Tough Love

Meet the team that’s trying to get sceptical singles to mingle
Playing Cupid: SDOs Jonathan Fong and Sabryna Tay plan ways to get the Public Service's singles to meet.

Cupid doesn't have any easy job in Singapore. Just ask Social Development Officers (SDO) Jonathan Fong and Sabryna Tay. They are part of the SDO Network, which aims to get singles in the Public Service to mingle socially – hopefully leading them to friendship, and eventually, love and marriage.

“Don’t come near me, I don’t want to be seen with you. I’m not single!” This was what one officer actually said as she scrambled to her feet upon seeing a group of SDOs approaching, related Mr Fong. The SDOs had been going around to ministries and agencies to introduce themselves to officers, when the team was newly formed in late 2009.

“We have to be very thick-skinned. After a while, when they know that we are not there to push them, but to widen their social network… they will slowly open up to us,” said Mr Fong. The SDO Network falls under the Social Development Network (SDN), which reports to the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

Here’s their modus operandi: The SDO Network works closely with public agencies to work out ways to engage singles. They map out work schedules and organise dating events so singles from different agencies can meet and widen their networks – even when it means giving up their own weekends to organise these functions.

While the SDOs are “the face” of the Network, there are other officers – more experienced in the dating business – who arrange one-on-one matchmaking sessions for those who prefer them.

“We always change our strategy to suit different personalities. We’ve a wide range of programmes from hiking to dancing to coffee appreciation for people with different interests. We were touched when some [participants] wrote in to inform us that they appreciated our efforts and they had good time learning new skills and making new friends at the same time,” said Ms Tay.

Despite being regarded as “the plague” by some, our unsung heroes say they are proud to have converted some sceptics, who went on subsequent dates after attending SDO events and have changed their attitude towards dating services.

So the next time you singles see SDOs approaching, don’t run. Give them – and love – a chance.

For more on the SDO Network, call Jonathan Fong at 9722 6408 and Sabryna Tay at 9711 9243.

    Jan 16, 2013
    Heng Yishi
    John Heng
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