Mr Chan Jianhong may hold a Diploma in Tourism and Resort Management, but he has chosen to pursue a career as a social worker.

What sparked his interest in social work was a stint as a tour guide at a voluntary welfare organisation while waiting to be enlisted for National Service.

“The profit from the eco- and adventure tours I was conducting was used to run the community service programme of the organisation,” he explains.

“I witnessed social workers at work, and saw how it could benefit the community.”

One of the lecturers from his alma mater Singapore Polytechnic came to know of his newfound interest and suggested he check out the Social Service Scholarship offered by the National Council of Social Service.

He applied successfully for the scholarship and entered the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2012 to read for a Bachelor of Social Sciences in Social Work.

At NUS, the curriculum covered the three main areas of social work — casework and counselling, group work and community work.

There were two 10-week long internships as well. The first was at SBL Vision Family Service Centre in Tampines, where he encountered cases with a broad range of issues.

For his second internship, he returned to Singapore Polytechnic, which had just started a programme to develop student leaders to run community services in its vicinity.

He worked with the polytechnic’s two social workers on early plans for the programme. That included finding out the needs of the community, which had a number of elderly residents.

Upon graduating from NUS last year, he started work at Punggol Family Service Centre, one of the centres under AMKFSC Community Services.

Theories in action

At Punggol Family Service Centre, he sees how casework, group work and community work come together to help people. “I saw theories come alive,” says the 27-year-old.

For example, if he comes across a few cases that have similar backgrounds or needs, he might consider getting them together and working with them as a group instead of individually.

If a number of elderly people income family who are lagging in their development because the parents neglect them as both have to spend long hours at work to make a living. Social workers can bring in help from different sources — tapping national schemes for financial assistance, approaching corporate partners for food rations to ease the parents’ burden, and working with the children’s schools so their teachers are aware of the challenges they face. “With all this support around turn up at the centre seeking help to read documents in English, the social workers could gather a community of people who are able to translate for them.

Most satisfying for him is seeing “collaborative practice” in action.

“When different partners work together, and the client joins in to work on a challenge that he is faced with, there is more synergy and the client is better able to deal with his difficulties,” he says.

To illustrate, he gives an example of children from a low income family who are lagging in their development because the parents neglect them as both have to spend long hours at work to make a living.

Social workers can bring in help from different sources — tapping national schemes for financial assistance, approaching corporate partners for food rations to ease the parents’ burden, and working with the children’s schools so their teachers are aware of the challenges they face.

“With all this support around the family, they will be much better able to cope with the issues they face,” says Mr Chan.

He is currently dealing more with young people aged from around 10 to 20 years in his work, but he does not mind switching to other areas in the social service sector.

As a Social Service Scholar, he is aware that during the bond period — which is five years in his case — he will experience at least one transfer to another social service organisation.

“In the first five years as a social worker, you are more of a learner. Such rotation will be beneficial,” he says. “You can pick up the best practices in different areas, then when you settle down in an area you love, it can benefit from your experiences.”

For those who are thinking of applying for the Social Service Scholarship, he says: “I would recommend that you volunteer in your own community first.

“Through volunteering, you will get to know the challenges out there, some of which are unseen. Maybe by volunteering in a few different areas, you might find something you love.”