Left: Vivien Ong is a Speech Language Therapist with the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS). The Social Service Scholar has a Masters in Speech Language Pathology, University of Sydney.
Right: Huang WeiJie is a Social Service Scholar with a Bachelor of Social Sciences (Social Work) with Honours (Highest Distinction). He is a Social Worker in Fei Yue Family Service Centre (FSC).
If you are keen to be a source of positivity and support, the social service sector is the place for you.
Under the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), the umbrella body for social service professionals that provides leadership and direction in social services, Vivien Ong and Huang WeiJie have found the career that fulfils and excites them. They were awarded Social Service Scholarships to pursue a career in social service, alongside bespoke training and development programmes to refine their skills and prepare them to be leaders and change-makers in this dynamic sector.
Vivien is a Speech Language Therapist with the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS), where she provides therapy services for those with communication difficulties; while WeiJie is a Social Worker in Fei Yue Family Service Centre (FSC), providing low-income and vulnerable individuals and families support through case management. The two Social Service Scholars may differ in the services they provide to help those in need, but they are united in their impetus to bring light to others' lives. A single word, an action – is a hope that they bring.
To start off, why did you join the social service?
Vivien: My volunteering with Make-A-Wish foundation is a very big driving force as to why I am in social services. I remember feeling quite lost because I didn't know how to communicate with a non-verbal child. However, when I gave him a toy figurine; his eyes sparkled, a silly giggle escaped his mouth and he waved the figurine excitedly. That was the moment when I felt like I connected with him.
This encounter made me realise how there are those who need more support and care. I think without my volunteering, it would have been difficult for me to meet these individuals and know the struggles they face.
WeiJie: I first heard about social work as a profession in church, and I was intrigued by the possibility of doing good and getting paid at the same time. In the following years, I experienced pain and brokenness within my own personal life – instead of simply healing myself, these experiences propelled me to bring healing and transformation to the world.
Please tell us more about your respective roles.
Vivien: I am a Speech Language Therapist in a special education school. The students in my school are aged seven to 18 years old and have diagnoses such as intellectual disability, Down syndrome or autism spectrum disorder. Mainly, I assess the communication level of my students, followed by planning and providing therapy services for those with communication difficulties.
My goal is for my students to develop functional communication skills with which to express their needs and wants, helping them gain independence and improving their quality of life.
WeiJie: As a social worker, I am privileged to journey with families who are facing various challenges and help improve their lives.
A typical day for me starts with a morning meeting, after which I would meet, call, or conduct home visits for clients. This usually lasts the whole day, but sometimes I engage with other stakeholders as well. Finally, I end the day with an update on my case recordings and assessments.
How has your perception of the sector evolved over time?
Vivien: I think my perception of the sector has evolved from being idealistic to being more realistic. I started off my job having somewhat of a superhero mindset.
However, the reality of working in the sector is that there are so many who need help and only one of you. I have come to realise that while I cannot do everything, I can do something. I have learnt to focus on the things that are achievable and just do the best that I can.
WeiJie: To be honest, our work can be tiring and improvement can take a long time. However, as I continued to do my job, I began to truly treasure the human connection I have with my clients. In the end, I really love to talk and connect with people, to hear what matters to them and discover their strengths.
WeiJie, could you share some development experiences specific to Social Service Scholars?
Of course! I have fond memories of the various scholar engagement activities, such as Scholars Orientation, dialogue sessions as well as the Lunch with Scholars (pre-covid). It was great to interact with fellow scholars, hear insights from seniors already in the field, and be inspired by the veterans in the social sector.
How about the career progression for scholars, Vivien?
That is also unique in the social sector. Upon graduation, scholars will be working at different social services organisations/agencies. There will also be rotations across different organisations/agencies, which allow us to work in different settings and with different populations. As social services is a big sector, the rotations ensure that we better understand the needs of the sector and allow us to gain different experiences.
Lastly, tell us, what drives you to do what you do every day?
Vivien: I think it is a combination of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations that drive me to do what I do every day. My job is personally rewarding for me. I gain a sense of fulfilment knowing that I am doing something that is making a difference in someone's life, regardless of how small the difference might be. It is very heartening to see my students improve over time.
The moments where we celebrate the little milestones the students have achieved with parents and teachers are also greatly cherished and fondly remembered.
WeiJie: The relationships I share with my clients and the ability to serve them keep me going every day. I want my clients to experience that I believe in them, and I am here to fight with them.