A social work student perspective of Lee Kuan Yew

This week our country mourned over the passing of its founder and all of us have our own ways of grieving over our first Prime Minister. For majority of us Singaporeans, it was spending no less than six hours in a queue that snaked its way from Parliament House till maybe midway of town? Many went with handmade gifts expressing their gratitude to man who has given up his life for building a successful Singapore. Even braving the torrential downpour shouting his name as the cortège drove pass them and if I may quote from our current Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong’s eulogy to his father “…today the heavens opened and cried for him.”

But what does his name truly means to us all to invoke such an unprecedented scene?

If you ask me, he has already stepped down as Prime Minister 3 years after I was born. Surely our education textbooks have nothing short of his contributions to this city state too. His passing didn’t really affected me like it did to my friends. I don’t cry nor do I feel the need to spam my Instagram feed with #rememberingLKY hashtags. I think is just me. I am not hard-wired to mourn since I was taught from young that death is an inevitable process in life. It wasn’t until I saw my newsfeed on Facebook recently did it invoked some feelings within me.Untitledlky

Then I remembered my days as a social work student studying the different social policies that Mr Lee and his cabinet pushed for. The Central Provident Fund (CPF) that serve more than just its purpose of providing social security to every citizen but also cultivated a saving culture in us all. His housing policies gave all citizens a stake in this tiny nation while his education and healthcare programs ensures all Singaporeans hope for a better future. When I was on the ground practising social work as an intern in my respective agencies, I realised the main bulk of most social work practitioners’ work involves advocating for our clients. It could be something as small as extending financial assistance for another three months for a family of nine or something bigger like managing multiple needs and services for one disadvantaged person.

I discovered that we could advocate for anything and everything our clients needed and wanted but without sound and just policies, nothing we fight for can ever bear fruit. If there is no framework to work within, how could we even relieve life stressors for our clients that benefit them and society? So in some sense, I felt I could link everything back to the our first Prime Minister. Below is a video some of my social work course mates created. I think the lyrics are created by them and my lecturers too.

I don’t profess to be a patriot to my country and more than often I would forget when National Day is let alone the year we first celebrated independence. I just checked it’s on 9th August 1966. His demise was a wake up call for me. Without this man, Singapore will still exist but it will never prosper like it will today. We can afford to be complacent because of his policies and leadership skills but at the end of the day when we look back at our lives, can we truly say we have lead a fruitful life staying true to our cause and beliefs like he did?

I took away this excerpt from Lee Hsien Loong’s eulogy to his father:

“He pursued ideas with tremendous, infectious energy. He said of himself: “I put myself down as determined, consistent, persistent. I set out to do something, I keep on chasing it until it succeeds. That’s all.” Easy to say, very few do it. This was how he seized opportunities, seeing and realising possibilities that many others missed.”

That to me is the spirit of Lee Kuan Yew in which he left behind for us all to build a better future for Singapore.

I shall end off with another video complied by a friend of mine. Thank you Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

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