The social service sector brings together professionals with a common passion and conviction, and offers exciting career opportunities to effect change in individuals, families, and communities.
The National Council of Social Service (NCSS) is actively seeking passionate talents to be part of the growing sector. It offers the Social Service Scholarship that emplaces scholars to different social service organisations; enabling them to create positive impact in the lives of others.
United by their common goal and common values, social service professionals work hand in hand to empower those in our community who are vulnerable or at risk. We speak to Rebecca Ng and Caleb Wong to find out what it means to be a social service scholar.
What sparked your interest in social service?
Rebecca Ng: Being in this sector means I get to work with people in the community, especially those families and children that really need the support and services. Furthermore, I have always known that I wanted to work with children, and being in the social service makes it all the more meaningful.
Caleb Wong: When I was 14-years-old, I realised that I enjoyed giving advice to my friends who were having problems in their life (school issues, CCA issues and relationships etc.). I felt that my advice helped them in various ways and that they enjoyed talking to me as well. That was when I realised that I wanted to do something related to helping people in the future.
Social Service Scholar
Why did you choose your particular specialisation?
Rebecca: There was something that stirred within me when I saw what a Speech-Language Therapist did whilst working with a child who had difficulties communicating. I was excited to see how small progresses were huge achievements to these children and their families.
Caleb: To truly improve lives, we do not just follow our hearts, we “lead with our hearts”. Social work provides a systemic perspective instead of just focusing on the person. Social Workers learn how to tackle issues and see things from a bird’s eye view while still sticking their hands in the mud together with these struggling families. That is why I chose to specialise in social work.
What are some challenges you face at work?
Rebecca: Challenges appear constantly in many different forms. It could be a child that has complex needs making it difficult to prioritise, or having different opinions from the parents and slowly working them out together. I always bear in mind that challenges shape character and teaches me humility in all that I do. Reminding myself to slowly work through the situation objectively helps me as well!
Caleb: My main challenge is the mental and emotional load of being constantly ready to react to any situation, phone call or task, every day. So it is really helpful that we have the support of the agency and a good supervision framework for some of the tougher cases.
Social Service Scholar
What drew you to the Social Service Scholarship?
Rebecca: First, I knew that as a social service scholar, I would be given rotation opportunities every two to three years. This would give me the opportunity to be constantly exposed to change and ensure continual growth as a therapist. Second, the scholarship enabled me to pursue the degree that I wanted: an undergraduate programme for Speech and Language Pathology overseas as this course is unavailable in Singapore.
Caleb: I knew I wanted to study social work and I knew that I was going to work in the social service sector after I graduated. I felt that the scholarship would offer me networking opportunities that I would not have had a chance to obtain otherwise. The scholarship also provided financial stability and gave me confidence that I would find employment immediately after graduation because of the scholarship bond.
What kind of qualities should Social Service Scholars possess?
Rebecca: Compassion for others and resilience. Having a heart to help others is definitely one of the biggest driving forces when working in the community! It will help keep your feet grounded when times get tough. Resilience is also needed as the social service sector is constantly going through good changes and may need you to be adaptable to them.
Caleb: I believe a sense of profound dissatisfaction is essential. Profound because it is not just about being unhappy and complaining about things the way people generally understand “dissatisfaction”. Rather, it is about knowing that there is always something more that can be done, that the current state of affairs can always improve. We are content with the good things that we see in the sector, but we are not complacent and think that all is perfect.
What advice would you give to those who are exploring scholarship options?
Rebecca: Talk to different professionals to find out more about their experiences. Also, go organise observations for yourself in the different settings (e.g. hospitals, special schools, therapy hubs). This may give you a clearer idea if a future in the social service is for you!
Caleb: Do your due diligence, do your homework and research on your options, talk to the respected people in your life and find wise counsel. Make the best decision you can based on the information you have at the point of decision-making. However, know that you will never have perfect knowledge to make a perfect decision — an incessant need for the perfect decision can also cripple one from moving forward.