Experiences From The Ground: Sharing by an Outreach, Education & Research (OER) Staff
Back in 2014, I used to work for a non-profit organisation which runs a one-stop debt advisory centre that assists individuals and their families in resolving their debt issues through financial education and counselling.
It was during this period that I got to know more about Credit Counselling Singapore (CCS) and their social purpose in providing help to the debt distressed.
I remembered attending to a help seeker who came to see me after serving a six-month prison sentence. She was previously found guilty of assisting unlicensed moneylenders by carrying out inter-bank fund transfers to various unknown bank accounts for them – which constituted to an offence known as money laundering.
Being a single mother of three, having to cope with the financial burden of raising her children and looking after an elderly mother suffering from cancer, she succumbed to taking loans not knowingly were from unlicensed moneylenders. She used the borrowed money to service her debts owing to the banks which she had earlier used these unsecured credit facilities to pay for her family’s living expenses and her mother’s medical bills. With the lure that all her debts would be cleared, she agreed to carry out works for the unlicensed moneylenders, not aware of the consequences she could face if caught by the law.
After serving her sentence, she was offered a job by her ex-boss but found it difficult to focus as she kept receiving reminder calls from her bank creditors seeking payments for her long overdue outstanding balances.
During her counselling session with me, she broke down several times that she was afraid to answer phone calls from the banks and hopes to find a solution to address her bank debts. I sat down with her and provided a brief overview of the services rendered by CCS. I advised her to attend the Debt Management Talk conducted by CCS and find out more about the Debt Management Programme. She attended the talk and managed to secure an appointment with a credit counsellor from CCS soon after.
I did a follow-up call several weeks later and was happy to be informed that she met the criteria and was successfully placed under a Debt Management Programme facilitated by CCS. During the call, she let out a huge sigh of relief knowing that she has finally found a comprehensive solution in addressing her debts with the banks. She also shared her positive experience of attending credit counselling with CCS and was amazed at the high level of compassion and empathy displayed by the CCS counsellor.
As the years go by, I began referring more and more clients to CCS whenever I know that they are struggling with unsecured debts owing to banks. I received positive feedbacks from them about the quality of service delivered by CCS and that the counsellors are kind and not judgmental. I said to myself then, perhaps someday I too can be of service to CCS and join their social cause to alleviate the debt distressed.
In early 2019, when I learned of a job vacancy at CCS that suits me, I did not hesitate in submitting my application and the rest was history.
In my current role in CCS Outreach, Education & Research (OER) team, I am tasked to develop and deliver programmes in the form of talks, webinars and workshops which aim on building financial capability and fostering financial resilience. These programmes are for members of the public, staffs of private and public sectors and for the beneficiaries of self-help groups, social service agencies and non-profit organisations.
At the same time, I also assist in building and developing the framework for CCS education and support programme for our current clients on the Debt Management Programme. The programmes focus on improving our clients’ mental well-being, career upskilling expertise and enhancing financial resilience. The DMP clients’ journey towards being debt free can take several years, therefore it is crucial for them to be equipped with the right skills, knowledge, and attitude to overcome setbacks or challenges faced along the way.
Here at CCS, I get to work with an awesome team, and we have also embarked on delivering bite-sized financial talks broadcasted via CCS Facebook livestream. We do our best to stay up to date with the latest technological tools/apps and always exploring ways to further enhance audience engagement through interactive and intuitive activities whenever we conduct talks and workshops. Who says getting tips on Financial Management can’t be fun?
Though I am no longer doing counselling, in my current role I still get to meet debt distressed individuals. I can relate to the anxiety, tremendous stress, and sense of hopelessness they faced while trying to regain control of their finances and seeking a way out of their predicament.
My advice to anyone facing debt distress – Don’t be afraid or shy to ask for help, with the correct approach and mindset, it is possible for anyone to overcome debt issues. Come forward and reach out to CCS!
Contributed by Firdaus, Credit Counselling Singapore.
Published 31 March 2023