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NTUC Article about TAMAR Village

The Streetwalkers’ Angel

SHIH SHU HUI, director of Tamar Village Skilll Centre, Singapore

“Our main aim is to provide these girls with an opportunity to learn a new skill so that they can have a choice for an alternative lifestyle.

Already we have discovered that two of the girls have a great talent in art; these classes could be promising start for them to become future entrepreneurs and business – women for all anyone knows!”

It is hard to associate the petite Shu Hui with the seedy local of Geylang. Yet, she is now a familiar sight and face to many of the sex workers who walk the streets.

“My friend Lois and I went to Pattaya Thailand last year to vist the Tamar Center for Women that operate under YWAM Thailand. Tamar Center reaches out to Thai Girls who have been unwittingly forced into prostitution by either their family or other circumstances. The center rehabilitates and equips the girls with various skills that they can use to find a legitimate job once they return to their home towns. I wonder if we could do the same thing in Singapore. “

Upon returning to Singapore, Shu Hui, who is Taiwanese by birth, and Lois, took one year to consider and reasearch their plan before they started Tamar Village skill center.

Since January this year, (2011), the center has had seven girls join them, four of whom come regularly. “We met the girls during our walks around Geylang and invited them to join us.

“Our main aim is to provide this girls with an opportunity to learn a new skill so that they can have a choices for an alternative lifestyle. Already we have discovered that  two of the girls have a great talent in art; these classes could be promising start for them to become future entrepreneurs and business-women for all anyone knows!”

All classes are conducted by volunteers, and teach skills in arts and craft, baking, costume jewellery making, small business skills, beauty services, soap making, hairdressing and English classes. Shu Hui has even managed to tie up with the owner of a popular coffee shop, who has agree to take the girls in as waitresses, once the appropriate training for them has been provided.

In a further bid to encourage the girls to learn new skills and to eventually get them off the streets, Shu Hui has also been seeking willing parties, or people who can “adopt” them and provide a monetary allowance.  The girls still have to make a living, and all of them are still working on the street. Shu Hui is continually looking for ways to provide for their girl’s daily needs and allowances.

It so happens that all the sex workers whom Shu Hui has come into contact with are Singaporeans – something entirely by chance.  These girls did not choose their path willingly.  “Some of them, like the girls in Thailand, have been forced into prostitution by their  family, ” Shu Hui shares. ” One of the girls is even illiterate; as a result, she is unable to send me text messages.”

“There are people who tell me; how can it be? This is Singapore! Surely these girls had a choice for their lifestyle; it’s their fault that they are in their current situation! But if they took the time to understand the background some of these girls came from, perhaps they wouldn’t be so quick to judge.”

Rehabilitating these girls is not an easy task, but Shu Hui is commited to it. “Recently, we had a table manners course for them. The girls had such fun, learning how to dine properly. One of them even told me that she has never drank English tea before!’ She also corrects their speech and manners gently, reminding them the importance of minding their Ps and Qs, and refraining from vulgarities.

True to the heart of a mother, Shu Hui wants to show them unconditional love.

“These girls have only expieranced trading in the form of selling their bodies – that is not love. When i said ‘I love you’ to the girls recently, most of them reacted with a shock! Nobody had ever told them that before. At first when i hugged them, they would be very shy about it . But now they reciprocate my hugs! Their development in the social and emothional realm really touches me, because it affirms my purpose in helping them.”

Article from Next Magazine May 2011

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