1) You have dedicated years working in the non-profit sector, helping people and changing lives. What inspired you to step up and reach out to those in need? Tell us why you have chosen your current career path in the non-profit sector? How different is your life now compared to when you were not in the non-profit sector?
Actually I am pretty new to the sector having spent the last 1.5 years with Care Corner Singapore. I spent more than a decade in the public sector and was exposed to the needs of vulnerable individuals and families in the community. As part of my previous regulatory work, I observed how the utility companies engage households who were unable to pay their bills by tapping on their own community fund and referring them to social service agencies. I remembered one particular senior who called up to request for an installment plan as he was falling behind in his payments. When asked if he would like to tap on community funds to offset his arrears, he was adamant that he should pay his own bills and was waiting for the GST voucher rebate before he could pay. I later learnt that his wife has just passed away and he was also suffering from some mental health issues. Together with my team, we arranged for the installment plan and referred him to the Social Service agency in his vicinity so that he can have cooked meals. As a beneficiary, he also volunteered at the soup kitchen to bless others in his community. Over time, I found myself being drawn to the work that the social service agencies were doing to empower individuals and their families and decided to join the sector.
I joined Care Corner in late 2018 and my portfolio includes driving the corporate planning, governance & risk management initiatives and the development of a new community space in Woodlands. I find my work purposeful and satisfying as I support our colleagues in bringing care to individuals and families in need through difficult life transitions.
2) What was your most memorable experience working in Care Corner? Why do you think it’s important to help people in need? What do you say to people who say, “why should it be your problem to solve?”
Care Corner’s vision to bring care to every corner of Singapore resonated with me. I am inspired by my colleagues and our volunteers who carried on with the founding intent to serve the needs of the community on a daily basis. Some of them are veterans in the sector and were part of the founding team when Care Corner was established in 1981.
One of my most memorable experiences in Care Corner was joining the townhall in my first week of work. Hearing stories after stories of the impact of our work in supporting individuals and families to be resilient and live with dignity makes my day. Allow me to share 3 stories from my colleagues.
One day, there was a young adult visitor A to one of our youth centres. He was looking for one particular social worker. Later on, we found out that A just wanted to show his appreciation that during his younger days when he was lost, our youth social worker had affirmed him and journeyed with him. A wanted to share the good news that he is studying to be a youth social worker and aspires to bring hope and encouragement to other youths like himself.
In December 2019, North East Community Development Council and Care Corner (Youth GO!) jointly organised a gaming event known as the Gathering of Legends @ North East – Rising Above All. The event included a mental health awareness dialogue on the topics of professional gaming, gaming addiction, recognising when to seek help, and removing the stigma surrounding mental health. The event reached out to 26 teams of youth gamers and many visitors and supporters. The event also saw a female young adult with suicidal thoughts seeking assistance. It was timely that our youth workers manning the mental wellness booth were able to build a rapport with her and referred her to professional help, subsequently avoiding tragedy.
Another colleague shared how she engaged a Mdm T when she was referred by the hospital after being discharged. She was in her 60s, stayed alone and diagnosed with a long-term chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease. After many visitations, Mdm T started to open up more about her struggles with the sense of hopelessness and meaninglessness she often felt. She shared that she had never expected her life to turn out this way and had always imagined that her retirement years would have been colourful. Instead, she faced pain, discomfort and frustrations on a daily basis due to her medical condition. She had also thought of taking her own life previously when it felt like the suffering was too much for her to take. As she opened our to our colleague, she was welcomed into a community of volunteers. She became more joyful, relating well to her new found friends and made peace with her medical condition. Shortly after, she passed away and my colleague expressed her gratefulness that Mdm T found a new faith and a supportive community, giving her a new living hope, right before she had passed on.
I was taught that we should love our neighbours as ourselves. Care Corner’s vision to bring care cannot be done by just our 400 colleagues. It requires the support and resources of volunteers, community partners, corporates and religious institutions to bring care and hope to everyone. To those who may not see it as their problem to solve, I will say we all grow old one day or will be in need at some point in our lives, let us give freely as our loved ones, our next generation or ourselves may need the care and hope one day.
3) If you can do/change anything in Singapore, or about life here, what would you do? What does thriving mean to you?
My wish is that the community will step up even more to meet the needs of those around them and be more inclusive. During my time with a training institute, we had a visually handicapped person and another deaf individual both signing up for an advanced certificate in training. My team and I had to revise the assessment approach without compromising on the academic rigour and make certain adjustments to the training environment so that we can include them in the 3-month programme. It was challenging but meaningful. I am delighted to share that both trainees successfully completed the course and are trainers to their own communities. I am so proud of the team for not turning the trainees away.
The many ground up initiatives during the time of covid has demonstrated that Singaporeans and the community can and are able to do more to bring care and hope to society. Thriving means striving without S(selfishness) and with a H(heart).