Parenting Tips

Friday, December 29, 2006

Mending the Lives of Teens

I read with interest today's Straits Times "Upfront" article on 'Young-old interaction mends lives of teenagers'.

It related how juvenile offenders (aged 14 and above) were sent by judges to work unpaid at welfare homes. This Community Service Order (CSO) was first introduced in 1996 as punishment for crimes such as drug-taking, shoplifting and rioting.

Initially, offenders were assigned menial chores and they did them with resentment. Probation officers and staff at these homes eventually realized that it is more beneficial for these youths to interact with the residents there. Last year, Project Sunshine was launched. It taps on offenders' talents, interest and resourcefulness to let them serve the less privileged.

This move is showing results. By developing a sense of empathy, the youngsters bring laughter and joy to the residents of the welfare homes. The Ministry of Community Development Youth and Sports has found that about 6 in 10 came back after their probation ends. The CSO programme makes them realize that there are people more disadvantaged than themselves. This has inspired them to change for the better. Like one of them said: "The residents may be old and sick but they have pride, so I had to be very careful in the way I behaved. I couldn't be my former arrogant and rude self."

I am really glad there is such a programme in Singapore. Parents of these youths would be pleased to know that their children have turned a 'new' life by being more responsible and caring. Hopefully, these are long term changes which will benefit them for life. BRAVO to CSO!


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