National Council of Social Service
Feature | NCSS

Empowering Lives Through Heart Work

National Council of Social Service
When it comes to driving positive change, there is strength in a unified vision achieved through collective effort. The Social Service Tribe is made up of like-minded professionals who share the common purpose of empowering people to lead their lives with dignity. By acting as catalysts of change, the Tribe works with their hearts and minds to inspire, restore hope and build better futures for those who are vulnerable.

Comprising of more than 15,000 professionals working in over 450 social service organisations, the Social Service Tribe supports the community in five main social service areas: disabilities and special needs, children and youth, mental health, seniors and families. With over 30 different professions to choose from in areas such as community partnership, social work and education, a diverse career awaits individuals who seek a meaningful and purpose-driven life. We speak to Physiotherapist Emily Koh and Social Worker Edwin Soh to understand more about their journeys as social service professionals.

What sparked your interest in social service?

Emily:  It was the desire to give back to society. I always knew that I wanted to join either healthcare or social service upon graduation. In the end, I decided to join social service as it serves the stratum of society that is most vulnerable and requires the most support. I wanted to contribute by empowering people’s lives.

Edwin:  I knew I wanted to join the social service when I was in the second year of university. It is a blessing to me that the values of social work are aligned with my intrinsic belief that everyone should live with dignity. It is a wonderful privilege to have my passion and career come together.

How has the social service scholarship enabled you to fulfil this dream?

Emily:  The scholarship provides opportunities to intern and to rotate across social service organisations in Singapore. This enables us to gain a more holistic understanding of social service and learn from senior professionals to become better at what we do.

Edwin:  The social service scholarship provided me many opportunities to gain industry knowledge and grow professionally. Networking sessions and industry talks are also routinely organised to expose scholars to social service.

Emily Koh Hui Yu

Emily Koh Hui Yu 
Social Service Scholar

“The scholarship provides opportunities to intern and rotate across social service organisations in Singapore, which enables us to gain a more holistic understanding of the industry.”

Now that you have joined the social service sector, what are your current roles and responsibilities?

Emily:  I am a physiotherapist at SPD. Formerly known as the Society for the Physically Disabled, I work with people to help them to be self-reliant and independent. To extend holistic support to our clients, I constantly collaborate with other social service professionals to help clients improve their physical, psychosocial, emotional, and social well-being.

Edwin:  I am a community social worker at Goodlife!, a Senior Activity Centre under Montfort Care. At Goodlife!, we take a holistic approach to active ageing by organising activities that address physical and mental wellness of our seniors. We help them to make informed decisions on the next trajectory of their future. My daily work involves case management and community work, which includes organising community outreach and talks for seniors and clients in the community. I also conduct home visits with trained senior volunteers and give assistance to the seniors in the vicinity.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your work then, and how do you overcome them?

Emily:  The biggest challenge I face with some clients is when they lack the motivation to participate in physical activity at home and within their community. On my part, I work with clients, their families, and other professionals to try to identify ways that they can participate in community activities at activity centres and support groups. The joy from interacting with my clients is the motivation that keeps me going.

Edwin:  We sometimes find ourselves working with an elderly who might be too embarrassed to ask for help or not receptive to the healthcare services we provide. We establish rapport first so that they may be more willing to accept our help. As a social worker, we may worry that our assessment is flawed and that our work with clients may cause them more harm than good. At times like these, it helps to have faith in myself, my training, and the support of my supervisor and my team.

Edwin Soh Heng Yang

Edwin Soh Heng Yang 
Social Service Scholar
Social Worker

“We are professionals who are proudly empowering Singapore’s people to lead dignified lives.”

On the other hand, what is one memorable experience from your career?

Emily:  One of my clients teared up during a meeting with his occupational therapist, his daughter and me. He thanked us for our collaborative efforts. To me, that meant that I was on the right track because we were providing what he truly needed and had made a positive impact on his life as a team.

Edwin:  It was the first case that was assigned to me. My client was an elderly man who had suffered from strokes, had difficulty expressing himself and showed signs of social isolation. He broke down frequently during our initial sessions. After inviting him to participate in the activities at the Senior Activity Centre, his interaction with other seniors helped him regain his confidence. He became more bubbly, talkative and even playful during these activities. I learned that it was connecting with others that makes people’s lives more positive at an elderly age. That is the beauty of community work with seniors.

What advice would you give to those who are considering the social service scholarship?

Emily:  I would encourage them to learn more about what working in the social service is like before applying for the scholarship. The best way to do this is to visit various social service organisations or speak to people from social service to find out more. The industry is a growing sector with several career tracks for social service professionals to embark on. There are plenty of opportunities for personal growth and career development!

Edwin:  First, you need to ask yourself: what are your personal values and motivations in seeking this scholarship? A scholarship is a privilege and with it, comes the obligation to serve a cause bigger than yourself. Volunteer in a cause that is close to your heart. Seek counsel from existing professionals, as they can present a realistic appraisal of the challenges and the rewards of this journey.

We are professionals who are proudly empowering Singapore’s people to lead dignified lives. Discover what it means to be part of the Tribe and career opportunities within the social service.