Lee Seng Meng is the Director of Targeted Interventions at SHINE Children & Youth Services, a social service agency that aims to enable children and youth to maximise their potential. Seng Meng oversees the intervention teams of a full range of services, and conducts social work practice supervision, training and consultancy. He also undertakes resource and fiscal management of the organisation, as well as strategic management and staff development.
The Beginning of a Life in Social Service
When I was just a boy, I aspired to be a police officer and pursued a Bachelor’s Degree at National University of Singapore to fulfil this goal. My initial major was in Economics, but switched to Social Work in the second year after taking some inspiring social work modules. I’d learnt that social work is more than having a kind heart to help. It’s also about utilising the theories, knowledge and skills to help effectively.
As part of the Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work, I embarked on a three-month internship where I worked with youths involved in gang activities. These experiences were deeply insightful, and I realised the importance of effectively helping them through social work. Inspired by this new realisation,
I decided to pursue a career where I could work with and help youth-at-risk, instead of joining the police force.
From Social Worker to Director
I graduated in 2004 and joined SHINE Children & Youth Services as a social worker specialising in youth work. After three years, I was honoured to be promoted to Senior Social Worker, and assumed the position of Centre Director three years later. In the past 15 years, I have been very fortunate to grow both as an individual and a professional. I attribute most, if not all my achievements to several aspects.
The first was having an exemplary Centre Director who gave me her unwavering support and counsel. As a young social worker, I was replete with ideas for initiatives and improvements to help the community. She gave both ample guidance and the confidence in me to implement these programmes within the organisation. Today, I extend the same opportunities to my staff, and this has allowed a wealth of good programmes to sprout at the centre and beyond.
I am also thankful to have joined SHINE, an organisation committed to resource development, best practices and professional service delivery. The supportive environment, established supervision structures, training opportunities and exciting challenges has grounded me in my social work and management skills.
I’ve also been privileged to tap on the social service sector’s resources to hone my skills as a social worker. For example, I’m part of the Leadership Development Programme that has provided me with the resources to pursue the Nanyang Fellows MBA programme. Additionally, I’ve had opportunities to take up various training courses in the United States that has equipped me with professional competence in social work and the management acumen to transform and lead my organisation.
In 2016, I was recognised as a Social Service Fellow. I am both deeply honoured and excited because as a Fellow, I’m able to work with different professionals and agencies across the sector, give inputs to policies and contribute towards social service sector development at a macro level.
Witnessing the Transformation and Impact of a Role
Over the course of my career, I’ve watched social work evolve. Beyond having the passion to do good, helping people in the 21st century requires a deeper understanding of increasingly complex social issues, and being equipped with a wide range of skills.
Change takes time, especially in regards to empowering people for the long term. For example, I met Don* when he was a secondary three student. He’d been retained for three years, and had lost all interest to continue his studies. Hailing from a troubled family, Don was skipping classes and on the brink of dropping out of school. When Don was referred to me, he did not want to work with me. After much outreach and engagement, I managed to win him over and found out that he had a dream to attend university.
And so we worked together, carving a path not based on just school attendance, but one that would allow him to fulfil his dreams. Beyond meeting the school’s requirement for regular attendance, Don surpassed it by ranking as one of the top scorers in his school for his ‘N’ Levels and he’s since gone on to complete his ‘O’ Levels and polytechnic diploma. Today, Don is serving his National Service, but once that’s done, he’ll be pursuing his degree. I’m extremely proud of how far he’s come.
Don is just one of many individuals that reinforces my belief of staying in the sector for the long run because as professionals, we’re able to both witness and help our clients grow and thrive through their life journey, and this is indeed rewarding beyond measure.
*The client’s name has been changed to protect his privacy.
A role in social work is one of many in social service. To find out more, click here