By Lisa @ MSF
Lisa is a final-year student from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at the Nanyang Technological University. She recently completed a seven-month professional internship at the Ministry’s Communications and International Relations Division, and spent a fruitful time as part of the close-knit media engagement team. Lisa was involved in curating many of the stories featured on the MSF Conversations blog.
Sometimes the biggest lessons are learnt in the smallest moments. These are the lessons that hit you when you least expect them, but they are often the ones that leave the most lasting impressions.
Working on this series of behind-the-scenes stories of our MSF colleagues at work was one of the projects I took on as an intern at the Communications and International Relations Division (CIRD). I did not realise it then, but it would come to be one of the assignments that taught me the most.
I remember the very first interview we did, at the start of the year.
We headed down to the Child Protective Service to meet with one of our Child Protection Officers. She shared with me about the struggles she faced in protecting children and the hostility she encountered in the course of her work.
Yet when I asked how she coped with the emotional challenges, she only responded quietly of the rewarding moments where she is able to make a difference. This was her fuel and motivation to help her through the difficult times.
As the weeks went by and I spoke to many people working in this Ministry, I began to realise that they all had one thing in common – this innate strength and ability to see the best in others, despite having to bear the brunt of their clients’ frustrations at times.
Beyond that, there seemed to be a lesson to learn each time.
“I tell myself that nothing (the families) say or do is personal, that they are simply frustrated with their circumstances,” said a senior social worker.
“I tried for a long time to get them to open up to me. And each time, I always made sure to be honest and sincere – and act more like a confidante rather than a position of ‘authority’,” said a child protection officer, who recalled the moment when a family he was working with began placing their trust in him.
And from a particularly thought-provoking conversation with a forensic psychologist on choosing to work with rehabilitating ex-offenders:
“If we do not help them, who will?”
Their words rang in my head.
For a period of time since then, I started thinking about these “moments” that they spoke of. Just how strongly and closely must they have resonated with each person working in this Ministry? For them to choose this line of work.
I began to ask myself these questions too.
At MSF, I was assigned a mentor who guided me through my internship the past 7 months. He taught me about different aspects of communications work. But more importantly, he became a friend.
I remember this one time when I told him some part of me still felt lost about what I wanted to do in the future.
And he told me this: “No one quite knows where the future will take them, but the important thing is to keep an open mind while doing the things that you believe in.”
Almost a year ago, I asked myself what I wanted most out of an internship. Then, I had decided that I wanted to be somewhere that could provide me with exposure to communications, while being able to give back to the community.
Now, I find myself asking what I want most out of a job.
During my time at MSF, I wrote, I researched, I filmed, I photographed, I designed. I was involved in a range of projects, including a chance at conceptualising and driving social media campaigns of my own. I prepared for and facilitated public events. I met with people ranging from CEOs, celebrities, volunteers – and at the very heart of it all, the people of MSF.
Including Minister Tan!
I learnt a lot about what it takes to be in the field of communications, had the opportunity to understand the range and depth of social issues, as well as how government measures are set in place to address them.
But I think the most important lessons learnt went far deeper than that.
While any good internship could teach you practical skills, I think it takes a very different one to teach you values that can guide you in life in the long run.
That, I learned in MSF.