Empowering Young Lives

MWS supports youths with trauma issues through MWS Girls’ Residence.
I will never forget the night when Andrea* had just experienced flashbacks of traumatic experiences and I was trying to calm her down. She was sobbing as she said, ‘Nobody has ever listened to me like you,
said Mirabel Ong, social worker at MWS Girls' Residence

Mirabel had just experienced a breakthrough. It had taken her almost 2 months to gain Andrea’s trust.

Trapped in Childhood Trauma

Like many of the other at-risk girls at the Residence, 16-year-old Andrea had gone through multiple adverse childhood experiences. "I struggled with the changes that were happening to me growing up. School work was stressful and I was constantly bullied. Mother was often too busy working to make ends meet so I had no one to turn to," Andrea confided.

Left on her own, Andrea was sexually exploited by a neighbour, turned to drugs and also began stealing and missing school.

"By the time she was referred to us, Andrea was like a zombie and in a very low mood. She was diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and often experienced flashbacks of violence. The feelings of being abandoned by her mother aggravated her condition," shared Mirabel.

Applying Trauma-informed Care (TIC) Principles

From the onset, MWS Girls' Residence applied the 5 TIC principles of safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration and empowerment in supporting Andrea.

"We believe the girls’ behaviours are all driven by trauma, not wilfulness," explained Mirabel.

"The TIC culture is rooted in physical, emotional and psychological safety to earn the trust of the girls. We communicate regularly and transparently with them, and make sure we do what we promised," added Audrey Rajalingam, Head of MWS Girls' Residence.

The TIC approach is also collaborative. "I discussed with Andrea on her care plan, touching on areas like tasks and timelines, and explaining what would happen at every stage. Giving her a voice in charting her own journey of restoration empowered her and made her more committed," Mirabel shared.

Charting a Path of Positive Change

Along with the staff's consistent care and supervision, empathy and regular affirmation, Andrea began to come out of her shell and was encouraged to explore her strengths.

"When I realised that I have a talent for playing the guitar, singing and song-writing, I told Mirabel I want to develop myself in these areas," shared Andrea. With strong recommendations from MWS Girls' Residence, Andrea enrolled in an Arts Incubation programme. She had since written a song for her school about overcoming difficulties during COVID-19.

"Apart from improving the girls’ psychological and emotional functioning, we also support them in reintegrating into the community. They are encouraged to resume studies or find employment and return to their families if possible," shared Audrey.

The girls will also learn skills for independent living, for instance in managing their schedules and financial budgeting. Some also attend sessions on developing healthy relationships, managing toxic ones, and keeping themselves safe.

By collaborating with partners, volunteers and the community, MWS aims to meet the psychosocial and emotional needs of youths. By tapping on other services within the MWS Family Services cluster, such as our debt alleviation and asset building programme, parenting support and guidance, and rigorous clinical experience, we are able to provide holistic care and support for them and their families.

*Not her real name

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Disadvantaged Children
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Chronically Ill, Frail and Destitute
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