SINGAPORE (Aug 6): As a young counsellor in the 1980s, Tan Ngoh Tiong learnt how to talk people down from the brink — offer any scrap of hope, no matter how small. Tan, who was working with the Counselling and Care Centre, was on call for people contemplating suicide. His clients were often battling financial woes or relationship problems.

“In those situations, you just do whatever you can to give hope. Sometimes, it meant calling an ambulance, breaking down the door, getting family members over — just showing that there is someone who still cares,” he recalls.

Now a professor of social work at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, Tan muses that little has changed about the job — at its core, social work is still about offering hope. But, the environment in which social workers operate is now more complex, he notes. Tan was twice president of the Singapore Association of Social Workers and formerly vice-president of the International Federation of Social Workers.

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