Boost for Malay/Muslim social support groups

A network of social support groups for low-income Malay/Muslim families will be strengthened to further help them look out for and take care of one another.

The Family Excellence Circles (FECs), which bring together self-help groups of 12 to 15 families in similar circumstances to build resilience and reduce social isolation, will be bolstered in three ways, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said yesterday.

First, a structured training programme will be developed to train leaders for the FECs, which were founded by Malay/Muslim community group Yayasan Mendaki in 2005.

This is aimed at giving more FEC members opportunities to become leaders of the circles, said Dr Yaacob in a speech at an event to mark the initiative's 10th year.

Mendaki will also review and improve on its oversight of the FECs.

It will regularly supervise these social support groups and help their sessions become more fruitful by creating a reference manual and revised curriculum plan for the groups' facilitators, added Dr Yaacob, who is also Communications and Information Minister.

Lastly, Mendaki hopes to expand the benefits of the FEC by creating more such groups. Here, the FEC leaders can help by acting as ambassadors to promote the scheme to other families, he said.

There are currently 45 FEC groups with more than 600 members, up from 16 groups with 200 members when the initiative was first launched 10 years ago.

In total, more than 400 parents and 1,000 children have been part of these social support circles.

Among other things, the FECs enable the pooling of resources, such as after-school care, for these families.

"The FECs have shown that even for families from modest backgrounds, mutual support can enable their children to achieve their aspirations and do their families proud," Dr Yaacob said.

Yesterday, he also launched a book by Mendaki to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the FECs.

Titled Heart At Work, it documents the stories of some families helped by the scheme.

This article was first published on June 7, 2015.
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