Increased physical isolation, to control the spread of COVID-19 have left Foreign Spouses and Transnational Families in very challenging situations. These groups whom we have been tirelessly ministering to, have seen existing challenges amplified during the Circuit Breaker period.
Challenges Faced By The Families
These existing challenges faced are wide ranging and multi-faceted, mainly, conflicts and breakdowns in relationships, differing child care methods and extended family conflicts. Many of these issues were exacerbated when the circuit breaker occurred.
With COVID-19, some clients were unable to go to work or were laid off from their jobs. Some faced financial difficulties and closer proximity with their abusers. Some had anxieties over pending legal cases. Their physical separation and worries for family back home also added to their burdens.
A foreign spouse, Cindy*; sought help through ACMI’s Helpline. Her Singaporean husband had passed away during the circuit breaker period. With little social support, she was anxious about what she should do next and what would happen to her status in Singapore.
“She had no relations to turn to and was under a lot of stress. She had many questions on legal processes and was hindered by her inability to understand more complicated English.” said Christopher Yu, ACMI Case Management and Pastoral Care.
Finding Creative Means To Reach Out To Families
Knowing the slew of existing and increased challenges faced by beneficiaries, case workers at ACMI had to find creative methods to reach out to clients. As meet ups and face-to-face conversations were not possible, efforts were made to check in more frequently with beneficiaries via phone call, messages and video calls.
“We sought to bring comfort and hope to them, especially during this crisis. Keeping in touch with them was crucial. Often times what they desired was for someone to listen and accompany them on this journey towards finding possible solutions to their issues.” said Sr Sylvia Ng, FMM, ACMI Case Management and Pastoral Care.
Accepting The New Normal
During Phase 1 of the circuit breaker period, providing counsel and advice to clients proved to be challenging. Case Workers were unable to see clients and provide that personal interaction and care with them.
However, since Phase 2 of the Circuit Breaker measures, things have improved slightly as case workers can now meet with some clients for short periods of time.
Despite the difficulties and challenges, case workers noted the resilience and positivity of some clients. There were some families who took the crisis in their stride and remained united to weather through poor health and financial challenges.
The challenges and issues faced continue to be multi-layered and diverse. In spite of this, there is always hope that with the support of a loving community, they can overcome their struggles.
What Is Our Response?
What is the challenge to all of us then? It is certainly the call of God to “Love one another, as I have loved you”. We can open our hearts to love our brothers and sisters, by experiencing the love of God in our lives. Moreover, we are all human persons with infinite dignity, loved by God and made in His image.
*Pseudonym used to protect the identity of our clients.