Andre Yeo
Sat, May 17, 2008
The New Paper
Threats & tragedy
>As National Council of Social Service celebrates 50 years of social service this year, Tampines Family Service Centre director talks about some problems Singaporeans face.

I'M going to kill you with a machete.

Such is an example of the type of threats faced by staff at the Tampines Family Service Centre (FSC) in its 16 years operating at Block 470, Tampines Street 44.

The threats come mainly from the mentally disturbed members of the public, said Mr Joachim Lee, 40, director of the Tampines FSC.

It is better to be safe than sorry.

So, a few months ago, the centre installed a $2,000 magnetic card security system.

Members of the public can't enter its office without being buzzed in.

The centre has also seen its fair share of family tragedies including two murder-suicides.

One even happened at its doorstep.

Simon Lee Kok Hwa, 40, was found dead at the foot of the centre's block on 7 Mar, 2005, where he had also lived, after he jumped, blindfolded, from the 12th storey.

His wife and two children, aged 11 and 4, were found dead in the flat.

He was a gambling addict with heavy debts.

On 26 May 2003, a fire broke out in a unit at a nearby block, killing Mr Ng Chee Wan, 43, and his girlfriend.

The coroner ruled both cases murder-suicide.

Mr Lee said such cases are cause for concern.

The increase in the number of calls and walk-ins to the centre also prove that more families need help, he said.

Between April 2007 and March 2008, there were about 3,000 calls and walk-ins from people with financial difficulties or other family problems.

This was about 1,000 more calls and walk-ins from the same period the previous year.

Mr Lee said: "I think our families are more troubled now. With both parents working, the children have no proper guidance.

"And when parents have conflicts, they wash their dirty linen in public and get their children to take sides. It's very stressful on the child."


Mr Lee said the FSC not only guides troubled children, but also helps parents cope.

He said: "Both parents working is one of the main contributing factors to the state of our families today."
Mr Lee, a certified gambling counsellor, also believes that tragedies like murder-suicides happen because of poor communication within families.

"We have marriage enrichment programmes to teach couples how to love each other again. Sometimes, we do forget the basic stuff."

Two years ago, he introduced the marriage preparation programme for soon-to-wed couples.

The same year, the centre opened a children's club for parents to leave their children in a safe environment while they spent quality time together.

To reach more residents, the FSC also opened a branch office at Tampines Street 21.

The computers and furniture there were provided by the National Council of Social Service, which also provides 50 per cent of the FSC's funding.

Mr Lee said about $800,000 is needed a year to run the FSC and there are plans to open another three branches in Tampines.

This article was first published by The New Paper on May 15, 2008.


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