Twice a week, for three hours, Madam Artini Hamzah, 43, would go for lessons in sign language.
The senior community service officer did so for six weeks, in an effort to communicate better with a teenager, who is hearing impaired.
The 17-year-old had been put on probation for an offence and was required to report about once every two weeks to Madam Artini, who is with the Ministry of Social and Family Development. "Over time, he started to open up and talk more about his family," she said.
For going beyond the call of duty, Madam Artini, along with 15 others, received the PS21 Distinguished Star Service Award yesterday, a top honour at the annual Excellence in Public Service Awards.
At the ceremony, attended by 500 people, trophies were also given out to 241 public officers, agencies and members of the public that, correspondingly, gave good service, have best practices and are good customers.
In his address, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean urged public servants to build strong partnerships to overcome new challenges, such as creating jobs of the future for Singaporeans.
Mr Teo, who is also the minister in charge of the civil service, called on them to "partner closely'' with public sector agencies to deliver better policies and programmes, "partner widely" to reach out to more Singaporeans, and "partner deeply" with communities and individualsto produce lasting results.
To illustrate, he cited the car-free zone in Circular Road on Friday and Saturday evenings as a way to partner deeply. Singapore River One, a private-sector association, worked with five government agencies to implement it. They were rewarded with the Best Partner award.
In deep partnerships, said DPM Teo, "all partners are heavily involved in developing, refining and implementing solutions. This requires deep commitment, sustained over time".
Another example shows the Health Ministry and government agencies pooling data, so that people had to verify personal details only online, via the phone or at service counters, for the ministry to assess their eligible MediShield Life subsidies. The agencies got the Best Practice award.
Said Mr Teo: "As we set our sights on SG100... be open to new ideas, think out of the box and be prepared to try new ways of doing things.''