If her mother had her way a year ago, Melissa Chew, 38, would not be a social worker today.
Her mother, a cleaner, wanted the younger of her two children to be a teacher she felt teaching gave better prospects. But her father, a senior driver, supported her decision to study social work.
Said Ms Chew, an important medical social worker at Tan Tock Seng Hospital: "I went to my mother's wishes for the first time in my life."
But the 15-year-old social worker has made a difference in many people's lives and the winner of the Social Worker Award award this year.
Chew received the prize – the highest honor for social workers – from President Halimah Yacob in Istana yesterday.
Three others won the Promising Social Work Award – Ms. Tay Yu Ping, 28, Senior Senior Social Worker at the Movement for the Intellectually Disabilities in Singapore (Minds) Woodlands Gardens School; Ms Zoe Tee, 26, senior probation officer at the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF); and Benjamin Yeo, 31, senior social worker at Fei Yue Community Services.
In addition to touching her patients' lives, Chew also led an initiative to reduce waiting time for patients ready to be transferred from hospitals to nursing homes. The waiting time now takes less than 10 days, from two to three weeks earlier.
Ms Chew and her colleagues streamlined the work processes and roped into different partners, from physicians to staff at the Integrated Care Agency, which facilitates placement of patients in nursing homes, to do so. She said that this initiative has since been adopted and adapted by other hospitals.
Ms Chew said that her mom now supports her work.
Among the patients, Chew has helped a 82-year-old woman suffering from respiratory failure. Afraid that her four children would be affected if they saw her die but also afraid to die alone, she asked Ms Chew to be at her side when she breathed her last.
"I'm very glad I could meet her wish," said Ms Chew, who had also advised the woman's family to help them cope with her mother's imminent death.
The other winners also showed commitment to helping others.
Ms Tay, for example, started a program on Minds to help siblings of intellectual disabilities children learn more about the state and cope with their feelings.
MSF Ms Tee celebrated her passion for helping youth criminals to change their behavior and rebuild relationships with their families and others in society.
Mr. Yeo was famous for his grace to reach out to young people in danger.
He and his colleagues would love young people who hung up the streets and work with them to solve their problems.
He said, "Many of them come from very challenging family backgrounds as single parents, or it's abuse at home. They do not come to us when they face problems, so we have to go out on the streets to reach them."
A person he has helped is a boy who had finished school and was involved in the team. Mr Yeo finally convinced him to go back to school and he appeared as a top scorer in his N-level school.
Mr. Yeo: "What keeps me going is that young people share with us that our work is helpful and our work is important."