Grace Chen derives much satisfaction from helping residents she interacts with.
What was your view of the People’s Association (PA) before you applied for the PA Youth Leaders Scholarship?
My view is that the PA is the bridge between the government and the people. PA staff will communicate about the government’s policies and plans to the residents. They will also bring the residents’ concerns to the policy makers for improvement and consideration.
As a volunteer since the age of 16, I have seen how grassroots volunteers and staff forged relationships with the residents. Many of them are happy to drop by the CC. When the volunteers and staff visit their homes, many of them open up and share their lives with us.
I am aware that PA’s work is pretty diverse; each constituency is unique, with a different demography and facing different social concerns.
How was your scholarship interview at the PA? What advice do you have for students who are interested to apply for the scholarship?
I had been a volunteer in PA Youth Movement’s Youth Executive Committee in Mountbatten, so the questions asked at the interview were very close to my heart. It centred on community issues and the roles of PA. I enjoyed my time as a grassroots volunteer so I am able to share my experiences working with youths for the past five years. I believe the PA Senior Management was genuinely interested to find out who I am and what makes me tick and my take on the role of PA in the community rather than looking for right and wrong answers. Overall, we had an engaging conversation where we discussed about key community issues and concerns.
I think that aspiring scholars should have some experience and must enjoy dealing with residents or the community at large. This passion will show during the interview. Besides having the passion, having an understanding of the key community issues will also help during the interview.
What made you decide to take up this scholarship?
The main draw of this scholarship is the opportunity to be directly on the ground, not just working with the ground. Interacting and developing a long-term relationship with the residents every day gives me the satisfaction of working in PA. I realise how much my job means to the people I am interacting with.
I know that it will be very different from being a volunteer in the YEC to becoming a staff. Although I enjoyed my role as a volunteer, I recognised that it may not automatically mean that I’ll be happy as a staff in the same organisation. So I spoke to many PA staff in my community centre (CC), other CCs as well as the HQ staff. I then decided to go for this career challenge. I also spent time volunteering and doing internships in other social organisations before deciding on taking up the PA Scholarship.
What do you think are some of the benefits of choosing a scholarship with a government agency as
opposed to one offered by the private sector?
I love working with people on the ground whom I can serve directly. This gives me a great sense of purpose, as I can contribute to their lives, especially those that need financial advice or social ties or youths with too much energy to release. I can make a big difference to the resident who will share with me his concerns if I am a good officer in this government agency. Although serving in the private sector can also be beneficial to the public, it is usually not as direct and wide-reaching as serving in this agency.
What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of being on a scholarship?
One advantage is the benefit of having a clear career path, and thus being able to make clear and relevant choices in selecting modules and dissertation topics in university. The CCA’s you tend to choose will give you the experience beneficial for working life. Another advantage is the security of a job upon graduation, and being able to set relevant goals three years ahead, like the goals in working life when you have just entered university. It allows you to make longer term plans when you know which organisation you will be working for.
Taking up a scholarship would be a disadvantage if you are doing the kind of work that you don’t like. Some students have wrong ideas of the organisations they signed up for as they have not done enough research. Also, passion and interests may change while one is in the university. However, this is not all doom and gloom as many scholarship providers are quite diverse in their work areas and may offer some flexibility to meet your interests. Nevertheless, I think it is best to do some soul searching and examine your fields of interests in advance, in order to be sure that the job and scholarship is right for you. One must also test his interests under difficult circumstances, to see if the interests can prevail under those circumstances.
What are your career aspirations? In what ways would you like to contribute to the work of PA?
I aspire to be able to serve the people that I will be working with and to form deeper relationships with them. I would like to be able to communicate well with residents of all types, build trusting relationships with them and do things to bring people together. Then, I would like to be the reliable and strong bridge between the government and the people in areas of social concerns. Eventually I hope to shape community assistance or involvement schemes for the betterment of the community at large.
I believe that in PA, all scholars have to work from the ground and start their job stint at the Constituency Office. As a people-oriented organisation, a scholar, like other PA staff, has to work closely with the grassroots in order to fully understand the communal issues, and to develop rapport with the residents. I believe that only by gaining experience from the ground, can one move on to work in other divisions of PA.
However, a scholar will also be groomed further through leadership training programmes. Ultimately it is the onus of the scholar to work hard, sharpen his skills and maximise the opportunities the organisation gives him in order to progress, rather than thinking that the ‘scholar’ title will get him very far.
What advice would you like to give to those who are interested in taking up a scholarship?
When you are driven by passion, it shows naturally! So do what your heart brings you to and work or volunteer in related fields before deciding on a scholarship! Everyone is different, and you need to find your own driving forces. I hope that you will find a scholarship from the many choices that will suit you!
Now: Third year pursuing Economics at London School of Economics
From: St Andrew’s Junior College