We often hear the saying, it takes a village to raise a child. On that same note, we can also agree that it takes a collective effort to ensure the well-being of the community and empower people to lead active and meaningful lives.
In Singapore, the Community Care sector and the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) take this important task under their purview. The sector comprises Community Care organisations, and the workforce includes professionals such as nurses, physiotherapists, speech therapists, social workers, occupational therapists and care staff. They cater to the needs of the aged, disabled and anybody who requires constant care and support.
Quek Xiu Ling has dedicated all of her professional life providing occupational therapy services in community care. The 37-year-old is a manager at SPD, a local charity set up to help people with disabilities of all ages to maximise their potential and integrate them into mainstream society.
Xiu Ling is a trained occupational therapist and she takes care of the allied health team at a centre that provides a comprehensive range of therapy services, consultations and development services for SPD's programmes and community organisations. Evidently, the Community Care sector is all about people, and it was this exact aspect that led her to embark on an engaging and fulfilling career.
"Interacting with the people around me and being a volunteer in the People's Association Youth Movement's Youth Executive Committee from 2001 to 2014 inspired me to contribute to the larger community to make a difference in their lives," recalled Xiu Ling.
While her disposition could have propelled her to success in other social sectors, she chose to join community care because it is where she can build meaningful relationships over a prolonged period of time, and help to get a person back on his feet, literally.
"A career in community care allows us to support clients in spaces or environments that are close to, or in their homes. These are often their comfort zones. This also allows the clients to participate in activities in the community that they enjoy, which will assist in the road to recovery," she elaborated.
Xiu Ling specialises in occupational therapy, a discipline that helps a client to engage and participate in activities of daily living, such as self-care, play and leisure, as well as school and work, by enabling and facilitating the process to help them achieve a better quality of life. This will help them to remain engaged in the community, and reduce the times that they seek medical care at the hospitals.
"The core of occupational therapy, which is using activities as a means and an end to help people improve their quality of life, is something I really enjoy doing."
Xiu Ling joined SPD upon her graduation from Nanyang Polytechnic more than 14 years ago (at time of writing this article). From working with clients, she has developed well in her career and is now managing a team of seven allied health professionals from various disciplines.
She also supports three other cluster heads, and monitors the performance indicators for the SPD Therapy Hub programme. In addition to management and mentorship, Xiu Ling is involved with community outreach and education.
"I provide training for pre-school teachers and MOE allied educators from primary and secondary schools, to help the education and early childhood sector build capability to support students with learning needs or disabilities," she explained.
"Another part of my work involves providing therapy interventions for children in mainstream primary schools. As part of the interventions, I also support the other professionals, such as the teachers and allied educators, who support these children more frequently on a day-to-day basis."
Speaking of children, she recalled working with a boy more than nine years ago. Recently, the boy visited SPD to thank her personally for the positive impact she had on him.
"He drew a picture for me during an occupational therapy session, and I had it framed and displayed it at the waiting area. When he saw it during his next therapy session, he was lost for words and went to hug his mummy with tears in his eyes. His picture being displayed gave him a sense of self-worth and satisfaction," detailed Xiu Ling.
Through Xiu Ling's help, the boy gained the confidence to pursue his dreams by taking on a digital animation course in polytechnic.
Cases like these inspire Xiu Ling to do more for SPD and the Community Care sector.
Through the support of the Community Care Manpower Development Award (CCMDA), a Community Care in-service sponsorship award which provides outstanding individuals with funding for short courses, formal academic programmes and attachments to local or overseas healthcare and Community Care facilities, Xiu Ling is currently pursuing a Master of Management at the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS).
She intends to apply her knowledge to further the Community Care sector, "I feel we can do much better in the area of impact, looking into how our outcomes can create an impact on the clients and the community that we serve. Thus, I hope I can look more into the impact that we create with our programmes and services."
"As we advance, I feel that the Community Care sector should also think more innovatively and be more data-driven while we continue to serve with heart. I hope to do more programme innovation and have more data-analytics in the work that we do."
Community Care professionals develop their expertise holistically and the sector would be an attractive proposition for anybody who is considering a career.
"One unique attractive characteristic about a career in the Community Care sector is that it has groomed me to be a more holistic professional who can not only look at things from an occupational therapy's perspective, but also from different angles and through different lenses. It also provided me with different professional and life experiences," said Xiu Ling, who also emphasised the need for aspiring Community Care professionals to be adaptable, resourceful, creative and open to excel in community care.
"If you have the heart and passion to serve the community to improve their quality of life, consider joining the Community Care sector with a Community Care Scholarship!"
This article was first published in BrightSparks Magazine February 2022. Republished with permission from CareerBuilder Singapore.