Third Culture Kids and Adults
Thriving in the liminal space
The History of TCKCF
Finding Inspiration in Every Turn
The Third Culture Kid Care Fellowship (TCKCF) came into being in 2002 because of a specific need to find boarding facilities for Singaporean missionary children. At the time, increasing research into Third Culture Kids (TCKs) — individuals who have spent a significant part of their development years in a culture outside the parents' culture — were being done by pioneers and champions such as David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken. TCKCF was originally started by a committee representing mission agencies and churches: Bartley Christian Church, Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF) Singapore, SIM East Asia, Wycliffe Singapore and TRAC Youth Ministries. Today the interagency entity is represented by the first 4 agencies with the addition of WEC and Cru. It continues to provide support to Christian missionary families by caring for their children in partnership with leaders of the mission organisation of that family, its supporting church, and its extended family members.
Registered in 2002, TCKCF started primarily as a boarding home at Hope Centre, Outram Road. Its first occupants were the dorm parent host family: the Asst Priest of an Anglican church, his wife and their three children. As more and more families were leaving Singapore to serve the Lord overseas, a dilemma remained for their children, who were of schooling age and needed a Christian family setting to grow up in. Thus, the TCK Home was founded, serving as a home for these missionary kids (MKs). It welcomed TCKs to an extended family, characterised by mutual respect and communal cooperation balanced with reasonable individual privacy. The TCK Home operated until 2006 when existing boarders moved up to higher education. With no new enrolment it signalled to the committee to close the facilities and to focus on its other objective: to promote and maintain the importance of member care to missionary families and the role of the supporting church for sustained growth of the missionary movement in Singapore.
To this end, TCKCF started conducting seminars and other events to equip parents and caregivers of TCKs and their supporting churches on serving the needs of TCKs. TCKCF also reached out to leaders of missions agenciesin 2006 to shape their decisions and policies and make room for families to meet the needs of TCKs. Guest speakers of these seminars included David Pollock, Ruth Van Reken, Marion Knell, Barry McKessar, Polly Ho-Chan and Sky Siu. A seminar was also conducted that featured TCKs and MKs across countries in Asia (sponsored by TCKCF. The purpose of the seminars was to help caregivers appreciate the needs of TCKs and equip them to reach out to younger TCKs.
In the background, TCKCF considered joining a charity, the Family of Missional Organisations of Singapore (FOMOS), as a member, since both organisations have the overlapping goals of promoting and maintaining member care. It was understood that in doing so, TCKCF would have direct access to FOMOS resources as well as gain access to a platform to address churches and mission agencies. In the next few years, TCKCF remains a partner of mission societies and sending churches. It continued to work with the goal of promoting and maintaining the importance of member care to missionary families and the role of the supporting church for sustained growth of the missionary movement in Singapore.
In 2011, TCKCF made an effort to raise MOE-trained teachers to support an increasing number of missionaries in home-schooling their children. A seminar was conducted by Moira Smith (OMF) for volunteer teachers to learn about home-schooling and supporting families who home-school their children cross-culturally. This would be the start of a series of events that focused on training TCK families and sending agencies to better serve the needs of TCKs. Notable events included seminars by Marion Knell* on “Preparing Missionary Families" and “Re-entry of TCKs to their Passport Country.” Participants included young families preparing to serve cross-culturally, returning families and expatriate families living in Singapore.
(*author of Families on the Move and Burn Up and Splash Down)
In 2013, inspired by the sharing of adult missionary kids at the Asian Adult MK Gathering in Chiang Mai (2012), TCKCF published Rice, Noodles, Bread or Chapati?, a book carrying their untold stories. The book benefited families through the honest disclosures of missionary kids and their respective journeys. It also provided insights into how to serve missionary families better. 1500 copies were printed in Malaysia and 700 copies were shipped to Singapore.
In 2014, TCKCF partnered with the Asian Cross-Cultural Training Institute (ACTI) to organise the first Re-Entry Retreat for missionaries and their children who have been away from their passport culture. The retreat provides a platform for them to connect and get to know each other. Topics such as grief and loss, transitioning between cultures and navigating one’s future are covered during the retreat. The significance lies in its capacity to provide affirmation for the shared experiences of missionary families and connection with new friends with whom they can relate as well as providing resources to meet the challenges they face, including debriefing and professional counselling if needed. Dr. Angeline Teo, a family therapist, has been running the programme for TCKs with Catherine Lim (Cru). Due to the encouraging feedback, the retreat has since been held annually.
In 2015, following the retreat, the Roots Ministry was established for youth TCKs to connect. It provides a place for these “hidden immigrants” to relate to each other, validate each other’s unique cross-cultural experiences and help them transition to their passport culture when they re-enter. Topics such as education, the adjustment process, friendships and emotions are covered in Roots sessions. One of the members commented, “I see myself in each of them as we share the joys and sorrows of our life stories.” In addition to sub-group meetings, Roots Ministry comes together for a joint session monthly. Care givers journey with these TCKs and mitigate the stress of transitioning.
Moving forward, TCKCF hopes to raise awareness of their mission and vision: to promote and care for missionary kids and their families, as well as others who share similar experiences. They hope to have youths or younger TCKs succeed the founding members, engaging and supporting an increasing number of TCKs and families.