When social worker Lee Sin Yan was distributing the proceeds from a bake sale, she was moved by the sight of one woman bursting into tears upon being handed her salary of more than $1,000.
The woman, a single mother of two, was part of Bakery Hearts, which Ms Lee, 27, was involved in developing. The programme helps unemployed mothers from low-income families support themselves through baking.
"She was crying so hard she couldn't even count the money," recalled Ms Lee. "It really was very rewarding to see the positive impact this had on her and her children."
For her efforts, Ms Lee, an assistant senior social worker at AMKFSC Community Services, was given the Promising Social Worker Award.
The Outstanding Social Worker Award and Promising Social Worker Award are organised by the Singapore Association of Social Workers (SASW), with the support of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).
The Outstanding award recognises veteran social workers, and the Promising award is for those with three to seven years of experience. The awards, in their 15th and seventh year respectively, were presented to four social workers by President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana yesterday.
Ms Julia Lee, programme director at Touch Seniors Activity Centre, won the Outstanding award for her 29 years of social work.
Ms Lee, 52, initiated schemes such as one that pairs up senior citizens in Geylang Bahru to make house visits to the more frail among them, as well as an art training programme for the intellectually disabled. She hopes to see more young people consider social work as a career.
"It's a profession in which you can make a tangible and sustainable difference to society, to see lives transformed," she said.
The other Outstanding award recipient was Ms Cheung Siew Li, 42, manager of St Luke's Hospital's medical social work department, who has contributed to better caregiving for the elderly and dementia sufferers.
Also given the Promising award was Ms Michelle Wong, 27, senior social worker at Care Corner Family Service Centre in Queenstown. She designed a support group for single mothers which currently involves about 50 women and their children.
While her work can be disheartening, she draws inspiration from her clients, such as a divorcee with six children who went from being a beneficiary to being a mentor to other single mothers.
SASW president Alvin Chua said: "The winners' outstanding qualities make all the difference to the lives thy touch, inspiring fellow professionals to raise the bar towards bringing the delivery of social services to a whole new level."
The winners received $1,000 cash and training sponsorship worth $14,000 to $30,000 from MSF, along with personal development grants of $8,000 to $10,000 from ExxonMobil Asia Pacific. This is the second year that the grants have been doubled from 2012's amounts.
This article was first published on Nov 27, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.