Choices

By Isaac Tan and Olivia Ng

Thirty boys. Over twenty hours. One wall.

As members of the Beacon of Life Academy (Bola), these boys had a tall order to paint a mural on the huge wall beside the Taman Jurong Community Museum.

Kim Whye Kee, 34, the leader, started the group early last year by reaching out to the boys who hung out at the nearby street soccer courts.

The intention behind Bola, was to help underprivileged youths in the community through sports and arts programmes, as outlets to express themselves, said Mr Kim.

“We picked art as a way to engage the boys mentally and soccer because that’s what they enjoy playing,” he said.

On weekends, the boys meet at Blk 184 Yung Sheng Road, to use the Meet-the-People session rooms for art classes to prepare for the mural painting project.

The intention was to show the boys that they were capable of beautifying and contributing to the neighbourhood, instead of only being known for creating trouble, said Mr Kim.

Tan Tho Eng, 35, a volunteer also known as Darren, agrees. He said: “It helps in channelling their energy and creativity towards a greater cause, inspiring them to take on more challenges in the future”.

Besides the art classes, the boys also have weekly soccer trainings at Jurong Stadium.

These activities serve as a platform to engage the boys and provide them with a holistic learning experience both on and off the pitch.

“By playing football, there are rules to be observed. It shapes behaviour through rigorous training,” said Masadi Madawi, 69, an ex-prison warden and volunteer at Bola.

“The boys have to follow rules, which they lack.”

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From a group of 13, Bola has now grown to about 40 boys.

However, there are always challenges. Since the start up, 10 boys have dropped out and it remains a struggle to handle all the boys with only a couple of volunteers.

Despite the difficulties, Mr Kim continues to head the programme. He recounts a Chinese saying “常想一二, 不思八九”. Translated, it means in life there can be eight or nine things that go wrong, but one should focus on the one or two things that do go well.

Heryanto Bin Ngajeri, 35, a volunteer also known as Appy, hopes that Bola equips the boys with lessons that will help them succeed in life.

“I think clever people learn from their mistakes, but smart people learn from the mistakes of others,” said Mr Heryanto.

In the same way, Sheikh Fadhil, 22, is determined to make a difference with the programme. He is one of the boys that have been earmarked to lead the Bola boys.

“Like Whye Kee, when I meet them, I need to show a good example. I don’t want them to go through what I went through because it was painful,” he said.

“I can advise them, remind them, it’s not about it working or not, but it’s their life. We try our best, but it is still their choice.”

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