Boys' Town opens new $15m centre

SINGAPORE - Boy's Town's new $15 million centre will help the charity open its gates a little wider.

Not only will it cater to more boys across a bigger age range, but it will also reach out to their families.

"Boys' Town has traditionally been associated with residential care for boys aged 11 to 18," said executive director Irene Loi at Friday's official launch of the new building. It is open to boys between the ages of nine and 23.

"However, we have come to realise that a wider spectrum of youth today are at risk, from young children who suffer various traumas, to older teens who still require care and counselling."

Previously, its two-storey campus in Upper Bukit Timah Road, which opened in 1948, could house only 60 boys in its single dormitory.

The new three-storey centre at the same site, which took two years to build, now has two dormitories of 63 beds for boys aged 11 to 18.

For those aged 16 to 23 who need a place to stay while completing their national service or tertiary studies, there is a 10-bed hostel. Here, they will attend a programme which prepares them for employment.

The new centre also has a 10-bed shelter for victims of physical or sexual abuse, who need extra care.

The shelter, which admits boys aged nine to 15, has two rooms for families. If a boy's family members are also victims of physical abuse at home, for instance, they can stay at the shelter temporarily, explained counsellor Martha Teo. "This way, a family does not have to be broken up further when they are already going through a tough time."

Other new facilities include a media and photography room, a revamped art therapy room, and even an "entrepreneur room" to teach youths how to run small businesses.

For 18-year-old "Luke", who joined Boys' Town three years ago, living in the hostel with older boys has helped him. "They are easier to talk to, as they are all in my same age group," he said.

The hostel for older boys also means having a bit more space than when living with the younger children.

Asked what he thought of the new centre, Luke laughed: "Now, the boys are spoilt! They are very privileged."

Friday's opening was part of the charity's 65th anniversary celebrations. Set up by the Brothers of St Gabriel, the Catholic institution provides shelter, education, vocational training and practical living skills to boys from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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