ArtsWok Collaborative is an arts-based community development organisation that nurtures thriving communities by harnessing the power of the arts to create dialogue, invite social participation and build bridges across difference. In partnership with them, we are aiming to get our youths to develop and showcase an original play at the Esplanade next year which deals with the issue of poverty in Singapore. This effort is part of M1 Peer Pleasure Youth Theatre Festival which is a platform for young people aged 13-25 to stage productions at professional theatre venues, under the mentorship of theatre professionals, for audiences young and old.
Last Saturday, 4 of our youths joined 40 drama students and their teachers from Anderson Secondary School and Anglo Chinese School (Barker Road) to kick-off a process of deepening their understanding of poverty; gathering information and insights that facilitate their ability to produce theatre pieces for next year’s theatre festival.
Listening to the stories shared, was an exercise in value clarification. What do we make of someone who raised money illegally out of desperation but eventually found legal employment to alleviate her family’s debts and to stay in school? Do good intentions or good outcomes justify morally ambiguous means? Such and other questions got the group pensive and the notion of poverty was expanded. Many commented that poverty comes in many forms and it was suggested that emotional poverty affects people badly too. The process enabled young people to have a conversation with their peers about an issue that they normally would not touch. As a result, they communicated perspectives that widened and enriched our collective understanding of poverty.
Asnur, an 18-year-old was moved by the experience to speak up. During a question and answer segment, he whispered to a friend, “I want to say something, but I feel so uncomfortable.” Eventually, he raised his hand and took the microphone with shaky hands. “This will be a long story. I think I am one of the few here who lives in a rental flat and let me tell you it is hard.”
He elaborated that as a teenager he felt like he could not fit in anywhere because he had to keep making excuses not to accept invitations from friends to lunch or the movies. The room caught on that he was feeling very vulnerable and offered at supportive presence that enabled Asnur to confidently end his sharing forcefully, “When you guys say you are broke, you just mean that you have run out of pocket money. But when I say I’m broke, I mean my whole family is broke. There is no money! It’s real!”
Today is the 15th and last day of the Lunar New Year festivities. May the festive cheer remain with you throughout the year.