Monday, October 22, 2012

Places around P.E.E. (7) - Boys Town

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.

You may have heard these lyrics as part of a popular song made famous by The Hollies.
But did you know that this is the motto of Boys Town?
 In one simple phrase it tells all that they strive for.

Boys Town in Singapore was set up in 1948 as a result of the meeting of two men with a singular vision. 
Canadian Bro Vincent and Australian philanthropist 
Mr W. McDermott were both prisoners of war. 
While being interned at Changi Prison by the Japanese, they decided that upon release they would set up a facility to ensure that young boys could get the opportunity to lead better lives. And so, following their release at the end of WWII, they realized their vision by building Boys Town, modelled after the Boys Town of America.

Mr McDermott donated a sizeable chunk of his fortune, while Bro Vincent and his fellow brothers from the Brothers of St Gabriel religious order made up the teaching staff. They started initially with a small workshop built on the land that was beside St Joseph Church at Bukit Timah. 
Except for the land that belonged to the Catholic Church, they had to provide for everything else themselves. It was a herculean task at the time given that the war had just ended and supplies and money were in woeful shortage.

Their aim was to provide for boys, between 11 to 18 years old, a form of vocational education, guidance and support to see them through. Early vocational training included carpentry, motor mechanic, tailoring and printing. 

Over the years as Boys Town grew and became more established as a VITB training centre, it also took on main stream education, establishing Assumption English School to provide primary and secondary education. Recently, the Assumption Pathway School was set up to provide an education for children who are academically challenged.

The Assumption English School at Upper Bukit Timah.

While the schools are run independently, Boys Town Home is a separate entity and is best known as a boarding home for boys who may be less privileged, from troubled homes or in need of special support. 
The new Boys Town boarding home which can cater up to 60 boys annually.

Unfortunately, a wrong connotation is perceived by many who think that Boys Town is a place for wayward youth or for those with criminal records. This probably arose from confusion with the Singapore Boys Home where convicted young boys are incarcerated. The Singapore Boys Home is the government penal rehabilitation prison for male youth whilst Boys Town is a privately run charitable organization. However, with its established care programme, Boys Town has on occasions also accepted Court directed convicted boys for rehabilitation.

Boys Town is a registered charity but does not get funds from the government for any of its programmes. They depend solely on contributions from benefactors You can read more about this organization at their website here.
The old Boys Town building.

Bro Roger Venne, who has been at Boys Town since 1953,
giving me a quick tour of the new premises.

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