Up Close With The Service Stars

With determination and a drive to do more than required, these PS21 Star Service Award winners strive to make a difference in the lives of those they serve, be they job seekers or students, offenders on probation or ordinary residents.



Career Coach, Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA)

Up close with the service stars

Over the past five years, Mr Er has helped more than 1,000 Singaporeans improve their career prospects. The patient career coach takes time to interact with each of his clients to get to know them better and work together to map their career goals before coming up with suitable training or career advice.

One of his clients, a Mr Hamid, struggled to secure full-time employment while working as a part-time security guard. The sole breadwinner of his family believed that being a security operation executive would enable him to create a better future for his family, relates Mr Er.

After understanding Mr Hamid’s work experience and career aspirations, Mr Er advised him to attend job preparatory workshops and undergo relevant training. Mr Hamid went on to take up some IT courses, customer service training and a Class 3 driving license required for the security operation executive job.

As long as you are proactive and committed, I will be able to guide and support you.

Beyond assisting Mr Hamid with course fee subsidies and an allowance, Mr Er checked back regularly with him throughout his intensive training period to encourage him and provide moral support.

Months later, Mr Hamid clinched his desired job and, with further skills upgrading, was soon promoted to manager. He now earns three times his previous salary.

Mr Er says: “As long as you are proactive and committed, I will be able to guide and support you with the relevant resources to make that career transition.

“We encounter all types of clients,” he adds. “We hope to see more clients who are like Mr Hamid, resilient and motivated. What I find satisfying as a career coach is to be able to spur my clients on and partner them in their self-discovery and job search process.”



Allied Educator, Juying Secondary School, Ministry of Education (MOE)

Up close with the service stars

Whenever Mr Chen enters the classroom, his students sit up straight and pay full attention. They like him for his jovial personality, and he is known for being understanding and supportive.

“Working with all kinds of students and their learning needs can be quite a challenge, but I like doing what I do,” says Mr Chen, who has been teaching Chinese language and IT to Normal (Technical) students for the past six years.

He takes inspiration from his secondary school History teacher, Ms Carolynn Howe, who touched him with her kindness. He recalls how she once stopped the lesson to check if he was fine: “I was running a temperature and she specially went out of class to get me a bottle of mineral water.”

Working with all kinds of students and their learning needs can be quite a challenge, but I like doing what I do.

As a student, Mr Chen used to neglect his studies. But “I had a wake-up call when I found that in order to graduate, I had to do better.” He now uses his experience to show students that everyone can succeed in school if they have the willpower and intent to change, as he did years ago.

But first, they should be able to focus on their learning. That is why he earnestly helps any student in need — even if their dificulties lie beyond the classroom.

When he found out that one of his students and her family were in dire financial straits, Mr Chen rallied his colleagues to raise funds for the student. He also checked constantly on her well-being, visited her family with his colleagues and made sure that she was coping well enough to take the exams.

Each time Mr Chen helps his students, he gets a sense of satisfaction as he is emulating his role model, Ms Howe. “I want to be that strong bright light just like her, to guide my students to the right path,” he says.



Operations Support Officer, Punggol View Primary School, Ministry of Education (MOE)

Up close with the service stars


At Punggol View Primary School, everyone calls Mdm Peh “Auntie Alice”.

“I don’t want to address myself as Mdm or Mrs… others might not be comfortable with approaching you or telling you more information,” she says.

Asked about what she does in her role, she replies: “I’m just a printing lady, dear.” In fact, she does more than that, taking care of students’ injuries, walking nervous new students to the assembly hall and performing reception duties at the General Office.

Auntie Alice is devoted to the well-being of the staff and students, whom she regards as family. She starts work at 5.45am daily — more than an hour ahead of her official time — greeting parents and students who are early and making sure students have taken their breakfast, which has helped her build warm relations with them.

I love kids. I just give them a hug and it feels like they have given me their whole world!

That was how she befriended Nadhirah, then a Primary 1 student who would be dropped off at the gates before they opened at 6am. Nadhirah was very quiet and did not know her own name in full, Auntie Alice recalls.

“I knew that I had to help this girl, so I gave her an exercise book and wrote down her full name and asked her to do it too,” says Auntie Alice. She went on to guide Nadhirah with her unfinished schoolwork, and noticed the girl struggling to speak to her friends in English. So Auntie Alice, a Peranakan, used a mix of Malay and English to teach her simple words. Six months later, Nadhirah was able to speak the language more confidently and in full sentences.

What spurs Auntie Alice to do more than her job requirements is her desire to be someone the students can trust and rely on. “I love kids. I just give them a hug and it feels like they have given me their whole world!”



Senior Community Service Officer, Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF)

Up close with the service stars


Mdm Artini supervises offenders who have to perform community service as part of their probation. In her 10 years in service, she has worked with probationers whose ages range from late teens to mid-40s, who have committed offences such as vandalism or theft.

One of her more memorable charges was someone with hearing disabilities. She recalls: “When I took up this case, I was quite nervous. How [do I] communicate with him?”

Initially, they would write what they wanted to say on a sheet of paper, which they passed back and forth between them. After a few sessions, Mdm Artini felt it was ineffective.

“It was difficult to express certain emotions and feelings, such as when you are surprised or angry,” she says.

You must really have passion in helping people and be prepared to make sacrifices.

That was when she decided to learn sign language. Besides wanting to understand more about the deaf community, “I hoped that I could try and communicate better with him,” she recounts.

Through their sessions together, Mdm Artini was able to identify her client’s interests and decided that a stint at the ASEAN Para Games Singapore 2015 would suit him. So she got him a place as an assistant helper where he had to oversee the line-up of games.

She also took on the duty of a Nila Suite Ambassador alongside him to boost his morale. Encouraged, her client completed his required hours of service within two months instead of the usual six.

Providing such close supervision and support means Mdm Artini often works overtime. “You must really have passion in helping people and be prepared to make sacrifices.”

Meanwhile, she has completed the first level of sign language course and hopes to progress to the next level.



Assistant Manager, Environmental Public Health Operations, National Environmental Agency (NEA)

Up close with the service stars


Ms See’s job lies in bidding farewell — not to people, but to a deadly pest. At the NEA, she oversees the dengue prevention efforts at Choa Chu Kang.

Perhaps it was fate that drew Ms See to her job. Her given name, Yiwen, sounds like the Chinese word for the Aedes mosquito, which spreads dengue.

“Since I was a kid, my name has always been made fun of,” she shares, good-humouredly.

While the ribbing used to bother her, Ms See, who sought a job that would benefit the environment, now takes it in her stride — taking pride in leading the fight against dengue.

Things don’t fall in place easily, be prepared. Teamwork is what reaps success.

During a serious outbreak of the disease at Choa Chu Kang in 2014, she and her team combed the area and quashed the number of dengue fever cases from 800 to zero within two months.

The urgency of stopping the outbreak had compelled her team to work quickly, going door to door to meet residents and sharing at public awareness events, even on weekends. During the 2014 outbreak, she and her team mobilised more than 200 grassroots members and residents within three days to raise dengue prevention awareness. Together they covered 44 affected blocks in a single morning.

For her good work, Ms See, who has been at her job for six years, won a National Day award. She remains modest about what she has achieved: “It’s not my work entirely. My colleagues inspected the area while I was in charge of educating the residents.”

On coordinating the outreach efforts with the community, including grassroots members, community club staff and residents, she says: “Things don’t fall in place easily, be prepared. Teamwork is what reaps success.”

    May 11, 2016
    Nicolette Lorraine Selvaraj
    Yip Siew Fei
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