Our Story
Paying It Forward, from One Generation to Another
Martha Soh
Communications and Partnerships Executive, Lions Befriender Service Association (Singapore)
Published on 10/07/19
Martha Soh’s journey of working in social service was challenging at times, but her perseverance and desire to make a difference compelled her to push through the odds, and find purpose and meaning in her role. This is her story.
 
The Beginning of a Purposeful Profession
I was 24 and still in university when I volunteered at YWCA delivering meals to those in need and tutoring their children. There were many challenges, including a particularly difficult case involving a 9-year-old who wasn’t very interested in learning. His attention waned easily and I had a hard time teaching him, but I persevered.
 
Over the months, it became clear that his parents had little time to spend with him. As a result, he struggled in school. This motivated me to help him improve his grades in school. We worked together to ensure that he made headway in his studies, and I felt pleased to have played a part in his educational journey and future, despite the short period we had together.
 
Seeds of Compassion
My grandma and great grandma raised me as a child, and as homemakers, they instilled in me persistence, patience and an inclination to care for others. Both of them are strong, yet nurturing women, and I admire them greatly. Their influence has also shaped who I’ve become today – cementing my resolve to make a difference to those in need.
 
Seizing the Opportunity to Give Back
That passion to drive positive change carried over even as I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Sociology. In 2016, the NCSS Sector Internship Programme gave me the opportunity to intern at Lions Befrienders, a social service agency that provides care services for seniors. I signed on readily as the programme allowed me to explore social service as a prospective career path.
 
As an intern, I supported the team in areas of marketing, public relations and corporate communications. My tasks entailed producing annual reports, newsletters, and the website, together with developing marketing collaterals, generating social media content, and helping out with fundraising campaigns.
 
At times, I also had the chance to observe and interact with the seniors. Seeing them learn new things made me feel heartened that they still possessed the spark to engage in different activities.
 
The experience was illuminating. There was much to learn about the senior population, the challenges they faced, and how Lions Befrienders played a role in empowering them . So when Lions Befrienders offered me a full time position, I was ecstatic and accepted it.
 
A Journey of Discovery
My two years at Lions Befrienders presented many challenges. For example, when interviewing seniors for media collaterals, I may struggle to communicate with them because I'm not fluent in Mandarin and dialects. But I persist, because the collaterals help to inform the public of the work Lions Befrienders do, and as a result, promote support for its various programmes.
 
While much of my work is behind the desk, it contributes to society in a positive way that may not have been possible outside the social service. And there’s immense joy when my marketing strategies work. One example is a recent pledge campaign that engaged the public to sign on as befrienders. Befrienders are volunteers who play the important role of visiting socially isolated seniors once a week in their home, to spend time with them and brighten their days. Typically, our campaigns attract only a handful of volunteers, so it was very encouraging when over 40 individuals signed up.
 
At work, it’s inspiring to be surrounded by like-minded people. My colleagues are truly devoted to the cause and are supportive about my career development. They take time to check in on me, and are always providing me with guidance and constructive feedback. I also feel valued as a team member because my colleagues welcome my views and suggestions.
 
My Heart is with the Social Service 
The past years have given me a deeper insight into social service, and I’m glad I took the step to join the internship programme. Providing support and care services for a segment of society I truly care about has given me purpose along with a deep sense of fulfilment in my daily work. In seeing the smiles on our seniors’ faces, I feel a heightened sense of hope that the impact I’m able to make in their lives is meaningful, and I’m definitely here to stay.
Martha is sharing a moment with the senior.