Singapore social worker who helped earthquake victims among four given awards

Ms Lim Boon Chee received the Outstanding Social Worker Award for her tireless efforts helping vulnerable groups in Singapore and overseas.
Ms Lim Boon Chee received the Outstanding Social Worker Award for her tireless efforts helping vulnerable groups in Singapore and overseas.PHOTO: NG TENG FONG GENERAL HOSPITAL

SINGAPORE - When a massive earthquake struck Sichuan in 2008, social worker Lim Boon Chee was helping HIV and Aids patients in the Guangxi region in southern China.

Ms Lim, who was at the time working for World Vision International (China), travelled to areas hit by the temblor in the south-west of the country, and volunteered to provide psychological first aid to victims.

Twice, she thought she was going to die, but she braved the aftershocks and made two trips to the region - the first lasted about two weeks, the second was for a month.

On Monday (Nov 23), Ms Lim, 45, received the Outstanding Social Worker Award for her tireless efforts helping vulnerable groups in Singapore and overseas. She was among four social work leaders honoured at a virtual ceremony.

The award is the highest accolade given to social workers for their exemplary achievements in serving the community.

Organised by the Singapore Association of Social Workers, the virtual ceremony was supported by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and ExxonMobil Asia Pacific.

In a speech at the ceremony, President Halimah Yacob said social workers have continued to help people despite the limitations imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

She said: "Many of you creatively leveraged technology to sustain regular and remote engagement with clients. At the front lines, social workers adapted to the new safety measures at your agencies and residential facilities while continuing to provide care to clients.

"Your role as social workers proved to be even more crucial in this time, by giving care and support to those who needed it the most."

She gave special mention to the efforts of medical social workers, including the one who helped a couple who were among the first few patients diagnosed with the Covid-19 virus here. The wife recovered, but her husband died from the infection.

The medical social worker who was with the husband in his final days helped make sure he spent his last moments with his wife and son on a video call.

Madam Halimah said: "Subsequently, the social worker provided bereavement support to the wife, and went beyond her call of duty to make funeral arrangements for the patient. The social worker's acts of compassion and courage, like so many others amongst you, have helped individuals and families tide through these extraordinarily difficult times."

Ms Lim, who now works as principal medical social worker and art psychotherapist at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, said she never expected to receive the award.

She said: "When my colleague nominated me, I thought my experience would be something a bit different worth sharing with people. Like Doctors Without Borders, social workers can also use their skills no matter where they are.

"The award is an honour and affirmation of the work I have done in Singapore and overseas."

Ms Bridget Monica Das, head of psychosocial services at Ren Ci Hospital, was also given the Outstanding Social Worker Award at the ceremony.

Ms Lin Siping, senior social worker and manager of Child Protective Service at the MSF and Ms Lyon Koh Lin Lu, manager of the Sun Ray Scheme at the National Council of Social Service, both received the Promising Social Worker Award.

Ms Long Chey May, president of the Singapore Association of Social Workers, said: "This year's winners have shown immense commitment and influence in their different work settings... They are an inspiration to others to join the profession, and a reminder to social workers that 'you can make a difference in someone's life'."