T he Social Service Sector champions for the vulnerable, gives a voice to those who need to be heard and advocates opportunities for all. The sector has over 450 Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs), creating a strong social fabric that will positively impact lives.
National Council of Social Service (NCSS) is also always on the lookout for young talents with a passion to work with people and drive social change. The Social Service Scholarship is intended to identify these individuals and give them the opportunities to make a real difference. Social Service Scholars will be emplaced in VWOs. We speak to Revathi D/O Thangavel and Sharon Sim, both Social Service Scholars, about their experiences in the Social Service Sector.
Tell us more about what you do in your job today.
Revathi: As a social worker at REACH Community Services Society, I conduct individual counselling sessions, family sessions, as well as group sessions with at-risk youths. These youths either have irregular school attendance and are referred by their schools, or have associations with gangs and are referred by the police. Other than that, I am also in charge of volunteer development, which involves conducting training sessions to equip them with the necessary soft skills. Following that, I deploy them to our various programmes and also debrief them.
Sharon: The SPD Therapy Hub provides a comprehensive range of therapy service, including occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and speech therapy to support the programmes within SPD and other community organisations. It also coordinates the recruitment, management, and training of a pool of professional therapists and deploys them to serve persons of all ages.
Revathi D/O Thangavel
Social Service Scholar
As manager of the Therapy Hub, I am responsible for all these things, and am also in charge of promoting the services of the Hub to ensure that those who need our services are aware of how they can access and utilise them.
Share with us some memorable episodes about your career.
Revathi: I have picked up many life lessons from my clients. They are not memorable episodes in the traditional sense of the word, but I hold these moments close to my heart. For instance, there was a family who was going through considerable difficulties, and even had their power supply cut off. Yet in the midst of all this, the parents worked to comfort their children and frame the entire experience as an adventurous camp in the dark. Through all these hardships, I saw the strength of this family and how the various difficulties actually pulled them closer together.
Sharon: The most memorable time would probably be when I had to venture out of my own comfort zone. Despite everything, it really changed my mindset and I came out even stronger. I told my lecturer that working in a nursing home or with clients with dementia would be my least preferred choice. So imagine the irony when I was assigned to a nursing home catered to clients with dementia!
I knew then that I had to take it in my stride and embrace the challenge. I never regretted my decision because I contributed in ways I never thought I could, and all that in a setting which I once deemed undesirable. We organised vocational activities, photography sessions, leisure explorations, and even a sports day! These are activities that I never thought would take place in a nursing home, and I am glad to have played a role in bringing joy to my clients.
Sharon Sim Sze Lyn
Social Service Scholar
Manager, Therapy Hub
What are some of the challenges you face at work and how do you overcome them?
Revathi: Some of my clients are mandated by court for counselling. This means that some of them are coming to see me involuntarily, so it is common for them to miss counselling sessions or be generally uncooperative. Some of them are also really intelligent and will intentionally perform all the expected actions just to go through the motions in the shortest timeframe possible. As you can imagine, this is not the desired outcome.
The key is to show sincerity in wanting to build genuine relationships with them. You have to step into their shoes to understand things from their perspective. You then remove your own value system and avoid casting judgement on them. Once they realise that you can empathise with them and regard them positively, you might be able to achieve a breakthrough.
Sharon: It is a constant challenge to recruit therapists for the social service sector, especially for settings like day care centres or nursing homes. One of the reasons is that there are prevailing misconceptions about the work being done there. It is possible that many therapists were not aware how much they can contribute in these settings.
Whenever possible, I would strive to educate occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and speech therapy students and clinicians on the vast potential of therapy work in a community setting. It is also very important for us at the SPD Therapy Hub to provide interns with a positive clinical experience when they are with us, because this contributes to many of our former interns selecting SPD as their employer of choice upon graduation.
What advice do you have for aspiring Social Service Scholars?
Revathi: It is definitely crucial to have a heart to serve others. Empathy, the ability to suspend judgement, and patience are also key qualities. In social work, we use our own selves as tools to build authentic relationships with our clients, which means we also need a good level of self-awareness!
Sharon: Do consider if the social service sector appeals to you. Community work can be highly challenging and demanding. Very often, we have to be creative in our utilisation of limited resources. However, when you see clients benefiting from your work, it is exceedingly rewarding.