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Star Power

25 May 2012

You know they’re special the moment you meet them. That sparkle in the eyes when they talk about their work; that infectious enthusiasm in sharing stories of satisfied customers… These officers – nominees of the PS21 Star Service Award 2012 – are living, breathing examples of public officers who use their hearts and hands to deliver sterling service. - Text by Bridgette See and Muhammad Irwan Shah, Photos by Charles Chua

Hariharan Dharmarajan
Lecturer-Mentor, Institute of Technical
Education (ITE) College East

This witty and chatty lecturer knows no boundaries when caring for students. His bosses say for Hari (as he is known), “a student in hospital is not merely ‘visited’” as he makes sure the socio-emotional needs of the student and his family are taken care of. This compels him to go the extra mile, even to the extent of finding jobs for former students and their parents. On many occasions, the bachelor, who came here 15 years ago from Mumbai, makes personal visits to students’ homes if they had been absent. Ten years since he started teaching at ITE, Hari remains available 24/7. He thinks nothing of spending weekends and late nights to counsel and coach students who come with assorted academic and emotional woes. “I can have a peaceful sleep only when I know I’ve done a good job,” he says. This genuine care has touched students and parents, with many saying he’s helped to turn their lives around. In a touching letter to ITE, a pair of parents whose daughter died in 2009 referred to the lecturer as a “messenger from God” for his generous support and encouragement during their bereavement.

I can have a peaceful sleep only when I know I’ve done a good job.

Quek Yi Hui Eleanor
Teacher, Mee Toh School

This extroverted and energetic young teacher has won kudos for using creative methods to keep her class motivated and engaged. Once, she decorated her classroom to look like a scene out of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – all in the name of getting students to fall in love with the written word. During recess, she bonds with students by playing basketball and having meals together. “Children have unlimited potential, and I want to be everything for them,” she says, explaining her passion for teaching. “When I was young, I had a group of good teachers, I want to give the same experience to my students.” Eleanor has also earned praise for her efforts in helping two students deal with their anger, behavioural and delinquency issues. Her dedication is well-recognised, given that she has won the Most Inspiring Teacher Award at Mee Toh twice in her four years.

Soh Guan Thong
Technical Support Officer,
Christ Church Secondary School

With his salt and pepper hair, it’s easy to assume that Guan Thong is a stern, no-nonsense guy. Instead, he’s been described as a “thinking and learning officer” who delivers service with “great joy”. So much so that he’s gone beyond his job scope to (take a deep breath) being a nursing officer, emergency team leader, school photographer, chief handyman and “active economic drive officer” who’s helped the school save thousands of dollars with refurbished furniture and equipment. He’s even helped to extend the school’s Science curriculum to incorporate astronomy and environmental education. This is an officer whose imagination is not limited by his job title. The school attributes its strong culture of care to this “gem of an officer”, who once took a student to hospital for a fractured arm when the parents couldn’t. Asked what drives him, Guan Thong says: “I work not for money or for promotion. I work for my students.”

Kamarudin bin Fadilah
Technical Support Officer,
Public Utilities Board

Kamarudin has been described as having “unfathomable commitment” by his bosses. Married with two children, he still works extra hours, sacrificing much of his weekends and after-office hours to attend to emergency flooding and urgent feedback from PUB’s call centre. It’s no wonder he’s won several service awards since joining the Service four years ago. Driven by a “sense of ownership” to serve the public, Kamarudin is known to have a way with tough customers. “Sometimes they expect magic,” he says of the unreasonable ones. When this happens, he takes a deep breath to stay calm and tries his best to step into their shoes. On many occasions, Kamarudin has made magic happen. Once, he skipped his night class to help a distraught couple retrieve their camera from a river. Unable to find the camera (which had the couple’s wedding pictures) in the dark, Kamarudin returned the next morning to try again. Overtime: Many hours. Reward: Priceless.

Salamah Yusop
Senior Officer,
Human Resource Services, Vital

Mdm Salamah is known as the “walking dictionary” of HR records at Vital. Her vast knowledge in processing retirement cases has had an impact on retiring officers. Once when a public officer tendered her resignation due to poor health, the alert Mdm Salamah realised the officer would lose her pension and benefits if she did so. Mdm Salamah notified the relevant Ministry and the officer was advised to apply for optional retirement instead, without forfeiting her benefits. At Vital, Mdm Salamah reviews and vets pension papers to ensure that retirement benefits are computed correctly. As the sole person handling retirement cases for 41 agencies, she often works long hours to help retirees get their benefits on time. She’s even visited those who lack mobility to save them the trip down to Vital for retirement briefings. Her customer service philosophy is simple: “If they’re happy, I’m happy.”

Clothes: Hansel (Eleanor Quek) and Uniqlo (Kamarudin bin Fadilah, Hariharan Dharmarajan and Soh Guan Thong)

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