As a child, Ms Liyana Abdul Rahaim watched as her parents struggled financially to support the family, which included her intellectually disabled elder brother, who uses a wheelchair. That experience spurred her to help people in need.
"Being part of a middle-income family trying to cope, I saw our struggles growing up. We had no financial assistance then and had to pay for the hospitalisation and rehabilitation of my brother along with our daily expenses. Because of that, I want to help other families," said the 30-year-old, who has two children of her own now.
The Islamic law and jurisprudence graduate from Al-Azhar University in Egypt, who has worked with organisations such as community self-help group Mendaki and educational institution Simply Islam, joined the Social Service Institute last year to do a part-time course for a diploma in social service. She is now a community engagement executive with the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis).
"Graduates from religious backgrounds like me usually pursue teaching. But I see social work can also complement my religious background," she said.
Yesterday, Ms Liyana and six other students received the Muis Social Work Study Award during the Madrasah Teachers Symposium at Suntec Convention Centre.
The award is for students of social work and social service studies who, upon graduation, contribute to the development of the Muslim community, said Muis chief executive Esa Masood in his opening speech.
Last year, Muis said it had set aside $150,000 until 2020 for the award. Bursary distributing organisation Lembaga Biasiswa Kenangan Maulud administers the funds. The first batch of seven students yesterday received between $5,000 and $10,000 each.
At the symposium, Muis also presented the Muis50 Contemporary Madrasah Leader Awards to six individuals who contributed towards the progress and achievements of madrasahs. All had served as chairmen, committee members or principals of madrasahs for a continuous period of at least 15 years.
Mr Esa said the award recipients had improved Islamic education here. "They drove initiatives in the early years and some continue to contribute in different capacities to the madrasah sector today."
The guest of honour at the symposium was Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli.
"We are very fortunate to have the local madrasah system, which existed even before independence, when the British were here. And they have been producing religious teachers suited to the needs of our local community," he said.