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The launch of Caregivers Connect – Reach Out, Engage, Learn and Share (updated with comments from AWWA Centre for Caregivers)

~by: Candy Leow~

Update:

The AWWA Centre for Caregivers welcomes the interest among netizens on caregiving issues in Singapore.

We thank The Online Citizen for carrying the story on the launch of our Caregivers Connect initiative which seeks to connect caregivers for mutual support, information sharing and learning.

Our programmes cater to caregivers of the disabled and elderly as well as the terminally and mentally ill in Singapore, regardless of their ethnic background. The Centre runs the Caregivers Education and Support Programme (CESP) which comprises 6 stand-alone workshops customised for family caregivers dealing with various psycho-social aspects related to one’s caregiving journey. During these workshops, we encourage caregivers to take time to look after their own mental well-being and health to better cope with the responsibility of looking after their loved ones over prolonged periods.

The Centre is partially funded by MCYS and we also seek funds from corporations and private donors besides organizing fund-raising events to support our activities and day to day operations. To reach out to caregivers across the island, we partner closely with organizations and VWOs in the medical and social service sectors as well as agencies such as the Health Promotion Board, the Agency for Integrated Care and the Centre for Enabled Living. Going forward, the Centre intends to reach out to more caregivers with the message that they are not alone, by connecting then with fellow caregivers through engaging programmes and quarterly events and via the Caregivers Connect online portal which will be launched in 2012.

More information about the Centre for Caregivers’ achievements, its upcoming activities and ongoing programmes can be found at www.awwa.org.sg. Caregivers requiring information about caregiving resources can dial the Centre’s info-line at 1800-2992-992.

Manmohan Singh
Director, AWWA Centre for Caregivers

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On 24 September 2011, some 50 caregivers, volunteers, AWWA board members and staff gathered for AWWA Centre for Caregivers’ inaugural Caregivers Connect, a community network for family caregivers. The event – held at the AWWA Khoo Foundation Auditorium – marked the historic beginning of a local movement for caregivers, by caregivers.

Since June this year, the Centre for Caregivers (CFC) has encouraged the growth of mutual self-help groups, which enable caregivers to meet regularly to engage, learn and share from one another’s caregiving experience. Caregivers can form these groups based on common interests, or the condition of their care recipients.

Following a round of icebreakers, Mr Manmohan Singh, Director of CFC, outlined the plan for quarterly Caregivers Connect activities which he hoped would be planned and organised by caregivers working with CFC staff.  He also shared that an online portal targeted at home and work-based caregivers harnessing the use of the Internet and social media, would be launched in 2012. Caregivers were invited to share their stories through blog posts, podcasts and forum discussions.

Six caregiver representatives helped to launch the community network by forming a picture puzzle of the Singapore map, with joyful figures representing caregivers.

Mrs Sandra Berrick, President of AWWA and special guest for the event, shared a heartwarming speech about her caregiving journey and how painting has helped her to cope over the years.

After some refreshments, caregivers were ready to unwind with an afternoon of art. Initial feelings of uncertainty about what to paint were translated into excitement, as they expressed themselves freely in the process of painting. Some caregivers were keen to find out where to purchase the materials, while they made beautiful first attempts on canvas.

As the caregivers were kept busy yet relaxed in the world of the colours and shapes, Mrs Berrick and the board members of AWWA walked about to look at the works produced. Like Mrs Berrick, one of the caregivers also found the cold colours of blue and green to exude contentment and happiness.

The caregivers were offered more techniques on strokes and textures while soothing music played on to help them unleash their creativity.

Ms Violet Seow, a caregiver, said she was happy to learn a new skill and thankful for the opportunity to just celebrate life by taking an afternoon break.

One of the volunteers, Ms Lee Shu Pei, a teacher at Pei Hwa Secondary School, was thankful for being able to spend time with caregivers and listen to their stories. She planned to share insights drawn from the stories with her students.

Caregivers were eager to capture photographs of completed individual and collective works using their mobile phones and cameras. The creations will eventually be displayed as a mural for the Caregivers’ Wall at AWWA.

In her reflection, Mrs Berrick said the paintings revealed that each caregiver’s journey is different yet so much the same. She encouraged caregivers to take regular breaks to continue to meet and interact with other caregivers.

Towards the evening, the caregivers left with renewed energies and positive vibes from the experience of creating and connecting with each other. Some caregivers who had met for the first time left together that evening, bonded through sharing about their common yet unique caregiving experiences.

The next Caregivers Connect activity will be held on 19 November.

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More information of AWWA Centre for Caregivers can be found here: http://www.awwa.org.sg/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=29&Itemid=18