Keeping the Fires Burning

Social worker Julie Jeyapaul talks about how she got a morale boost when she met a group of volunteers from Singapore’s KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

With her husband Jeyapaul Sunder Singh, Julie set up Buds of Christ in India in 2007 to advocate for protection, support and aid for marginalised children in Tamil Nadu’s Namakkal District.

Just when her stamina was beginning to flag earlier this year, Julie Jeyapaul met and worked with a group of volunteers who gave her a much-needed boost.

As Director of Buds of Christ, a non-profit organisation that she set up in India in 2007 with her husband Jeyapaul Sunder Singh, Julie advocates for the protection, support and aid of marginalised children in Tamil Nadu’s Namakkal District. The work here is challenging at the best of times, as Namakkal is host to one of India’s highest HIV/AIDS rates.

Julie’s morale boost came in March 2012, when a group of social workers from Singapore’s KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital spent four days working with the staff of Buds of Christ and other child-focused organisations in the Namakkal area.

Their visit was one of several that will be made over two years in an effort to strengthen services for Namakkal’s underprivileged children.

The Singapore volunteers worked with Julie and her team on ideas to improve the programmes they run at Nalam Child Development Centre, such as counselling, support groups and craft workshops.

The volunteers ran a series of focus group discussions that addressed issues including the children’s self-esteem and challenges faced by caretakers. The centre was set up by Buds of Christ and provides a developmental and learning space for the district’s vulnerable young.

The team from KK Hospital also shared tools that can be used to enhance case management. This involves tracking the centre’s young wards and their families, and ensuring that they have timely and ready access to its services.

“I was getting drained, because there are so many challenges we face with running these programmes. This visit has renewed my passion to work with the children.”

Her sentiments were shared by her team, who agree the time spent with the Singapore volunteers rekindled their zeal and reminded them again of the importance of their work.

They weren’t the only ones who gained from the cross-border exchange. Volunteer Judith Chew, a Senior Medical Social Worker, feels the Buds of Christ team is defined by its sincerity, warmth and generosity. “We learnt a lot from everyone we met there.”

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