, was initiated in 2016. It is a free night drop-in programme for parents who are experiencing pressing needs such as having to work overtime, attending to family crisis, or for parents who are single-handedly taking care of their children.

There, children are provided with dinner and are engaged in various activities to support their learning of values and skills. One of the criteria for enrolment to the CareNights programme is gross household income of $4,000 and below or $1,000 per capita income.

One beneficiary of this programme was Nur Nadhirah Iman, who struggled with finishing her tasks, including completing her homework. She was failing in all her subjects in school.

With little or no supervision in the evenings as her mother was working at nights, she was enrolled at Morning Star Community Services’ CareNights in July 2017. With patience and much care, staff and volunteers at CareNights guided Nadhirah through a structured value based curriculum. They taught her to better manage her emotions, and strive towards her goals for school. She passed her PSLE last year and is currently in Secondary One.

Volunteers who help out at each CareNights centre assist the two staff members at the centre to facilitate the lessons and activities and act as role models for the children. There is a volunteer base of about 70, of which about 40 are volunteering on a regular basis.

As it celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, Freddie said that the organisation is “looking at strengthening support for specific individuals within the family through additional evidence-based programmes. In anticipation of the increasing need by families for short-term intervention services, we revamped our counselling, training and case management services to form the Family Wellness Division to better coordinate efforts and resources to help families. Our birthday wish is that more Catholics will step forward to lend a helping hand to all in need.”


This article was originally published in Catholic News on 23 February 2020

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