Malini Menon

Many people’s ideal retirement would be to sit back and enjoy life after having worked hard for most of their life, but not so Ms Malini Menon. Starting work at the Ministry of Social Welfare, she enjoyed her work to the extent that she continued on in this line of work even in her retirement.

Departing from the usual options of medicine, law or engineering, Ms Menon pursued a diploma in Social studies. This was in spite the fact that social work did not pay as much as the medical or legal profession.  A further contributing factor to the dearth of graduates willing to pursue it. However, recognising the need for social workers, a need that endures to this day, Ms Menon was interested in finding out what the profession offered, a decision, which turned out to be very fulfilling, and one she does not regret at all.

Having worked initially with child protection, Ms Menon’s first cases were to do with transfer children. These children were in interim care while waiting to be legaly adopted. Following the war, there were numerous such Chinese children and it fell to the social welfare department to find suitable homes for them.

“They were good foster mothers. They had the love for the children.”

As a social welfare worker, some of Ms Menon’s responsibilities included acting as an intermediary between families and children in welfare homes. The children in these homes usually did not have a stable home environment and easily fell into bad company, becoming involved in socially undesirable activities. Hence, close cooperation with the family is critical in counseling and rehabilitating wayward youths. Referring to several cases, she remarks that though the counselors can spend countless hours with a child and help them, if the family is unable to be a good role model for the child, it is extremely easy for the child to slide back to her old bad habits.

“The boys got involved with undesirable peer groups, drug offenders and even gangsters.”

Referring back to all the cases she has handled over the years, Ms Menon takes pride in knowing that her advice was able to impact and persuade youth to remain calm and openly discuss about issues at hand. Though not every case is able to be resolved successfully, she understands that if out of every 10 cases, if at least 3 can be considered successes, then that is worthwhile doing. Amongst the more memorable cases, Ms Menon mentions that she remains in contact with several of them and it is incredibly encouraging to see how their family environment has improved over the years. “There is nothing more enriching than interacting with these children” sums up Ms Menon.

“If you are able to give enough of yourself to these children, they reward you.”

Besides a need for social workers, Ms Menon mentions there is also a need for volunteers, for example at welfare homes to mentor children, organise activities and other things which would help social workers to alleviate their high workload. In line with that, even in retirement, when SINDA requested her help in the setting up their family service section, she wholeheartedly agreed.

Another contributing factor she mentions was the opportunity to handle casework herself. This was particularly attractive to Ms Menon as in the social welfare department she had been mostly involved in the oversight and monitoring of the cases which were directly handed by aftercare officers whereas now in SINDA she had the opportunity to get personally involved in the cases. Amongst these cases, financial difficulties were a major component and often led to other problems as well. To alleviate these problems, Ms Menon was involved in dispensing of bursaries as well as finding places for children in child care centres.

Besides handling cases, Ms Menon also sat on the welfare committee of the newly created family service centre at SINDA and also volunteered at Asian Women Welfare Association to help supervise staff, making good use of her skills developed whilst working at the social welfare department. Not content with that, she also took up various volunteering duties at the TRANS Family Services Centre in Bedok.

“If I can re-live my life all over again, I would still do social work because I am very fond of it.”

While Ms Menon always emphasizes the importance in pursuing a resolution in the cases, she also recognises that cases do not always progress as she wished they would and at such times, music would help her to distress and accept the disappointment before moving on.

Having always been passionate about music, she started playing the veena in 1996 and played for almost 10 years until her 2nd knee operation, which left her unable to sit for long hours on the floor. Despite not being able to continue with veena, she remains fond of it and is now involved in vocals.

Having been sought out by not only SINDA, but TRANS centre and Asian Welfare for her skills, it is evident that Ms Menon is excellent at what she does, certainly helps to make a difference, and yet through it all remains extremely humble, serving as an inspiration and reminder to us all to put the needs of others before ourselves. For that, we here at 50Faces would like to thank Ms Menon for all her contributions!


A dedication to the pioneers in the Indian community.

50Faces brings your stories of ordinary Singaporeans who have contributed to our community and nation building.