Sunbeam Place: 60 Years of Helping Vulnerable Children
From a young age, Samuel was often left to fend for himself. His mother was mentally ill and his father was rarely home. Because he often found himself without money for transport to get to school, Samuel skipped classes. He was also always hungry – there was never enough food at home.
At 12, Samuel was referred to Singapore Children’s Society Sunbeam Place by the Ministry of Social and Family Development so that his basic needs could be taken care of, and that he could go back to school. Eight years on, he is a final year student at Nanyang Polytechnic, and looked upon as a role model by the younger residents of Sunbeam Place.
“Today, I hope my social worker can say that I am a responsible person who complies with the rules and informs staff of my whereabouts. I am a more disciplined person who follows the rules, and I sometimes help the younger children in the Home with their school work,” he said.
Samuel is one of Sunbeam Place’s many success stories over its 60-year history of helping children and youth. Approximately 140 staff, residents and alumni of Sunbeam Place celebrated these successes on the occasion of its 60th anniversary on 7 November 2015.
Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Advisor to Keat Hong Grassroots Organisations and Member of Parliament for Chua Chu Kang GRC, was the Guest-of-Honour. In his speech, he noted how Sunbeam Place has kept pace with the evolving needs of young people, and involved them in that process.
Cause for celebration: Guest-of-Honour Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Advisor to Keat Hong Grassroots Organisations and Member of Parliament for Chua Chu Kang GRC (fifth from right), joined in to cut Sunbeam Place's 60th birthday cake.
Sunbeam Place began life as Convalescent Home along Changi Beach. It was established in 1955 as a place where sick children could fully recover after being discharged from hospital. Since then, the Home has evolved to embrace a much broader role.
Now located at Hong San Terrace, the Home – renamed Sunbeam Place in 2006 – is a residential home and gazetted place of safety for children who have been abused or neglected, and are in need of protection, or for those whose parents are unable to provide proper care. It recreates a home-like environment mainly for those aged between 2 and 18, and had 82 residents in 2015.
Its ultimate aim is to ensure that children are able to reintegrate into their own homes and families after their stay, explains Mr Alex Lee, Chairman of the Sunbeam Place Standing Committee at Singapore Children’s Society.
“Reintegration, whether with family or back into society, is always our goal,” he said.
Ms Koh Lee Cheng, 52, was referred to Convalescent Home in 1974 for being chronically underweight. She remembers Convalescent Home as a “lovely place located on the beach” where she was showered with love and care and forged many friendships. She also attended classes where she met amazing teachers who inspired her to test her limits and attempt new things in life. She is currently doing a PhD on educational support for financially disadvantaged children in Singapore. “My experience at the Home has been a constant reminder for me to give back by advocating for disadvantaged children, and to make a difference to their lives,” she said.
Beachside retreat: Ms Koh Lee Cheng (fifth from left), made lots of friends while staying at the Convalescent Home, then located along Changi Beach.
Giving back: Ms Koh Lee Cheng has made advocating for disadvantaged children an important part of her life, eventually doing her PhD on educational support for financially disadvantaged children in Singapore.
FEELINGS IN CHECK
When Samuel Huang Xi was referred to Sunbeam Place in 2007, the 12-year-old struggled with anger issues and tried to hurt his fellow residents. He was placed in an anger management programme and his basic needs were taken care of. He also went back to school. Today, the 20-year-old is an independent and responsible adult, and is in his final year at Nanyang Polytechnic. “The programme along with counselling from my social worker helped me to cope with my anger issues in much healthier ways,” he said.
Anger management: At 12, the young Samuel got help with keeping his anger in check.
Better balanced: Samuel, now 20, is in Nanyang Polytechnic and is a role model for Sunbeam Place's younger residents.