Suffice to say that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the social service and community care sectors greatly. As the number of infections increased, several discussions were ignited regarding various social causes and marginalised people in society, such as our dementia community and seniors living alone.
In October 2020, ADA welcomed a new Head of Fundraising, Sherwan Sharip. With a background in media sales and a keen passion in social work, let’s hear from Sherwan about his goals for the social service sector in a post-COVID world as well as what drives him in his work.
Prior to joining ADA, you were from a very different job sector. What made you join the fight against dementia?
When I started out, I did not actually intend to help the dementia community specifically. I simply wanted to contribute, volunteer and help the community as a whole. I am just fortunate ADA recognised my talent and skill sets, and was willing to take a chance on me.
In my younger days, I used to help deliver food to rental flats. I remember helping the residents of the rental flats switch their TVs from analogue to digital. Many of them were elderly, some of whom were living alone; there were also young families in need of assistance. Living conditions are not really ideal there.
Later on in life, I had the opportunity to be part of a business that did wound treatment. Most patients were elderly, diabetic or had vascular issues. Many had amputations or were about to be amputated. While physically disabled, I believe they were actually more emotionally affected. I took the time to chat with them, showing concern and putting a smile to their faces. It was really gratifying.
From there, I knew social work was the next thing for me. It could be working with kids, the physically disabled, mentally challenged, elderly – it did not matter to me.
What do you think social service agencies (SSA) really need during this period?
This can be broken down into what we need to do internally versus externally.
Within the organisation, the need for a well-equipped, dedicated and emphatic talent pool is more crucial than before. We need to ride the wave of digitalisation as businesses have to evolve and adopt new norms, as proven and accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic this year.
In this climate, a “never die” attitude is a must. In the context of Fundraising, for example, we will face many rejections. But the moment we allow our heads to drop, that’s when the battle is lost, not just for us but for our beneficiaries.
Empathy is also a very underrated characteristic. To be able to put yourself in the other persons’ shoes and understand what they are going through allows you to be a better person. It allows you to judge each case and scenario on its own without being judgemental. There may always be a right and a wrong, but understanding the “why” is also super important. This is something that all of us in an SSA really need to do in our part in fighting the cause.
Externally, we need all the help we can get. All stakeholders should and must come together as one to ensure we don’t leave anyone behind. This applies not just to people with dementia, but to all the less fortunate, disabled, challenged or marginalised people in society. We cannot just rely on support from the government, foundations and charities. The business community must also play a bigger role in supporting social causes.
Why do you think people should support the dementia community?
Traditionally we look at dementia as part of ageing. While age is not the only factor, it has been shown to be a big risk factor in being diagnosed with dementia. Our demographics in Singapore show that the ageing population will get larger in the coming years. While we do not yet have a cure for dementia, we can at least prepare and enable persons with dementia and their caregivers to have a more meaningful life in the community, one that has no stigma.
At ADA, we are not just in the business of providing brick and mortar support via our care centres. Our ultimate goal is to enable the community by providing the necessary knowledge, tools and support for others to assist in supporting the dementia community.
There are other kinds of dementia too, young onset dementia for example is being diagnosed more and more in recent years. To help this group and their families, we may require a different approach or a different kind of assistance and care.
People should support the dementia community because there is still so much that we can learn, so much more than we can train and care for, and so much more community support to render.
What makes you smile or keeps you going?
Simple – family. I was brought up in a house where if the rules were broken, most likely you would get a taste of the cane or belt. But we were also showered with plenty of love, and perhaps some tough love as well. But we were a happy family. We were not well-to-do, but my parents worked hard and ensured both me and my sister got the best education we could. They also instilled values in us that hopefully made us good people. We were a tight unit.
So it’s the same for me now. Whatever I do is for my family. When I have a bad day, I come home, sit down with the kids and chit chat. Or I just get a hug and I feel better already. It helps put things in perspective. I am far from perfect as a person, father and husband, but I would do anything for them, and I hope this emulates in my daily work as well.
To contribute to the dementia cause and support our people with dementia and their families, visit https://dementia.org.sg/donate/.