Tyler works at Lutheran Community Care Services (LCCS), an agency that focuses on restorative practices to actively engage and empower individuals and families to build and sustain relationships. He works with youths aged seven to 19.
Can you tell us why you decided to join Social Service?
It all stemmed from my experience as an instructor in Basic Military Training, when I was serving in the army. I was a Platoon Commander and had encountered several servicemen who had behavioural issues. Part of my role involved interviewing them to learn more about their lives, and over the course of these sessions, I found that many of these soldiers had struggles outside the army which led to problems, such as skipping out on duties, and not following orders.
What sort of struggles were these?
From mental health to family issues, I realised that if there existed a form of intervention, support, or even a mentor figure in the lives of these soldiers at a younger age—many of them would not face the challenges they faced then. And that was when I decided that I wanted to help youths identify and overcome their problems, so they may grow up to make informed and positive choices in their lives.
And how did you do that?
I started as a volunteer youth worker at LCCS where I supported full-time youth workers in their roles. At the same time, I also pursued a part-time course in Counselling so I’d gain the knowledge and skills to practise counselling as a professional.
What happened next?
After volunteering for eight months, I was, to my delight, offered a youth worker position at LCCS. In this role, I counselled youths to unroot issues and work through them progressively. Sometimes we’d set a goal together so that at the end of our sessions, the client might have achieved something, which would inevitably grow their confidence and affect them positively.
Three years later, I was offered the role of Community Counsellor. The position enabled me to engage with different communities such as schools, neighbourhoods and families, and collaborate with them to foster strong and positive relationships between community members, as well as repair and restore damaged and broken relationships.
Why are good relationships important?
It’s human nature to want to feel connected, and relationships affect how we interact with the world. If someone is isolated from their community, they may seek validation and attention through undesirable avenues or means.
For example, I once had an 11 year old client, Manfred*, who felt socially disconnected from his family. He found it hard to sustain friendships, and on top of that, he was not performing well at school. At such a young age, children need to feel loved and included. And the only way Manfred felt he could be these things was if he “bought” his way through.
And so one day, without anyone’s knowledge, Manfred headed to the mall, and shoplifted seven watches to gift to people he wanted to be friends with. Unfortunately, Manfred was caught, and the case was brought to the attention of his family, the school, and LCCS. Needless to say, it was a very intense period for him.
What ensued next was an elaborate conference session held by the school, his family, and the team from LCCS. This is part of LCCS’s restorative practices. We essentially gathered his support network, including his family and teachers, before a structured discussion took place. Each person was given a set of questions to answer and through this session, we dredged up multiple issues that led up to this incident.
It was a deeply emotional process, but the benefits that arose far outweighed the pain. Manfred heard first hand about how his mother was struggling at home, and he too, was able to express how lonely and sad he had been feeling. His teachers were empathetic, and everyone left with a deeper understanding of each other.
The final piece of the puzzle was how the shopkeeper wanted to be remedied. Interestingly, he only asked that Manfred plant a seedling, and tend to it everyday. It was the shopkeeper’s way of teaching Manfred responsibility, and in a way, giving him some purpose in nurturing a living thing.
How is Manfred now?
It’s been two years since we’ve last had that conference, and I’m happy to report that Manfred’s relationships with his family has strengthened considerably. He passed and completed his PSLE examinations and has gone to a secondary school. I heard he now stays back after school on his own initiative to study and ask teachers to help him with schoolwork, which is a far cry from the Manfred I used to know. Everyone at LCCS is proud to see how far he’s come.
That’s wonderful. Do you have any parting advice for individuals looking to join Social Service?
Being in this role is never a walk in the park. It might be worth remembering that having the willingness to be vulnerable about one’s difficulties whilst embodying a strong character that demonstrates determination and resilience may overcome life’s most difficult challenges.
*The client’s name has been changed to protect their privacy.
A Counsellor is one of many roles in social service. To find out more, click here