Muhammad Azhar S/O Haj Mohamed reviews ComCare policy and support frameworks, and develops financial assistance schemes aimed at needy families and those affected by COVID-19, as a Financial Security Policy Officer with Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). He is a Singapore Government Scholar and has a Bachelor of Science in Social Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a Master of Public Policy from University of Oxford.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is dedicated to nurturing a resilient and caring Singapore. And its mandate was put to the test during the pandemic, where the Ministry rose to the occasion and swiftly conceptualised and implemented some of our most effective Covid-19 relief schemes such as the Temporary Relief Fund and Covid-19 Support Grant.
The vital support these provided to many Singaporeans is a special source of pride for Muhammad Azhar, Financial Security Policy Officer at MSF. He was at the frontlines informing citizens of their application outcomes, and was overwhelmed by their expressions of gratitude and praise.
“It is the best part of the job and a constant motivator to keep doing the good work. The impact is tangible and you can see your work bearing fruition in a relatively short timeline, which is extremely satisfactory,” the Singapore Government Scholar enthused.
He hopes to assist many more through his work developing financial schemes to support low-to-middle income households affected by the economic impact of COVID-19, while maintaining policy on ComCare as well.
He summarised: “As policy officers, our responsibilities are wide-ranging and we front all queries, discussions, and reviews that revolve around the policies which we oversee! It is a significant responsibility and one that I hope to handle well.”
But Azhar is confident that MSF will continue to provide him with the scope and collaborative environment to continue helping Singaporeans.
The Moment it Began
Speaking of his interest to enter the social service, the scholar confessed that there was no one single moment that stood out for him. Rather, as a beneficiary of assistance and regular volunteer at local community projects and SINDA-organised events, a career helping others was always the natural choice.
“Through experiences and interactions, I was exposed to a range of social issues around the community and learnt from passionate individuals who went above and beyond what was required of them to improve life outcomes for some of the underprivileged,” he recounted.
“Knowing that I can continue to make a positive change, in a rather tangible way through work in the social sector, ultimately made the decision a fairly easy one.”
Having decided on the social sector, he applied for a scholarship with MSF as it is “the most influential body that shapes the form and future of the sector.”
Azhar expanded: “The mandate of MSF's work deeply appealed to me. My past experiences and interests significantly overlapped with MSF's mission and was a natural setting for me to want to be in.”
“Furthermore, I felt that I would likely be able to relate with those working in MSF, given that it is likely to attract those with similar interests and desires. And now I can say that I was right!”
Working Together Even When Apart
He is constantly awed and inspired by his colleagues at MSF, who went above and beyond to help not only fellow Singaporeans, but fledging officers like himself. He spoke of the transition from university life in the UK to working in Singapore: “My colleagues and bosses were super supportive throughout and played a large role in helping me to adjust back into life in Singapore and guiding me through any moments of difficulties faced at work.”
“There is generally a patient and helpful spirit amongst colleagues. Good team camaraderie is so important and I think MSF has a strong culture where we treat one another as family.”
This was especially true when the pandemic hit, which saw the officers having to quickly shift to working from home. “I was just getting used to settling into the work environment and forging healthy relationships with my teammates before the COVID-19 induced circuit breaker measures were introduced,” said Azhar ruefully.
But their bonds emerged all the stronger through this test. “Initially, it was difficult to not meet and have face-to-face discussions with your colleague every day. Over time, we got used to the virtual interactions. Strangely, we have also bonded over the WFH challenges and are now operating smoothly!”
For the Guys
Azhar has some special advice for male students – use your time in NS to reflect and enjoy yourself! He made his biggest career decisions after spending those three years in serious contemplation.
Helping Others, Helping Self
When it comes to scholarship organisations, Azhar hopes others will be inspired as he was to serve the public good. “The work in MSF truly helps to shape our social compact and build a better society,” he pronounced with conviction.
“Sometimes, the issues we focus on seem too large and abstract, such as creating more resilient families and a cohesive society, strengthening our social safety nets, protecting the most vulnerable amongst us. However, each day of work is a step towards creating a positive difference.”
“If you have the patience, the determination and the compassion to contribute to the solution process, MSF is the place for you.”