Left: Dr Pearlene
Ng is a recipient of
the Social Service
Scholarship. She is
serving her second
posting as a Clinical
Psychologist at Viriya
Right: David Puvaneyshwaran is a Social Service Scholar, currently serving his first posting as a Social Worker at TRANSSAFE Centre.
The Social Service Tribe is made up of more than 15,000 professionals working in over 450 social service agencies, supporting people in need across five main social service areas: children & youth, disabilities & special needs, families, mental health, and seniors. There are diverse job roles in social service which individuals can explore to discover opportunities to make a meaningful impact. These include different specialisations like social work, psychology and therapy. Social Service Scholars David Puvaneyshwaran, 26, and Pearlene Ng, 30, share with us why they chose a career in social service.
What sparked your interest in social service?
David: I used to be a volunteer emcee for Make A Wish Foundation and Children’s Cancer Society. I didn’t do much direct work with the clients but I always remembered seeing the smiles on their faces and knowing how the little things we do can go a long way. That motivated me to take up an internship in social service, which eventually led to me becoming a Social Worker.
Pearlene: I joined social service to help increase accessibility to mental health services in the community as there is still a very wide treatment gap. Traditionally, mental health services in Singapore have been provided at hospitals; however, as we move towards a community-based approach, it is important for us to provide timely and affordable psychological treatments to clients.
Why did you choose to take up the Social Service Scholarship?
David: As with any other scholarship, the financial support is very helpful. Most importantly, if you are considering work within the social service sector, this scholarship allows you to serve in one of the social service agencies under NCSS membership — and there are plenty to choose from. Knowing that I wanted to kick off my career by doing ground work, the decision to choose this scholarship was an easy one.
Pearlene: The opportunity to further my studies abroad! Connecting with other professionals has also shown me how different individuals in social service can come together to support a client, whilst tapping on one another’s strength and expertise. I’m grateful to be able to grow and learn as a Psychologist, and to do what I believe in.
What drives you to do what you do?
David: Hearing my clients share with me their stories and the issues they are facing, I have an intrinsic desire to support them in changing their outcomes, empowering them to take steps that will make their life better. The impact of our work goes a long way and it is not just fulfilling for the clients we serve but also creates a sense of achievement for social workers like us.
Pearlene: My clients — it may sound like a cliché but I learn so much from them every day. Their strength, bravery and resilience inspire me immensely.
Besides passion, what other qualities do you think are needed to work in this industry?
David: Curiosity! I believe in the importance of staying curious and being willing to learn and change the ways we work with different individuals because every case we work on is different. I also believe that we should be critically conscious when working with people from different groups of society. This helps us to understand the deeper struggles of individuals who may not be as privileged as many others.
Pearlene: To be in this industry, one needs to be both willing and able. Willing refers to passion, drive and humility; able refers to competencies. This is especially so as we move towards being a sector where we strive to provide professional services to clients in the community.
Everyone experiences setbacks. What motivates you to keep going whenever you feel that way?
David: I have to admit that it is not something I can overcome on my own — setbacks can affect the rest of your day at work and I have felt that many times. My supervisor has always been supportive and checks in on me from time to time. These sessions help me realign my thoughts and focus on how I can better support my clients within my capacity.
Pearlene: Reminding myself to “celebrate the small victories”. I’m grateful to have very supportive and experienced colleagues and supervisors that I can turn to. I’m also very blessed to be able to support my clients in their journey of recovery as they are a great source of inspiration for me.
How do your colleagues help you in your work?
David: In my line of work, we often need to tap on our colleagues for help, especially when the risk of the cases are higher and it says a lot when I do not need to hesitate when asking for help. The wonderful team of people I have worked with has also supported me when I’ve felt overwhelmed, consoled me when I’ve felt down and advised me when I’ve felt lost.
Pearlene: I’m in a multi-disciplinary team that comprises social workers, counsellors, sandplay therapists and systemic therapists. Their different strengths, expertise and perspectives have proven to be very helpful in my work. Mental health issues can be complex and my colleagues have been a great source of support for both my clients and I.
What advice would you give to those who are considering the social service scholarship?
David: Social work may not be for everyone. While the money from the scholarship may seem attractive, it may not be worth it if you dread going to work every day or if you don’t have the heart for your clients. The impact of our work is greater than we think, and it is important that we continue to inspire positive change in our clients’ lives. If it helps, try interning first — what we learn in school and the practical work is very different and doing the work may give you a better idea of what to expect.
Pearlene: It would be helpful to gain some prior experience in social service either via internship or volunteering to see if the social service sector is somewhere where you would like to kick-start your career in.
We are professionals who are proudly empowering Singapore’s people to lead dignified lives.
Discover how our social service professionals help drive positive change and career opportunities in social service at www.socialservicetribe.sg.