Pioneer social worker Myrna Braga-Blake dies, aged 83

Dr Myrna Braga-Blake in 2006. She died at the age of 83 on May 31, 2019. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - Pioneer social worker Myrna Braga-Blake, who used to be a lecturer at the National University of Singapore, died late on Thursday (May 30). She was 83.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee posted a tribute on Facebook on Saturday, describing Dr Blake's passing as "a great loss" to the social work sector and Singapore.

The Singapore Association of Social Workers (SASW) did the same on its Facebook page, paying homage to Dr Blake, who served as SASW's president from 1982 to 1984.

As president, she edited the first and second editions of the SASW Code of Professional Ethics, setting the standards for social work practice in Singapore today.

Dr Blake received the Outstanding Social Worker award in 1999, alongside the current director of social welfare for the Ministry of Social and Family Development, Ms Ang Bee Lian, who described her as an outstanding person.

"The two of us decided to use the prize money to fund a foundation programme for fresh graduates who were coming into the social work sector," said Ms Ang.

The programme was aimed at upgrading the skills of newly qualified social workers in what was a relatively new field then.

Dr Blake's contributions to the social work sector continued even after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease more than a decade ago, as she shared her experiences of living with dementia to give hope to fellow sufferers.

Veteran activist Constance Singam, who had known Dr Blake since the 1980s, described her as a vibrant individual and a very gentle and caring friend who was well-liked by everybody.

The former president of the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) met Dr Blake during Aware's early days.

Ms Singam said that Dr Blake always knew she would succumb to Alzheimer's because of her family's medical history, but did not let her diagnosis deter her from social work.

"She had this cheerful acceptance about what she had to face.

"But that didn't stop her from always fighting for the underdog," Ms Singam said.

The wake was held at St Ignatius Church on Sunday and the funeral mass was held the following morning.

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