M any of us can remember racial harmony and social cohesion as important academic syllabuses back in primary and secondary school. As we grew older, the importance of actively fostering a community spirit might have been relegated to a secondary position, after the pursuit of our individual goals.
This is why the role of the People’s Association (PA) is paramount. It implements programmes to foster strong community bonds and neighbourly ties between residents, helping us to retain our cultural awareness and a sense of empathy. This aspect of community work drew Grace Chan to PA, an organisation that champions social cohesion among fellow Singaporeans.
She thus chose to apply for the PA Scholarship, which led her to her current role as a Deputy Constituency Director. She plans refreshing programmes with grassroots leaders and community centres – all with the aim of bringing people together through common interests or needs. She also helps to direct residents who need complex forms of assistance to relevant government agencies.
The PA Scholar takes time to give us a better understanding of the work she does in PA. She also shares about the unique opportunities she has been given, as well as some advice for those who wish to follow her footsteps.
Why were you so sure you wanted a career with PA?
Grace Chan: Before I applied for the PA Scholarship, I served in the Youth Executive Committee (YEC) at Mountbatten Community Club for four years. The house visits I was involved in and our close relationship with the grassroots leaders and Mountbatten residents left an impact on me. I was inspired by the trust residents placed in me, especially when they shared about their lives. I knew then that PA would be able to provide me with a heartwarming and fulfilling job – one that focuses on building relationships, serving the community, and being the eyes and ears of the people.
What sort of programmes have you implemented after joining PA?
Grace: My Residents’ Committee (RC) Centre is a relatively young one serving quite a number of young families and children living in the area. It is thus important to identify new ways of bringing the younger generation to our RC events and programmes.
One of the initiatives I have implemented is the RC Study Centre. Previously, the RC Centre was only opened for karaoke sessions, and many residents did not even know its function! Together with our grassroots leaders, we thought of innovative ways to make our RC Centre more prominent and functional. With the knowledge that many students live in the area and that the nearest library is a distance away, we explored the idea of using the RC Centre as a study space. Coupled with free tuition by volunteers from a nearby church, the initiative took off after some time and the RC Centre has since opened its doors for regular study sessions! To suit the different needs of our residents, the RC Centre is now used as a lifestyle centre in the morning, study centre in the afternoons, and karaoke centre in the evenings.
Chan En Ying Grace
Deputy Constituency Director
Share with us about one memorable episode you have had at work.
Grace: One memorable experience for me was the Paws & Furs @ Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency (GRC) and Radin Mas Single Member Constituency (SMC) event in 2014. This animal event was different from our usual events that bond people through food, festivals and shows. At Paws & Furs, we had to think of common interests of pets in order to attract pet owners to bring their furry friends to the carnival. I enjoyed learning and seeing how active PA officers were in the execution of the various activities. I also remembered us having to adjust the acidity and saline level of the water in an inflated pool meant for pets, and being the judge for a pet competition during the carnival.
What challenges do you face at work?
Grace: One of the challenges would be juggling the different types of work. As a PA officer, the job scope can be quite diverse, ranging from front-line service, back-end report submission and grassroots management, to long-term work planning.
I have picked up a habit from my colleagues of keeping a diary and carrying around a mobile phone, in order to note the deadlines and small requests from colleagues, grassroots leaders, residents, vendors, and community partners. I must say the familiar environment within PA also helps me in tackling my challenges – in our team, we remind one another on projects with common deadlines.
What unique opportunities has PA given you to shape your development?
Grace: Although I am a ground officer based in the Buona Vista Constituency Office, PA has given me ample opportunities to work with other divisions on ad-hoc projects. This means that my understanding of the organisation is not limited to my job scope – I am exposed to the diversity of PA and how different divisions work together towards a common goal of building and bridging the community.
PA has also given me the opportunity to be mentored by a senior management officer, whose job scope lies outside my GRC and who has helped me to expand my scope of thought. I am thankful to my mentor and various supervisors who are always ready to share about their vast experiences and useful advice.
What advice do you have for aspiring PA Scholars?
Grace: While we welcome diverse strengths and talents, the fundamental qualities that PA officers must possess are passion, desire, and patience to serve and work with people.
For those who wish to apply for the scholarship, I would say go for it! If you want to get a taste of work in PA, get involved in the many YEC activities out there. Not only do they provide you with a glimpse of the work we do here – they will also offer you the chance to volunteer and serve the community.