Supporting transnational families

  • Aug 10, 2023

OYP’s Fig Tree members with transnational families at the Mandai Wildlife Reserve River Wonders on July 1. 

Fifty transnational families under the care of the Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ACMI) enjoyed an afternoon at the Mandai Wildlife Reserve River Wonders – a river-themed zoo and aquarium – with members of Fig Tree, a working adult community from the Office for Young People (OYP) on Saturday, July 1, as part of Fig Tree’s outreach for Lent.

The transnational families cared for by ACMI are marriages between a Singaporean and a foreigner where some of the children are non-Singaporean. These families are challenged with acquiring long-term visit passes, unemployment issues, fitting into the new local environment, and higher education and healthcare costs for their non-Singaporean members.

The Fig Tree community, formed in January 2013 and whose members are from 25 to 37 years old, began their outreach this year as part of their Lenten reflections and commitment to almsgiving. Seeking donations from friends and family, the young adults raised over $1,500 to buy groceries and supplies for the transnational households.

The group spent the day sightseeing and making friends with each other, with many of the transnational families glad for the opportunity to spend the day out with their loved ones.

Ms Cherry Pham 35, a migrant mother from Vietnam, said she was moved by Fig Tree’s thoughtfulness and generosity in organising the day trip. “Even though you are all very busy, I feel so touched that you still make time to care for us,” she said.

For the Fig Tree volunteers, being paired with a transnational family throughout the day gave them the opportunity to make new friends and to better understand their circumstances.

Ms Huang Aili, 36, shared that she learnt more about the challenges facing transnational families through her interaction with the Mchale family, in which one spouse is from the Philippines.

“Upon hearing their life experiences and how they overcame the challenges to be in a better place now, I see how God is really working in their lives,” she said.

With prayer as the centre of the Fig Tree community’s efforts in organising the outing, the young adults offered up the intentions of the transnational families to the Lord, said Ms Mitchell Tan, 35, a Fig Tree member.

“Being part of this event helped me to think about and empathise more with others in need,” said Ms Tan, who works as a business development consultant.

Sister Sylvia Ng, FMM, a Senior Executive from ACMI’s Assistance and Well-being team hopes that this project will be the first of many for the Fig Tree community.

“With increasing migration of persons to Singapore, it is essential for greater integration between locals and our migrant brothers and sisters, regardless of our religion, social and economic status,” she said.

Integration is a spiritual calling for Catholics, added Sr Sylvia. “That is why these programmes and outings with transnational families are accompanied by prayers and intercession and a Christian witness to Christ’s love, compassion and acceptance of strangers and neighbours in our midst,” she said.

For Ms Charmaine Miranda, 34, understanding the challenges faced by transnational families in Singapore highlights a call for others to help those in need and to be a beacon of support for these transnational families.

“It is really difficult to raise children on a low income in Singapore, but I am also touched by their resilience and independence,” she said of the families she interacted with. “I am hopeful that with the right support, a brighter future lies ahead for them.”

Published on Catholic News on Aug 9, 2023.