Caritas Singapore gets new Executive Director
Ms Christine Wong (left) takes over the reins as Executive Director from Ms Bernadette Lau.
It is the call to share our professional talents and to get closer to God that lead many to work at Caritas Singapore. Caritas Singapore is the social arm of the Catholic Church for about 12 years now, with 27 Catholic charities and services under her umbrella.
Ms Christine Wong has taken over the reins from Ms Bernadette Lau since Aug 1. She is certainly a familiar face in the field of social work, as she was previously the Executive Director of the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS). She has served in the social service sector in Singapore for over 30 years, including her tenure with the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) and the Methodist Welfare Services.
She led the development of SOS services in the areas of suicide prevention, intervention and postvention over the last 10 years. Under her leadership, SOS garnered the NVPC (National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre) Volunteer Management Award in 2008.
Ms Wong worked closely with many agencies in the areas of suicide prevention. She launched the SOS Conference which featured their first local books – “Why” written by a suicide survivor who had sadly lost both her parents through suicide, and “Aly” by a local teenager who lost her best friend to suicide.
The late President S.R. Nathan had graciously accepted her invitation to be the Honorary Member of SOS, and he also fronted SOS’ World Suicide Prevention Campaign in 2014. SOS’ Patron Lawrence Wong, Minister for National Development, fronted the same campaign online in 2016.
Ms Wong’s passion and expertise in social work is recognised internationally. She was invited as Speaker in the US, Japan, and at Thailand’s Annual Mental Health Conferences from 2015-2017. She is also a familiar face at local conferences.
She holds a Master of Science (UK) and an MA in Social Work. She is an accredited Social Worker and a registered member of the Singapore Association of Social Workers and is also certified by the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) as a Crisis Worker.
Said Ms Wong on her new role: “As the social service arm of the Church, Caritas Singapore is uniquely placed where we can show God’s love by reaching out to others to show our love in action.
“Many people I have worked with seemed hopeless. They are searching for an answer to life’s problems and the meaning of life, and there is a void and emptiness in them. I also look forward to strengthening and building on the existing good work under Bernadette’s tenure as ED and bring it to another level together with all our partners.”
Meantime, her predecessor, Ms Bernadette Lau, after serving for seven years as ED of Caritas Singapore, will continue as Special Advisor to the Chairman till the end of August.
Ms Lau joined Caritas Singapore in July 2010, before which she had spent 11 years in the social service sector in Singapore and 19 years in the private sector as an accountant/controller.
During her time at Caritas, she set up the Advocacy desk and supported the Advocacy Committee chaired by Mr Laurence Lien in January 2011 which led to the organisation of the Caritas Roundtable forum, the first of which was held in May 2012.
Ms Lau shared, “The highlight of my time with Caritas Singapore was the setting up of Agape Village, even though it was also very challenging. We had many meetings with member organisations to get their consensus, including the 2012 leaders’ retreat where we had the envisioning exercise of Agape Village, and then seeing it come to fruition. Agape Village is now in its third year of operations to partner the poor.”
She developed a sound financial system and governance reporting structure for Caritas Singapore, ensuring compliance with the Charities Code of Governance, even garnering the Charity Transparency Award from The Charity Council in 2016.
She was appointed Caritas Singapore’s coordinator to oversee and ensure compliance with the Caritas Internationalis Management Systems (CIMS), ensuring that the organisation meets minimum standards of governance, organisational infrastructure, financial viability and accountability, and compliance with ethical codes of conduct. She was also appointed as Assessor to assess other CI Members’ submission of the CIMS.
Ms Lau added, “Even though I am sad to leave this great place and wonderful colleagues, board and committee members, I feel another calling at this time in my life that I have to answer. The gift of a grandson is more than I can ask for, and also is the time to spend with the family; this is the role that God is directing me towards at this point in my life.”
Caritas chairperson, Ms Janet Ang, expressed her thanks to Ms Lau for her “dedication and passion in ‘partnering the poor’ with our Caritas family”.
She also welcomed Ms Wong, saying, “We look forward to her leadership and contributions as she brings her years of experience in the social sector, and her professional competence as a social worker and leader in social services.”