Early in her career as a social worker, Ms Nisha Sanjay Verma (left) encountered two siblings – aged 11 and eight – who came from a home where their father would physically abuse them and often threaten to kill their mother.
Stirred to action, Ms Verma, 27, successfully moved the two children and their mother to a safer environment. In the process, she formed a close bond with the kids, who keep in touch with her to this day.
Experiences like this have inspired Ms Verma, a manager at the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s Child Protective Service, to help abused children.
She was one of three social workers honoured at the annual Outstanding Social Worker Awards on Nov 17. The award is the top honour bestowed on social workers here.
After receiving the Promising Social Worker Award from President Tharman Shanmugaratnam at the Istana, Ms Verma told tabla!: “This award is a testament to all my dedication that I have put in for the last five years. I am feeling honoured and humbled to have chosen this field.”
Ms Verma, who has been a child protection officer for three years, told The Straits Times that what keeps her going is the desire to make a difference in a child’s life.
“Children are very dependent on their parents and often, they can’t protect themselves. So I want to give them a voice and protect them from danger.”
Another case that moved her deeply involved an 11-year-old girl who was the sole caregiver of her seriously ill mother. The girl often skipped school just to see to the mother’s needs, Ms Verma said.
“Her mother was very fearful of others, and she had isolated herself and her daughter. When we first saw them, the house smelled of urine, there was barely any food, and medicine was scattered everywhere.”
Ms Verma and her colleagues persuaded the girl’s relatives to look after her, and persuaded the mother to receive treatment in hospital.
Although the mother died after a few months, Ms Verma said she was impressed by the resilience of the girl, who now lives with her relatives and attends school regularly.