Equipping Families to be Digitally Ready

Equipping Families to be Digitally Ready

Lee Shao Xiang first joined TOUCH Young Arrows (TYA)’s Eunos Club as a volunteer in 2019, but little did he expect that this would open doors for him to join the social service sector. 

Shao Xiang was always passionate about youths and families and yearned to directly impact lives beyond volunteering. Despite his busy schedule, Shao Xiang volunteered regularly with different organisations, expanding his understanding of the needs on the ground and cementing his desire to work with families.  

“Through my various volunteering experiences mentoring and coaching children and youth and supporting their families through community work, I realised how crucial the family unit is in a child’s formative years and how it can shape their world view growing up.”  

After spending eight years in the tech industry and exploring various job roles to experience different strata of society and gain new perspectives, an opportunity finally came for Shao Xiang to join TYA in 2022 and helm Digitally Ready Families (DRF), a new programme aimed at empowering lower-income families with digital skills to navigate the online world in the post-pandemic world.  

Preparing Families to be Digitally Ready

As a volunteer with TYA during the COVID-19 period, Shao Xiang witnessed the struggles many lower-income families had with adopting digital devices for home-based learning. Many parents did not have the resources to own their own device and were not equipped with knowledge to teach their children to use applications like Microsoft Office, Zoom and Google Classroom to complete their assignments.  

DRF equips families with digital skills-1

DRF equips families with digital skills-2
Caption: DRF involves TOUCH Cyber Wellness and TOUCH Parenting, who conducts modules on cyberbullying and parenting to equip families with digital skills.

From 2022 to 2023, Shao Xiang helped to assess, onboard and coordinate eight runs of DRF together with TOUCH Parenting and TOUCH Cyber Wellness, impacting more than 150 families. At these workshops, parents were equipped with resources to support their child’s home-based learning and proactively manage risks like cyberbullying and excessive device use. Following these workshops, the parents are placed into support groups where they continue to have access to parenting coaching and gain parenting competencies and confidence.  

As a TYA lead for DRF, Shao Xiang works closely with various community partners to identify families for the programmes. Upon referral, he then has the task of building rapport with these families to engage them for successful onboarding to the programme. 

Happy faces after a successful DRF workshop
Caption: Happy faces after a successful DRF run with families living in Bukit Merah. 

“Through these house visits, I get a better understanding of the kind of support these families require at home. I enjoy building rapport with the parents and children and serve as an additional pair of eyes for the community partners working with them,” shares Shao Xiang, who has helped to reconcile misunderstandings between families and community stakeholders, and connected families to relevant resources in the community. 

Impacting Lives Beyond DRF

Beyond the DRF workshops, Shao Xiang continues visiting these families to provide coaching and mentorship whenever necessary.  

Shao Xiang once encountered a family whose child had ADHD and was engaging in excessive device use. The mother struggled to discipline her son and often reacted in anger, causing a breakdown in the mother-son relationship.  

Thanks to the rapport Shao Xiang had built with the family, the mother agreed to be referred to a Family Service Centre and the son started joining a drop-in centre to manage his device use by finding healthier forms of entertainment.  

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to provide help to these families beyond our DRF workshops. It’s always heartening to see families become more independent and positive about their future and their relationship with one another. It makes what I do worth it,” he shares.  

Finding the Silver Lining

Things are not always easy when working with families. Some days are more emotionally draining, where Shao Xiang has three to four house visits scheduled back-to-back, while other days are filled with encouragement when he witnesses positive change in families.  

“I always try to show sincerity in my interactions with the families. I do my best to be patient with them and if they need more time, I make sure they know that I’m always there to support,” shares Shao Xiang.  

There were instances when he arranged for a house visit at night or over the weekend to accommodate families’ schedules only to be turned away or ghosted at the last minute. He also remembers being scolded by parents who were resistant towards receiving help.  

“It’s easy to get overwhelmed by negative emotions when we encounter setbacks, but I always remind myself that these families may be going through tough times and are struggling to cope.” 

Today, Shao Xiang is continuing his work with vulnerable youths and families through his new portfolio at TOUCH Youth Enablement, where he does Community Mentoring and Outreach to build strong communities with a support system. 

Story published in 2024