Social worker Nicodemus Lim receives a full scholarship to study for his PhD program in Australia.
By Yong Yung Shin
It was a Christmas gift from none other than the Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard herself. Earlier this month, social worker Nicodemus Lim received an invitation to accept the Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Postgraduate Award to pursue a PhD program in social work in New South Wales in February 2013.
He is among a very small number of handpicked candidates to receive the prestigious award, which is awarded by the International Scholarships and Mobility Section from the Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.
Lim, 33, heads the elderly support service (COMNET) of the Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre (AMKFSC), providing outreach efforts and monitoring systems which excel beyond conventional senior care models in Singapore.
COMNET’s befriending service was highlighted in the Singapore government’s Committee of Supply debate in March last year as an ideal example of the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) model. Under this model, residents living in the same constituency are recruited under a flexi-work scheme and trained to provide individualized care to those in need. Hence, relationships on a one-to-one basis are built between caregivers and elderly citizens who live alone.
The scholarship covers all tuition fees besides offering a monthly stipend for recipients to undertake their proposed course in Australia for up to four years, with opportunities for internships or work placements for a maximum duration of 12 months upon completion of their study programs.
Lim graduated from University of New South Wales with a First Class Honors with University Medal for his outstanding results from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in 2006. Upon graduation, he opted to return to Singapore to work. “I wanted to come back to serve because my family and my church are here,” explained Lim, who found his passion for social work while volunteering with JAMs (a ministry for the intellectually disabled) at City Harvest Church.
Now, with six years’ working experience under his belt, the scholarship will allow him to advance the progress he has made with COMNET. Says Lim, whose area of research will focus on comparative studies between the eldercare sector in Singapore and Australia, “being a welfare state, Australia’s social services are very advanced, comprehensive and holistic. It will not be directly replicable in Singapore, of course, given that we rely more on charitable organizations for such support. But we can definitely benefit by learning how they centralize their welfare system, which is what is lacking in Singapore.”
Singapore’s strength on the social services front, on the other hand, benefits from strong community support by volunteer-run Residents’ Committees (RC) and other grassroots organizations.
With his move to NSW and the birth of his third child in April with wife Sandra, it looks like a busy year ahead for Lim. “It’s a dream come true,” he says. “All this would not be possible without CHC and its leadership who believed in me.”