There are many daily luxuries which most of us take for granted - a family to return to, and not having to worry when our next meal would be. Even as a country which stands at the forefront of technology and development, there are a minority of families and individuals who fall through the safety nets.
With MSF working in close quarters with its partner social service agencies, these families and individuals are able to receive the appropriate assistance needed. While her sister social service agencies focus their efforts on the ground, MSF focuses on building the “heartware” for the social service. The ministry does so through putting forth policies, community infrastructure, programmes and services, which have a focus on families, social services and social safety nets. Through these efforts, MSF seeks to nurture an inclusive and caring society which can overcome challenges together.
We sit down with MSF scholar, Nicholas Toh Weibin, who is serving the community as a Family Policy Officer, with the Family Development Group at MSF. He tells us more about what inspired him to apply for the scholarship and how his work has helped families overcome difficulties.
What sparked your interest in applying for the MSF scholarship?
Nicholas Toh Weibin: When most individuals apply for scholarships, many would have inclinations towards certain career pathways. For me, having been involved as a volunteer with the Chinese Development Assistance Council and Victoria Junior College’s Interact Club, my interests naturally leaned towards social issues. I saw the MSF scholarship as potentially offering a fulfilling and meaningful career, and never looked back since.
Tell us about your role today. What are your responsibilities?
Nicholas: This is always a difficult question to answer as there are no standard days at MSF. As the officer holding the divorce portfolio, I analyse divorce trends and conduct research into different aspects of divorce. For example, the impact of divorce on child outcomes, co-parenting after divorce and predictors of divorce - as a means to crafting evidence-based policies and programmes.
What are some challenges you face at work and how do you try to overcome these challenges?
Nicholas: Perhaps modern work requires constant learning, un-learning, and re-learning. Having been in the Civil Service for less than a year, I have had the opportunity to learn data analytics tools such as Stata and Tableau.
Overcoming challenges depends on how you interpret ‘challenge’. I clearly remember the time when my supervisor heavily amended my first report submission at work. When it was eventually returned to me, the document was almost fully marked in red with amendments. While feeling discouraged is natural, I also saw it as an opportunity to learn how to do my work better in future, such as writing concisely and keeping the audience in mind.
Nicholas Toh Weibin
MSF - Local Merit Scholarship
Family Policy Officer at Family Development Group
Bachelor of Social Sciences (Honours) in Sociology, National University of Singapore
What unique opportunities can fresh graduates look forward to upon joining the ministry?
Nicholas: Fresh graduates who join the ministry can look forward to great career with advancement opportunities, and avenues to pick up new skills along the way. As MSF is a relatively large ministry with departments spanning the family and social sectors, all employees have the opportunity to rotate around vastly different areas of work throughout their career.
What should aspiring MSF scholars bear in mind as they apply for the scholarship?
Nicholas: Most applicants would have thought of using the word “passion” in their essays or interviews - I personally advise against using that word. I feel that it is hard to nail down what the word “passion” really encompasses so early in life. What if your passion is limited to helping disadvantaged children only? Rather, if you have considered the MSF scholarship, what you should have is a general interest in social issues and wanting to make a difference in the lives of others. The key then is to convert this interest into drive, in whatever capacity you serve in.
Do you have any advice for those who are exploring their scholarship options?
Nicholas: Rather than money or prestige, do consider the scholarship as an opportunity for a career that you are truly interested in. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the scholarship application season, many will start viewing scholarships as prizes to be won - which is a dangerous mindset to have. Some of you may even feel pressurized to secure a scholarship, for fear of losing out to your peers.
Just remember, there is no shame or loss in not being awarded a scholarship. There may simply be other jobs that are better-suited for you. If you are awarded the MSF scholarship, congratulations! I look forward to working alongside you in future.