For Singapore Children’s Society, the easing of COVID-19 measures during April 2022, including the removal of group size limits and safe distancing requirements, provided much relief. For over two years, many in the social service sector have had to adapt and re-adapt the ways in which we delivered services to our beneficiaries, to ensure that they continued against the backdrop of ever-changing restrictions. Our staff were also limited in their abilities to interact not just with their families and friends, but also with their colleagues. 

Three staff members from Student Service @ Children’s Society (SSC), our centre that runs services such as the Tinkle Friend helpline and online chat, Bully Free Programme, and the Appropriate Adult Scheme for Young Suspects, reflect on these unprecedented times.

Together again: (From left to right) James Song, Pei Yi and Shahera finally reunited at Student Service @ Children’s Society

James Song, Counsellor:
Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, our Bully-Free programmes, including assembly talks and workshops, were conducted at schools. I enjoyed interacting with the students I met. They would giggle in class when I cracked a joke or made a funny gesture, and I could address their questions directly, while we enjoyed learning together. Weeks or months after those sessions, when I returned to those schools, some students would recognise me and come over to greet me, “Good morning/hello Mr. James!”, or say, “Eh I know you! You are the teacher from that time!” It felt great and I could catch up with them briefly.

During the pandemic, we digitised our programmes, running them on Zoom. We overcame the challenges, but they lacked the personal touch and connection of face-to-face sessions, especially with primary school children. Online sessions simply did not have the same level of engagement.

The easing of restrictions has allowed face-to-face programmes to resume. I did not expect that some of the children would still recognise and greet me. My colleagues and I had interacted with some of them a year or two years earlier, and they asked, “Cher, do you remember me? I remember you did the assembly talk/workshop last time!”. It really gave me a warm fuzzy feeling.

Toh Pei Yi, Social Programme Executive: 
The one thing that excites me most about the easing of COVID-19 restrictions is the resumption of large group gatherings. I am able to play badminton with friends, have meals and chat. When COVID-19 disrupted this part of my life, there was a sense of loss and emptiness. I am also really excited to return to the office. It is a lot more efficient and conducive to have face-to-face training, discussions and meetings. We can, once again, pop over to each other’s desks or call out to each other from across the table instead of sending multiple texts to get things sorted out. We can also finally sit down to lunch together, chat, and have a good laugh.

It’s been great to welcome volunteers back to the Tinkle Friend helpline and online chat, which staff manned during the pandemic. New volunteers are now being trained to support Tinkle Friend’s operations. 

Shahera Banu D/O Sozhavalavan, Social Programme Executive:
I joined the Society in December 2021, when pandemic restrictions required us to work from home. For the first three weeks, I had to go in for training, but the office resembled a ghost town. Only a couple of my colleagues were there, so the rest of the team welcomed me on office group chats. It felt lonely – I was new to the organisation, but our chances to interact were limited.

Since the restrictions have eased, the office feels lively and filled with laughter. I can finally put faces to names. The easing has taken some adjustment, but for a new staff member, it is an experience to look forward to, and I can finally learn more about Singapore Children’s Society from my fun and caring colleagues.

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