The Buddhist Gem Fellowship Counseling Unit or BGFCU came into being with the launching of the telephone counseling service in 1992. The main objective of the move was to provide counseling service to individuals, families or groups to help them cope with the pressures of modern living. Apart from that, it was also intended to provide information and referral services so that the needs of the counselee could be dealt by the most competent resource.
BGFCU started the annual counseling course or training so as to get volunteers trained for the on-going telephone counseling service. However, the course went beyond this objective as participants who attended the training would definitely bring home with them some counseling knowledge and skills that would benefit them in their day-to-day living through better communication and interpersonal skills, as well as enhancing their sense of empathy. If after attending the training, the participants agreed to be a helper for the telephone counseling service, then it was a bonus! Over the last 21 years, the counseling course has been held each year at BGF. The people that have registered for this course, ranged from 20 to 30 participants in the early years to 50 to 70 participants in the past 2 or 3 years. BGFCU has completed the 20th Counseling Course on 26 May 2013. The 21st Counseling Course is due to start on 22 September 2013.
Apart from the Counseling Course, BGFCU has also organised successfully the Marriage Education Program or SmartStart. The program continues to be sponsored by the National Population and Family Development Board under the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development. BGFCU has completed 14 of the programs meant for couples who were recently married or about to get married. The first program was held in 2006 and the last was done in June 2013. Included in the total, were 2 programs for the hearing-impaired and 1 for the visually-impaired with all 3 taking place in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur. The rest of the programs were organized for normal couples and were all held at BGF in Petaling Jaya. In this context, our Ms. Barbara Yen, a social worker and BGFCU advisor, was a member of both the Steering Committee and the Technical Committee of SmartStart.
There have been a few revamps of duration of the telephone counseling service and currently, the service operates from Mondays to Thursdays from 7.00 pm to 9.30 pm. Besides that, face-to-face counseling has also been made available on a selective basis based on resources available. Lately, efforts are being undertaken to expand this service by providing follow-up training to selected volunteers to equip them with the skills to handle face-to-face counseling.
Besides the above, BGFCU also does outreach services to charitable homes or institutions. Helpers and other volunteers from time to time, organise visits to these places to provide support as well as assistance in cash and kind. Currently BGFCU helpers and volunteers are also providing free school tuition to the children from the Chempaka Children’s Home.