Walking the Ground and Bridging Communities

Driven by her passion for community building, applying for the People’s Association (PA) Scholarship was a clear-cut choice for Angela Tan. Having assumed various roles in PA and the Ministry of Culture, Community, and Youth (MCCY) since graduation, her career journey has been meaningful and fulfilling as she connects with people from all walks of life and impacts the community through grassroots initiatives.

Passion for Connecting

I have always enjoyed interacting with people, playing sports, and volunteering with the elderly. I applied for the PA Scholarship as I resonate with its mission to build and bridge communities.

PA has built a strong network of grassroots leaders over the past six decades and continues to build strong communities. I love that our senior management and officers know their residents’ and grassroots leaders’ names and experiences by heart. It shows that they are committed to serving residents. I particularly love PA’s collaborative culture, where we are unafraid to ask for help and work with different stakeholders to improve our environment, assist residents with their concerns, and bond the community in many ways.

After graduation, I started community building work as a Constituency Manager at Chua Chu Kang Constituency Office. There, I empowered residents to take ownership of their estates through ground-up initiatives. I also helped strengthen volunteerism by identifying the strengths of my grassroots leaders and giving them opportunities to contribute.

Later, I was seconded to MCCY as the Assistant Manager of Partnership & Engagement Division, where I planned and implemented government-wide capabilities by establishing the School of Engagement under Civil Service College’s Academy of Public Communications and Engagement.

Currently, I have returned to PA Headquarters as the Head of Capability Development, People & Government Engagement Division. Here, I plan and design developmental opportunities to help communications officers and grassroots leaders better engage with residents.

Growing Alongside the Community

I have grown a lot over the past nine years with PA. From the first day I signed the scholarship to the 5th year of my career, it has been an intense journey with multiple stakeholders and KPIs. I have grown from an excitable young scholar to a more mature and patient officer. I often draw inspiration from the quote: Just like a mountain, find strength in your stillness.

One of the unique challenges of working at a grassroots level is that our key stakeholders are volunteers with full-time jobs and family responsibilities.

Hence, we must be intentional in how we engage their time and expertise meaningfully. It often means spending more time understanding their strengths, motivations, and past experiences to create an enjoyable and sustainable volunteering experience for them. We cannot underestimate the power of small talk, coffee chats, and check-ins with their family members. To do our job at PA well, we must fundamentally be empathetic and caring towards others while establishing personal boundaries and ensuring self-care. It is a fine balance but not impossible to achieve.

I have also observed elderly residents coming to us at community clubs not because they feel lonely but because they trust us and have pleasant experiences interacting with our colleagues and volunteers. My Hokkien and Teochew dialect skills, which I honed since young with my grandparents, came in handy as I communicate and bond with these elderly residents!

What the Future Holds

In my line of work, understanding and feeling the emotions of residents and colleagues enable me to address their needs and concerns more effectively, ultimately contributing to a harmonious and supportive community environment.

In the near future, I will be in a communications and engagement role where I work directly with citizens, social enterprises, and ground-up groups to co-create solutions to solve problems. To this end, PA offers many development opportunities, such as courses, full-time masters, short-term attachments, and secondment opportunities.

For aspiring scholars, if you believe that humans are walking museums with stories to learn from, PA is the organisation to kick-start your career and meet people from all walks of life! The work at PA is to build trust and communities, which is fundamental in any thriving society.

People’s Association Scholarship

Master of Science in Social Development Practice, University College of London
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Economics, Politics, and International Studies, University of Warwick
Now: Head (Capability Development), People & Government Engagement Division