E arly-day Singapore saw the social service sector hampered by the lack of proper co-ordination and support. This was before the formation of the Singapore Council of Social Service, which was restructured to become the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) in 1992. Today, NCSS is the overarching body overseeing the interests of more than 450 Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs), which deliver over 2,100 social service programmes to enable individuals, families and communities to successfully function in society.
For Social Work student Chan Jianhong and Psychologist Muhammad Haikal, the social service sector was where they wanted to place their heart on. They applied for the NCSS Social Service Scholarship in hopes of making a difference in the lives of others. Both scholars share how their interest in the sector sparked, and some opportunities they have received with their scholarship.
SOCIAL SERVICE SCHOLAR
Bachelor of Arts and Social Sciences (Social Work) graduating student at the National University of Singapore
What sparked your interest in the social service sector?
Chan Jianhong: Being a youth who was struggling in secondary school, I met with social workers who provided guidance and encouragement that was beneficial for me. It then made me realise how important it was to play my part in the community and the development of Singapore’s future contributors. This led me towards the path of becoming a social worker.
Muhammad Haikal: I didn’t grow up wanting to be a Psychologist. I always joke that my interest in psychology stemmed from my love for crime shows – I am always curious about why people behave the way they do! My interest in human behaviour grew over time, and was augmented when I was exposed to psychological theories and knowledge. I like that everyone can benefit from Psychology. Some can benefit from learning techniques to better focus at work, while others can develop better listening skills to improve his life.
Tell us a bit about what you’re currently doing.
Jianhong: As a Social Work student in the National University of Singapore, I am being prepared to contribute to the social service sector. I believe that the knowledge gained from my course of study will help to provide a perspective on how VWOs work, how the Ministry of Social & Family Development implements social welfare policies, and how NCSS mediates between these two bodies.
Haikal: I am currently working in a residential setting for destitute sufferers of mental health issues. My main roles are to provide individual and group psychotherapy to the residents, with the aim of helping them to recover from their mental health conditions. I also provide support to these residents so that they can be discharged from their homes and reintegrate back into society.
Muhammad Haikal Bin Jamil
SOCIAL SERVICE SCHOLAR
Psychologist; Master of Psychology (Clinical) graduate from the National University of Singapore
On top of my primary duties, my other responsibilities include conducting talks to public and corporate organisations to spread the knowledge about mental wellness to the community, and providing supervision to assistant psychologists in my organisation.
Tell us about some opportunities you’ve received as a Social Service Scholar.
Jianhong: I was given opportunities to complete three internships during my three summer breaks. My first internship was in the SBL Vision Family Service Centre, where I was able to work alongside people who suffered from poverty and hospital discharge issues. My second was with Singapore Polytechnic, and this was when I journeyed with Youth Community Leaders who were passionate about serving the community around the school. My third internship was with the Singapore Anglican Community Services, where I served people who were facing mental health challenges.
In all three internships, I have learned that people are resilient. While we fall in the face of stress, we will always find a way to become better than before. I believe we all have the capacity to reach our fullest potential.
Haikal: As an NCSS Social Service Scholar, I am fortunate to have been given exposure to the various sectors of social service, more opportunities for training, and the ability to meet other professionals in the social service. This has helped me to grow into a Psychologist whose knowledge is not just limited to mental health. I am also able to refer my clients to other services that they may benefit from, and my skills are not just in performing psychological interventions.
What would you tell those who are looking to take up the Social Service Scholarship?
Jianhong: The scholarship journey has been rather humbling. Social service is much more than just about giving and taking – it teaches resilience. I recommend those who would want to go on this journey of discovery to take up the NCSS Social Service Scholarship. It is a journey that will continuously surprise and reward you like no other.
Haikal: To aspiring scholars interested in taking up this scholarship, I would recommend that you first reflect on why you would like to pursue this path. In fact, get your hands dirty by doing some volunteer work and gain a better insight into social service and working with people in the community. Often, what we read or see in the media are celebrations of success stories in social service. However, social service is not glamorous and most of the work on the ground requires a lot of heart. The reward that you get is mostly non-tangible in nature. You may lack skills, but this can be overcome with training and guidance from your seniors.