Boys’ Town running out of time to raise S$5m in construction money

Construction work currently in progress at the Boys' Town at Upper Bukit Timah Road. (PHOTO: OOI BOON KEONG)

SINGAPORE: For about 64 years, Boys’ Town has been helping youths from disadvantaged backgrounds stay on the straight and narrow. All these years, the charity institution has been doing so in a building hand—built by the Brothers of St Gabriel.

In April, the home will move to a new three—storey building but, as things stand at the moment, it could do so with a financial burden.

The institution is still short of S$5 million for the S$15—million project, and it is running out of time: Should it fail to raise the outstanding amount over the next nine months, it will have to borrow the money — and put on hold new programmes and plans to increase its intake while intensifying fund—raising efforts, Boys’ Town executive director Irene Loi told Today.

Since the project was announced in 2010, the home has managed to raise S$10 million through donations.

But Ms Loi said: "We have now reached a peak ... we have tapped on whoever we can tap. We are hoping and praying for a miracle."

Some of its fund—raising efforts this year include a donation drive in April. There will also be a carnival in July and a golf event slated for the later part of the year.

While Boys’ Town is an Institute of Public Charter and a member of the National Council of Social Service, it has to raise its own funds for its residential, educational, social and developmental programmes.

Being a non—gazetted home where admission is based on its own assessment, Boys’ Town receives 17 per cent funding per year from the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS).

Said Ms Loi: "One difficulty in getting more donations also is donors expect the Government to step in and to contribute a bit as well."

While earlier approaches to the MCYS for funding assistance had been rejected, Boys’ Town has been in discussions with the ministry since late last year.

Responding to Today’s queries, an MCYS spokesperson said the ministry "has been in communication with Boys’ Town to discuss on the issue of providing funding support to their building project".

The spokesperson also noted that the home "has been serving the community by taking in children from troubled families, those who are neglected and underprivileged who need care and protection since 1948".

David Ng (not his real name), 16, is one of more than 40 boys who are on Boys’ Town’s books. He is grateful to what the home has done for him.

"The people here care for me and there’s always someone to turn to," said David, whose parents are divorced.

With a new building, the home hopes to admit 30 more boys and to explore more services such as a transition programme for older boys to be integrated back into society.

Former resident Harry J Mealin, 44, is now head of residential services at the home. "I spent seven good years here and formed many great friendships. I hope that the more boys will also be able to benefit in the same way that I did," he said.