NUS News

Glad to give back

Challenging financial circumstances did not get in the way of Francesca Phoebe Wah Li Ting achieving academic success. She is one of the most outstanding students in her cohort, not only because of her performance in the classroom, but also because of her ongoing commitment to give back to society.

While at NUS, Francesca has shown she is someone who goes the extra mile—by her fourth year, she had exceeded the requirements for a double-major undergraduate degree by eight modules.

“The skills I learnt from the Social Work modules are essential and indispensable. It is not the results and the certificates that I chase after, but it is the knowledge that I hunger and thirst for,” said Francesca, who majored in Psychology and Social Work, with a minor in English Language. She received a first-class honours Bachelor of Social Sciences degree on 8 July.

The social work modules allowed her to apply what she has learnt in school to real-life settings, under the guidance of a supervisor. Community-based family services also trained her to involve the community in delivering social services.

Francesca’s zest and passion in lending a helping hand stems from her humble family background. She was a beneficiary of the Ministry of Education (MOE) Financial Assistance Scheme, which helped cover her school and examination fees, and necessities such as textbooks, from primary school through junior college.

She did well in her A-Levels and was awarded the MOE Teaching Scholarship which funded her undergraduate studies at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

Besides working with the elderly and at-risk youths during her social work attachments, Francesca served as the President of the NUS Students’ Union Volunteer Action Committee’s Chalk and Duster project, a reading programme for children.

During her four years of university, Francesca visited Melrose Home to provide mentoring services to children on a weekly basis and also organised workshops and outings for the children during the school holidays. She initiated and led a team to plan a camp for middle-risk youths, to help them grow emotionally and socially, as well as improve their relationships with peers and family members.

“I'm really grateful for the many opportunities to serve individuals of different age groups, from children to older adults. Each group is distinct and presented different challenges. The experience I gained is invaluable,” she said. 

For Children’s Day last year, Francesca wanted to bring joy to 120 less-privileged children but lacked the financial support to do so. Undaunted, she appealed for sponsors and suppliers to provide stationery sets and plush toys at a low cost. Friends helped to spread the word around and even young children contributed their savings. Within just two days, she raised enough funds to provide more than 360 less-privileged children with simple daily necessities.

Francesca has successfully started a charity to bring together communitarian efforts to empower the lives of the needy, under the guidance of her mentor, NUS Social Work Associate Professor Corinne Ghoh. 

Although most of her training and experience so far has been in the area of social work, Francesca has decided to pursue a teaching career instead. This is because she knows teachers, too, play a role in setting kids on the right trajectory.

“I want to be at the front line, to identify children who might need help and to refer families to social workers. I believe there are families who are struggling and do not know how and where to seek help. I chose the teaching profession so as to be the bridge to link families to the social services,” she said.