In Conversation with Social Work Associate Ishak Johari

Social work associate Ishak Johari has only been with SPD for less than a year and already has a heart thumping story to share – one that involves dissuading a [...]

Social work associate Ishak Johari has only been with SPD for less than a year and already has a heart thumping story to share – one that involves dissuading a stranger from jumping off the building. We caught up with Ishak to find out more about his journey to impacting more lives.

Q: You joined SPD as a Schemes & Grants administrator but switched to become a social worker. Why social work?
I joined SPD in September 2015 as an administrative co-ordinator in the Schemes & Grants Department, and subsequently the Community & Social Service Department as a social work associate in June 2016. A social worker may not be everyone’s childhood ambition, but having been a crisis survivor, I felt the calling to help others who are in the same situation as I was once in before.

Q: What is a typical day for you at SPD?
As I’m also covering my previous duties as an administrative coordinator, I have to ensure that the financial assistance schemes under my care are properly managed and processed. The schemes include the NTUC FairPrice Foundation Daily Needs Programme, SMRT Gift of Mobility Programme and IDA NEU PC Plus Programme. As a social work associate, I would spend time managing clients’ cases through phone interviews and home visits.

Q: Which aspects of your job do you find rewarding?
I find it rewarding to have the ability to support people in need and to help my clients and their family members cope after a crisis, which in SPD happens when disability strikes, and thereafter to help them find meaning and improve their quality of life.

Q: What do you find challenging?
I have to help manage some of the clients’ expectations and, on rare occasions, deal with the situation calmly and professionally when they raise their voices or get aggressive. I once even had a client who refused to get his dog away from me! However, I take it all in my stride as I understand the emotional strain they sometimes go through.

Q: Are there any misconceptions people have of social workers?
There is a common misconception that social workers are volunteers and don’t get paid.

Q: Share with us a memorable experience at work.
It happened sometime in April 2016. I had just finished visiting a client at his house and was heading home when I saw a girl sitting on a ledge on the twelfth storey of an HDB block along Jalan Bukit Merah. I rushed over to talk to her and to dissuade her from committing suicide. In the next hour or so, I was literally standing between a person’s life and death. I am glad nothing happened to that girl that day. That experience really stuck to me till today.

Q: What are your other interests?
I have a keen interest in singing and stand-up comedy, and I still go to open mic nights and comedy shows. But what I really love is food so if I hadn’t joined the social service sector, I guess I would have been fighting it out with local celebrity chefs Chef Wan and Chef Amri for the top Malay chef title!

Q: What do you feel most proud of?
That I am able to impact positively the lives of others.