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Where the Heart Is: Saluting Our Home Team Mums (Part 1)
Navigating the new normal by giving their very best at work and home.

Due to COVID-19, homes have been turned into classrooms for children, and offices for their parents. In this Mother’s Day Special, we speak to mums in the Home Team who are navigating this new normal. <3

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GRAPHIC: Home Team News

LYE SIEW LING, Assistant Director (Strategic Planning), Planning and Organisation Division, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)

Siew Ling is among the Home Team volunteers who’ve stepped forward in the fight against COVID-19. As a volunteer with the Forward Assurance Support Team (FAST), she’s been assisting with efforts to help foreign workers at dormitories since April 2020. 

“Our fellow Home Team officers and other frontliners have worked hard over prolonged periods since COVID-19 emerged,” says Siew Ling. “So when the call for FAST volunteers came, I felt the need to step forward and do my part.”

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Siew Ling with her two children. PHOTOS: Lye Siew Ling

As part of her FAST duties, Siew Ling works alongside Home Team officers and officers from the Ministry of Manpower to ensure that the meals, medical needs and welfare of foreign workers are taken care of. It’s quite different from her strategic planning portfolio, but Siew Ling has taken it all in stride. “It’s been a very meaningful and fulfilling experience,” she says.

With a daughter in primary school and a son in preschool, Siew Ling has had to make adjustments to her routine during this period to accommodate her FAST duties, family time and Home-Based Learning. 

“I set aside as much quality time as possible with my family on the weekends,” she explains. “Before the circuit breaker, we often went to beaches, parks and nature reserves. But nowadays, my husband and I engage our children in ‘back to basic’ activities at home, like creating artwork with recyclable materials.”

A Better Version of Ourselves
It’s the little moments during these challenging times that keep Siew Ling’s spirits up. A question as simple as, “How are you doing?” from her children make a huge difference to her. They’ve also expressed their love by making cards and wrapping their toys up as gifts for her.

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PHOTOS: Lye Siew Ling
“I’m very heartened to receive their affection, and what I love most about children is their simplicity and sincerity,” says Siew Ling. “I appreciate their honest, often unwitting, feedback, which prompts me to reflect on what I can do better. Being a mother makes me want to be a better version of myself, so I can be a role model for my children.”
– By Tiffany Tan

TRICIA ORTEGA, Senior Director, Training and Competency Development Division, MHA
With COVID-19 circuit breaker measures in place, this year’s Mother’s Day is unlike any other. For many families, work and family life have mostly been confined to one space (apart from the occasional grocery run). 

For Tricia, one priority is making sure her four children (aged nine to 17) are meaningfully engaged at home. That’s why she encourages them to take this time to learn outside the classroom. “My husband and I have been reinforcing scientific concepts by showing the kids how they apply in everyday life, like life cycles and germination through gardening; how gears work on bicycles, and so on," says Tricia. "Learning never stops, even during this circuit breaker period." 

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All geared up for learning. PHOTO: Tricia Ortega
This is a message that Tricia's equally committed to at work. As Senior Director of MHA’s Training and Competency Development Division, she leads a team of officers to encourage and spur learning culture within MHA. 

“We’ve ramped up our efforts to encourage our Home Team officers to make use of this period to upskill,” she explains. “Many quality providers have made their online resources and courses free, to help us spend our time at home meaningfully, from Harvard online courses to learning the secrets of being a Disney Imagineer. One of our initiatives is the Home Team Learning Circle @ Workplace, an online platform that pulls these resources together and lets Home Team officers connect and engage with one another through learning.”  

Making It Work
At home, Tricia has crafted a timetable for her younger children that sets out rest, reading and meal times, to provide them with structure. Another pro-tip she offers is to carve out individual spaces for her children to do their own work – “So they don’t get in each other’s hair!” 

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A time (and place) for family and work. PHOTO: Tricia Ortega
All of Tricia’s children are engaged in Home-Based Learning, an online extension of school, with two discernible differences – the absence of physical classrooms and the addition of a full-time, at-home tutor: mum! 

“My two younger ones in Primary School do come running to consult me on things they don’t understand, or schoolwork they don’t know how to do,” says Tricia. “But when I’m on a video conference, I shut the door and they know they either have to wait, or ask their siblings or father instead.”

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Family time! PHOTO: Tricia Ortega

When her children ask her about her own duties, Tricia makes it a point to explain what the Home Team does. “Like when we watch the news or read the newspapers, for example,” she says. “This helps them to better understand and appreciate why work for us in the Home Team never stops.” 
– By Rachel Sin

Happy Mother’s Day to our dedicated Home Team mums. Thank you for all you do! 

Read Where the Heart Is: Saluting Our Home Team Mums (Part 2)


© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Rachel Sin and Tiffany Tan
  2. 08 May 2020
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