Meet Haiqal, a Social Work Associate (Case Manager) at Pertapis Halfway House (PHH). Formerly an Air Steward, Haiqal made a career switch and is now part of the Career Conversion Programme for Social Workers (CCP-SW), a work-study programme supported by PERTAPIS. He shares with us the reason behind his career switch and his journey with us so far!
Q & A with Haiqal Sari
What is your role and how did you find your way to your current role at Pertapis Halfway House (PHH)?
I am currently a Social Work Associate (Case Manager) here at PHH as part of the Career Conversion Programme (CCP). I was working at one of the Social Service Offices (SSO) under the Ministry of Social & Family Development when my then-supervisor introduced the programme to me. I applied for it without hesitation, and have not looked back since.
What made you pursue a career in the social service sector?
Prior to this, I have had many short-lived passions and aspirations. For as long as I can remember, my dream was to be a journalist, and that spurred me to study Communications in Polytechnic and, subsequently, University. I was even a reporter for The New Paper for almost a year at one point, with over 200 articles published.
However, as time went on, I began to realise that it may not be my true calling. I then went on to work several different jobs, before winding up as a Cabin Crew. Alas, that was not to be either, as Covid struck and I was grounded within a year. But that was a blessing in disguise, as I signed up to be reassigned to an SSO to work in financial assistance. I found myself embracing the social service, as it reconciled the skills I’d learnt throughout my life, with a meaningful and noble intention behind it all.
What is a typical workday like for you at PHH?
Most days start with a morning briefing among the staff of the halfway house, where we fill each other in our objectives for the day. Group work is then organized in the morning, where staff band together to give encouragement and listen to their concerns as a community. Following which, the afternoons are usually spent having one-to-one sessions with my clients, helping them meet their needs for reintegration through writing referrals and sourcing for advancement opportunities for them.
Otherwise, on some days, I carry out my duties as the officer-in-charge of the residents’ employment matters by conducting site visits to ascertain their performance at work, or by reaching out to new employers to secure a consistent flow of value-added employment opportunities through partnerships and collaborations. An example of that would be our recent success in onboarding several big-name hotels, all for the betterment of PHH’s residents. On top of that, there are other projects which I’m involved in, where I carry out talks and workshops for the residents.
What has been the most challenging part of your role and how did you overcome it?
When I first started out at PHH, I was in a constant state of anxiety, and had to constantly face my imposter syndrome head-on. I could never put myself in my clients’ shoes and, for the most part, our lives could not be more different. Sure, I was no stranger to working with the disadvantaged, but PHH is a residential home, and a lot more is expected of a Social Worker in such a setting. But what I learnt over time was that our residents value honesty and integrity. I give my all for each and every one of my clients, and never expect the worst of them. People pick up on that.
Can you share about your favourite part of your role and the team at PHH?
I especially enjoy the camaraderie that exists among the staff here. There is never a dull day and everybody is always in high spirits, regardless of the difficulties they may be facing. It is the same for me in my role. The key benefit of working in a residential setting is having the chance to develop a bond with my clients. That helps me to do my job better, as I gradually start seeing them as more than the sum of their actions, and more for who they truly are underneath.
How has Pertapis supported you in terms of career growth?
Pertapis’ support for me is evident enough in their hiring of me as part of the CCP. When I applied for this programme, Pertapis was the obvious choice from the start. As someone who grew up almost oblivious to the plight of my own Malay-Muslim community, I felt that it was only right that I pay my dues and dedicate my fledgling career towards the betterment of my own people. Needless to say, my bosses have also been incredibly supportive, entrusting me with projects and initiatives, and handing me the responsibility of representing PHH at a few conventions and meetings.
How would you describe the culture at Pertapis?
If I could condense it into one word, I would say it’s approachable. From the very beginning, there has always been an open-door policy and I can ask anyone anything and I’d get a helpful response. For the most part, everyone is willing to help each other, and everyone is made to feel welcome. That is something I won’t take for granted.
What is one thing you would share with someone who is interested in joining social service?
I would advise anyone to think long and hard before joining the social service and to consult as many people as possible. It is not the easiest job, and many parts of it are unlikely to meet most people’s expectations. It requires sacrifice and careful planning. But it is rewarding in so many ways and gives you enough fulfilment and sustenance to keep going, all in the knowledge that you are making the kind of impact and difference that few others can claim to be doing.
What is one fun fact about you?
I used to run a home-based business back in the early days of the pandemic, where I sold cheesecakes. Business was doing well and people were very supportive. I even received orders from people I hadn’t heard from in a decade. Unfortunately, that proved to be my undoing, as I eventually got tired of baking!