“Each new role widened my horizons and I was able to understand and appreciate how different roles in the social service sector work together to achieve a common good.”
An Initiation to Social Service
The first time I considered a career in social service was during my days as a communications major in university.
One of my lecturers, Ms June*, was sharing her experience of working in the Corporate Communications department in a Social Service Organisation. “You might think it’s easy – but it’s not. It can be hectic and requires a lot of hard work,” she said to a roomful of fascinated students. “But at the end of the day, I felt immensely fulfilled,” she finished.
Prior to Ms June’s stories, I thought social service only comprised of casework, such as counselling services or assistance provided to vulnerable or disadvantaged individuals and communities. It never occurred to me that there were corporate roles within social service. I was also intrigued by the idea that I could do good for the community as a career prospect.
Caseworkers work in healthcare, social service and the public sector to provide assistance and counselling to at-risk populations, such as children from troubled homes, those with serious illness or senior citizens in retirement communities.
This revelation led me to take up several Social Work modules in school that gave me a good overview of the social service landscape. The more I learned, the more I realised that I could use my skills as a communications major to help people.
Helping Seniors Find a New Spark
Today, I’m a Senior Manager for Programmes and Volunteer Management at RSVP Singapore The Organisation of Senior Volunteers. RSVP is an organisation that develops senior volunteers and provides meaningful opportunities to serve the needs of the community. My role is akin to a middle person. I match, connect and facilitate volunteers with the programmes and resources available in the community.
It’s a worthwhile endeavour because after retirement, seniors might find themselves alone with plenty of time on their hands. I have found that seniors typically spend the first few months after retirement doing the things they’ve always wanted to do in life like travel and learn a new skill. But after a while, they become bored, and begin looking for other more meaningful ways to occupy their time. This is where our organisation comes in to provide them with avenues for social engagement, where they can meet and connect with like-minded peers who want to contribute through volunteer work. It’s always a joy to see the volunteers work together because they interact with one another as if they’ve known each other for years, when it’s only been a few days or weeks!
New Roles, New Experiences
It’s been seven years since I first joined RSVP, and I’ve never looked back. I’ve since held different roles in different departments, each with its own unique challenges and teachings.
For example, I began my journey in RSVP as a Programmes Executive for the Cyberguide Programme, a programme which aims to promote IT skills among seniors and help less IT savvy seniors overcome the digital challenges. In fact, one of the most memorable times was of my days organising my first mass IT training event, “Silver Infocomm Day” with the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA), where our volunteers taught nearly 2,000 seniors IT skills through workshops over three days. It was exciting! I was in charge of the whole event, and even though it was a steep learning curve, I was fortunate to be supported by great colleagues who provided guidance along the way.
I’m pleased to say that the event was a success! I saw participants finish their classes with smiles on their faces, and this encouraged me to do even better.
After two years of being a Programmes Executive, I moved to the Corporate Communications and Volunteer Management department to broaden my horizons. This role change gave me a more wide-ranging perspective of the organisation and the social service sector.
When a position for Volunteer Management Executive opened up two years later, I jumped at it. I wanted to learn new things, and this gave me the opportunity to do so. This was a more niched role, and I dived into the intricacies of volunteer management. I learned the ins and outs of recruiting and retaining volunteers, and worked with other executives to manage the resources to enable our volunteers to participate in different programmes.
After a year, I was offered a managerial role under the Programmes and Volunteer Management department, which is my current role. This new position is rather different. Instead of handling programmes from beginning to end – I now work with partners and external stakeholders to develop programmes for our volunteers.
Gratitude for Growth
Each role has given me the opportunity to learn and grow, and I’ve also made lots of friends – both colleagues and the volunteers!
And at the end of the day, I find it truly rewarding to see the volunteers thrive and find a new lease of life after retirement.
A senior once remarked that if it weren’t for RSVP and its programmes, she never would have ventured to places outside her vicinity. She would not have been actively involved with the community, nor met the lovely people on her journey of volunteerism. She was truly thankful and happy for these avenues, and it was incredibly heartwarming to hear this.
All in all, it’s been a truly wonderful experience and I am grateful for being able to play a role in creating a better society for the future generations.
*The lecturer’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.
Programmes and Volunteer Management is one of many roles in social service. To find out more, click here.
Jesslyn interacting with the senior volunteers.