PART 10: THE SOCIAL SERVICES MINISTRY OF THE METHODIST WELFARE SERVICES
Ms Christine Wong, a trained counsellor with more than 25 years of experience in the social service sector, has helmed the Methodist Welfare Services as Executive Director since March 2005. Making sure the MWS runs smoothly is just one of her many tasks.
‘ITOOK on the challenge to become the Methodist Welfare Services’ (MWS) Executive Director in March 2005 after spending five years in the Programmes Department as the Deputy and Assistant Director concurrently.
The daily work can be very challenging. More so when there are meetings with the centres and sub-committees, as these are held after office hours, sometimes lasting until 11 pm. Sometimes, these meetings claim two to three evenings a week. Our Board of Governance meetings are held once a month on a Saturday but sometimes two or three Saturdays a month can be occupied with other work-related activities or meetings.
The job of an Executive Director is very challenging and never boring as I find myself constantly resolving multi-faceted and people-related issues. Tolerance and patience is needed. Sometimes a person in my position also needs to be very sensitive to others’ sentiments in order to handle circumstances well.
One issue that VWO staff face constantly is the notion that since we choose to work for a charitable organisation we should accept lower remuneration as charities are dependent on donations. I want to dispel this myth as we are trained professionals providing crucial services to those in need. I understand that the private sector can afford to offer better remuneration but the salaries of staff in the social service sector should not be much lower as their work can be equally demanding and challenging.
As with other VWOs, recruiting, retaining and motivating good staff is not always smooth sailing. Young people are preoccupied with career aspirations and often, midway through their careers in the social service sector, they switch to the business and IT fields, where they can expect higher pay and brighter career prospects.
The flip side of this is, while we want to retain staff and keep them within the sector, as a Christian organisation we have to delicately balance kindness or patience with firmness, and render accountable those who are not taking full responsibility for the work they are paid to accomplish.
Even for volunteers, the demands of the social service sector can be extremely high. This is why more people choose to give financial support rather than roll up their sleeves. But we badly need people with a heart for service. We need more Methodists to come forward as volunteers to serve on our board, to assist in organising fund-raising events and help out at the Headquarters and in the centres.
We are dependent on donations and government funding so I am always striving to keep expenditures and overheads low. I pray that more Methodists will come forward to help us fund our services and programmes so that we do not have to spend so much time and effort on fund-raising.
If 43,000 Methodist members give at least $20 a month we will have about $10 million a year – enough to cover about half our annual operating expense. This will enable us to put more time and effort into ensuring that our services reach those in need. Currently, we need to raise several million dollars a year in order to cover our operating deficit and maintain existing programmes and services.
I am constantly multi-tasking and trying to juggle everything on my plate. Knowing that what I am doing is for the Kingdom of God is the “energiser” that has provided me with the motivation and strength to carry on for the last eight years here.
Having been trained as a counsellor, I enjoy working with the centres on developing new and reviewing current services. I find this very exciting and meaningful as it puts me in touch with the needs of the various people who make up our community.
Working in the social service sector has taught me to be humble, realistic and down-to-earth as I have learnt never to take our life and God’s blessings for granted. Having encountered so many broken lives in the course of my work, I have learned to be thankful to God for daily blessings instead of focusing on what I want and think is good for me. I am often reminded that we are all travelling on a journey and that our goal is ultimately to meet God in His Kingdom.
People may have different or higher expectations of life but all I ask is that God bless me, my family and friends with good health and the ability to be happy and contented with what we have.
My motto is … love and be loved and reach out to give that love. We all are capable of loving and if we learn to reach out we will gain a lot more.’
EDITOR’S NOTE: Christine’s last day at the MWS is May 19. She will carry on God’s call to serve in the social service field at another organisation. We wish her God’s blessings and that all her efforts will bear fruit for God’s Kingdom.