Social work heroes praised for their tireless dedication

From far left: Promising Social Worker Award recipient Kristine Lam with Outstanding Social Worker Award recipients Vincent Ng and Zahara Mahmood. Ms Lam says seeing difficult cases does not make her sad or disillusioned but rather, drives her to wan
From left: Promising Social Worker Award recipient Kristine Lam with Outstanding Social Worker Award recipients Vincent Ng and Zahara Mahmood. Ms Lam says seeing difficult cases does not make her sad or disillusioned but rather, drives her to want to make a difference.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Trio receive awards from President at Istana for making a difference in lives of others

In just 51/2 years as a social worker, Ms Kristine Lam, 27, has seen enough to want to make a bigger difference in her job.

She recalls a client she worked with early in her career, whose story has stuck with her since.

During a home visit, Ms Lam said she met the family of a young man in his early 20s who was mentally disabled. The family had partitioned a room with a gate and walls, big enough for just one mattress that the man slept on.

Ms Lam said: "It was really a sight. The family allowed him to 'pee' and 'poo' on the mattress and they cleared it every few days."

She said the family genuinely tried to take care of him but because they did not know how to do so properly, they ended up treating him like an animal. "Seeing these things in the world does not make me sad or disillusioned, but makes me so angry. That is why I wanted to be a social worker, because this is the occupation where we can make a difference."

The assistant manager and senior social worker of Project StART, which falls under Care Corner Singapore, received the Promising Social Worker Award (PSWA) from President Halimah Yacob at the Istana yesterday. The PSWA is given to social workers who are newer to the field but have made a notable difference in the lives of their clients as well as the community.

Ms Lam said she and her team eventually helped the family relocate the young man to a nursing home, where he is now able to receive proper and professional care.

But that is not all she has done in her field. Her citation says she has been dedicated to family violence-related work and also forged partnerships with crisis shelters, local police divisions and the Family Court, to enhance the programmes and services available to victims of family violence.

Besides Ms Lam, two others - Ms Zahara Mahmood and Dr Vincent Ng - received the Outstanding Social Worker Award (OSWA), which is given to those who display passion and make outstanding contributions to improve the social service and healthcare sectors here.

Ms Zahara Mahmood, 48, assistant director of community care at the Eastern Health Alliance, has worked with vulnerable women and on healthcare needs for the poor and needy over the past 26 years.

She has also contributed in other areas - including helping Muslim patients better understand organ donation and developing a community programme where the sick and elderly are cared for to reduce their rate of hospitalisations.

Dr Ng, 46, chief executive officer of the AMKFSC Community Services with 22 years' experience in social work, has developed and run multiple initiatives to help marginalised individuals, including the elderly and children from vulnerable backgrounds.

OSWA recipients receive $31,000 in grants from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF); and a $10,000 grant from ExxonMobil. Besides certificates, PSWA winners also receive $15,000 in MSF grants and an $8,000 grant from ExxonMobil.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2017, with the headline 'Social work heroes praised for their tireless dedication'. Print Edition | Subscribe