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 26 years, the counseling course has been held annually at BGF. The people who registered for this course, ranged from 20 to 30 participants in the early years to 40 to 60 participants in the past few years. The 25th Counseling Course was recently completed on 13 May 2018 and the 26th edition is due to start on 7 October 2018.
Apart from the Counseling Course, BGFCU has organized the Marriage Education Program (MEP) or SmartStart. The program was sponsored by the National Population and Family Development Board under the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development. BGFCU has completed 15 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 October 2016. 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 all organized and held at the BGF premise in Petaling Jaya. With public agencies undergoing budgetary cuts and other issues, the future of this program or SmartStart is uncertain and more so due to a new government being installed. BGFCU has relooked through this program and has come out with its own version. Basically, the revised MEP now consist of a series of one day workshops individually organized that focused on different topics according to the needs or requests of marital couples. The first workshop under this new MEP was on Communication and Bonding which was successfully held on 10 June 2018.
In 2017, BGFCU started organizing Mindful Parenting Workshops. The workshops were group training programs for parents to increase attunement with self and children as well as reinforcing family structure and bonding through mindfulness. 2 such workshops were held in the year. For 2018, one workshop has been scheduled to take place on 6 October 2018.
There have been a few revamps of the telephone counseling service and currently, the service operates from Mondays to Wednesdays from 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm. With the help of fully-qualified counselors from BGFCU as well as from external bodies, the unit has been providing intensive training to a number of volunteers for telephone counseling duties. Lately, 6 of the trainees have graduated and have been assigned regular duties. In March 2018, a new batch of volunteers have started intensive training and are due to finish by the end of September 2018 itself. With this developments, BGFCU can now seriously look towards extending the service to 5 nights a week hopefully by January 2019. For the time being, face-to-face counseling has not been made available. However, on a selective basis, BGFCU will forward any such request to resources outside of BGF.
Besides the above, BGFCU also does outreach services to charitable homes or institutions. Helpers and other volunteers will, from time to time, organize visits to these places to provide support as well as assistance in cash and kind.