Each Family Excellence Circle (FEC) is scheduled on a bi-weekly basis, meeting twice every month, a total sum of 20 times a year (excluding public and religious holidays). Attendees are sourced from MKAC membership, referrals from other partner organizations, or by word-of-mouth. Attendees are invited by mail and phone.
To provide compensation for their inconvenience, MKAC offers each attending Family a $30 NTUC voucher, and $20 cash to offset transportation costs. Refreshments are also catered in the session. Attendees with mobility difficulties can utilize MKAC transportation to arrive at the venue. Sessions are held at MKAC’s centre located at Telok Kurau Road.
Each Family Excellence Circle (FEC) will comprise 8-15 attendees including patients and family members. Each FEC will have a minimum of 3 MKAC staff/volunteers present, of which one is a Facilitator.
The Facilitator will encourage the sharing and communication among members, build group cohesiveness and identify issues that should be aired or separately addressed. The outpouring of experiences entails strong emotions, hence the Facilitator will moderate and ensure productive discussion amongst the members. The Facilitator will also undergo regular Facilitator and Caseworker training to update the necessary skills for facilitating such groups, through courses provided by qualified training providers (private and government).
After the FEC session, patients or family members with specific matters to be further discussed will meet with MKAC staff/volunteer in private sessions.
Based on the information gathered during the FRC and any subsequent private discussions, MKAC staff/volunteers will report and make recommendations for caseworkers/volunteers to follow up with specific attendees.
A Family Excellence Circle (FEC) is a social support network where kidney patients and their families are invited to meet regularly to share their life experiences with MKAC and with each other. Originally established in the form of Focus Group sessions as far back as 2007, MKAC further developed this in 2010 into a full-fledged Family Empowerment Programme, building in the concept of Family Excellence Circles promulgated by MENDAKI.
Kidney patients suffer from not just their medical condition but also from emotional stress and sometimes strained relationships with family. Family members also face the burden of dealing with chronic illness on a daily basis. Our volunteers find that patients and their family members can feel lonely and isolated in their difficult conditions; sometimes they lack encouragement and inspiration to carry on. There is also lack of knowledge about available resources and assistance.
Caregivers who are family members also face the additional burden of holding the family together and providing financial support. Many feel they are on their own in the uphill struggle of daily life.
We have also visited patients and families who successfully overcame their difficulties through various means – their paths are not easy but they find inspiration and strength to cope with the illness and the stresses it places on the family. They are able to come together as a cohesive unit to live each day fruitfully.
From this, we see a clear need for an emotional support network for kidney patients and their family members. Common experiences are comforting to hear, providing consolation that they are not alone. The diverse approaches to overcome challenges are inspiring for others to hear, so that patients and families carrying the same burden can draw strength from the successes of others.
The programme is targeted at kidney patients and their families, both currently members of MKAC and those that are referred to MKAC through word-of-mouth or government and community agencies.
MKAC aims to develop a support structure through which patients and their families can bond with others, where they can share and learn about methods of coping with their daily problems and ways to successfully manage their lives. Bonds of friendship can help during crisis or problem situation such that attendees from more stable families can support and encourage those from less stable families.
MKAC also hopes to utilize the FECs as an information-gathering platform through which we can know more about the problems the kidney patients and their families are facing. We will also find out more about the family’s strong points to identify opportunities for employment or income. The FECs will also allow MKAC to ascertain how well current programmes (from MKAC and others) are working for the patients and their families.
Lastly, the FECs allow MKAC to inform kidney patients/families of services, activities, workshops and training provided by MKAC and other strategic partners that can help their families:
- Better sense of empowerment and well-being through bonding and sharing.
- Deeper understanding of their current situation and hear how others cope with the same.
- Stronger appreciation of the importance of family, children and friends.
- More confidence to desire to achieve independence and improvement in their lives.
During the FEC sessions, we have seen many kidney patients and their family members undergo emotional periods. It is heartening for us to see that in each session, there are other members who voluntarily speak up share words of comfort, even a warm hug or a steadying hand.
On average, the FEC sees over 50% returning ratio (i.e. at least half the attending members have attended the previous session) – this is a strong indication of the programme’s importance and benefit to the members. We hope to see a good mix of returning and new attendees – in particular, MKAC will be aim to identify “ambassadors” who are strong and supporters of kidney patients and their families in these FECs. These “ambassadors” shall be further included in MKAC activities and invited to take on more hands-on responsibilities as volunteers and home-visit befrienders.
On average, each FEC session will result in at least 1 new case or private counseling that MKAC will add on to our case portfolio. Typically this would be a member who is new to MKAC’s services where MKAC staff members will spend time extensively interviewing them to take down their case history and create a case file for follow-up to their immediate needs. This is an indication that the FECs are also reaching out to those in need of MKAC’s services, who were not previously aware of them.
Up to now, most of the FEC’s have taken the form of individual sharing cases, with group response from the other members as feedback. In the future MKAC hopes to see more interactive and well-facilitated discussions of not only issues that are immediate in nature (e.g. financial assistance, government agency appeals, etc.) but also those more holistic but not less important (e.g. health maintenance, behaviourial modification, financial management, emotional health, diet and nutrition, among others). This shall be an area in which we hope to utilize funds raised in 2010 to send our facilitators for further training.
MKAC’s over-arching goal is to establish contact with 100 new kidney patients/families in 2012, each with at least 1 attendance in FEC or 1 home visit by MKAC caseworkers in the year. This is an audacious goal that we hope to achieve through a combination of various programmes, FECs being one of them.
Specific to the FEC, we aim to achieve the following performance targets:
- Bi-weekly FEC sessions totaling 20 sessions in full-year 2012 (not including public and religious holidays).
- Target at least 10 attendees per session (not including facilitators).
- Aim to generate at least 1 case follow-up per FEC session.
- Documented feedback on each recorded family case on services utilized offered by MKAC or other agencies, and progress/outcome of such services.
- Follow-ups from each post-FEC-session case discussion to be acted on and duly documented within 30 days from meeting.
- Aim for a 50-50 mix of returning and new attendees in each session.
- Identify at least 3 “ambassadors” in the year 2012 for training and volunteerism in 2012.
- Provide Facilitators with 2 specialty facilitator training sessions in 2012