During the pandemic, Ms Angela Tan witnessed first-hand what happens when various teams come together and become greater than the sum of their parts. The impact is gratifying.
As a civil servant working at the People’s Association (PA), she was part of the public service machinery that sprang into action to help defend the nation against Covid-19.
“Covid-19 has challenged what it means to galvanise citizens together to achieve a greater good,” says the 27-year-old.
When the coronavirus first hit the shores of Singapore, a planned community library inside a Residents’ Committee Centre in Chua Chu Kang was converted into a room for storing personal protective equipment like masks and hand sanitisers. Together with the group of volunteers who were working on the community library project, Ms Tan was mobilised as one of many front-line officers tasked with distributing masks and hand sanitisers nationwide.
There, she witnessed how grassroots volunteers calmly provided situation updates and patiently explained government responses to anxious citizens. Many even contributed masks and sanitisers to those in need, while others took leave from their day jobs to volunteer in national distribution exercises.
Behind the scenes, Ms Tan and her team systematically coordinated efforts among ground up movements as well as public and private organisations to serve beneficiaries amid the crisis.
These, and other experiences, gave the PA scholar a close-up glimpse of the transforming power of community building.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN THE COMMUNITY
Ms Tan, who holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Warwick and a Master of Science in Social Development Practice from University College London, previously interned at two divisions in the PA during her school holidays, before serving as constituency manager at the Chua Chu Kang Constituency Office from 2018 to 2020.
There, her work included improving accessibility to Residents’ Committee Centre spaces, forming a new community of grassroots leaders and piloting new ways to co-create programmes with residents, including the library project in Chua Chu Kang.
Since being seconded to the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth in 2020 as assistant manager, Ms Tan has trained over 700 public officers in partnership and engagement skills, developing a two-and-a-half-day course from scratch.
This immersion in operational, planning and developmental work has allowed her to connect the dots in order to develop a deeper appreciation of key issues such as social cohesion and active citizenry.
Her passion for connecting the community had actually been ignited much earlier since her student days, when she represented Singapore at the 9th UNESCO Youth Forum in Paris, organised the 2017 Warwick Asean Conference in the UK, and raised S$4,000 to sustainably fund child development in Uganda, among other projects.
“The PA scholarship not only provided me with opportunities to pursue my studies overseas, but it also allowed me to do internships at PA, which led me to discover my strength and passion in community building,” she says.
SHOW UP, DON’T GIVE UP
So, has Covid-19 thrown a spanner in her career, like for many others? Ms Tan does not think so.
Opportunities to work on the ground have helped her become a nimble and more empathetic public officer, while working with other ministries and family agencies have enabled her to form effective partnerships and collaborations.
The peppy scholar admits the pandemic has forced her to be “anti-fragile” and adopt a growth mindset to cope with the changes to her work environment as well as her job scope.
“Both working as a front-line officer and working from home exposed me to different stressors. Some days were harder than others,” she says. “You need tenacity to show up and not give up.”
To maximise productivity and efficiency when working from home, she says it is imperative to remain disciplined and stick to a routine.
“Working from home requires discipline to set boundaries while being flexible when necessary. I learnt to uncompromisingly stick to my 7am morning exercise routine and 7pm evening family time,” says Ms Tan.
“Integrating certainty in an uncertain environment helps me to manage my energy so that I can effectively impact the community. It goes back to why we serve and what our core purpose is. I aspire to make a positive difference in my community. No convictions come without uncertainty.”
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