What are some of your favourite childhood memories?
A fun-filled overseas trip with your family? Watching a particular television show or cartoon? Running at the playground with your friends?
Chances are, your favourite childhood memories will be very different from Danial Hakim’s.
After all, the 27-year-old’s most cherished memories from his childhood are of him playing with the intellectually disabled from MINDS (Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore).
For Danial, the time spent interacting closely with the beneficiaries of MINDS - which came about whenever he accompanied his mother to her work events at the voluntary welfare organisation - helped open his eyes to the lives of the intellectually disabled, and allowed him to gain a better understanding of how they saw the world.
Danial (second from left) was one of the Honorees of the ZICO Advisory's ASEAN 40 under 40 initiative.
Crucially, his positive experiences with the MINDS beneficiaries helped spark Danial’s interest in community work.
“I had an awesome time with them,” Danial said. “We all became friends, and it was fun just hanging out together. I think that kick-started my appreciation for those who are less fortunate, but not with pity, or in a patronising way.”
“Ultimately though, my passion to help others was cultivated from an accumulation of experiences, like when I witnessed close friends go through financial and familial troubles, or when I worked and interacted with those who are less fortunate."
“For me, it boils down to a sense of duty, a larger sense of collective responsibility – that if we are able to give back to others in any way possible, we should.”
Danial’s firm belief in giving back to society has endured till today.
That is why Danial, a trained lawyer who currently works as a policy-maker in the public sector and is part of the Public Service Leadership Programme, continues to involve himself heavily in community work despite his busy schedule.
Danial speaking at the MENDAKI Club Legal Mentorship Event.
From mentoring and befriending youth drug offenders at the Community Rehabilitation Centre (CRC), to working with Malay-Muslim organisations such as MENDAKI and the People's Association Malay Activity Executive Committees Council (MESRA) on community events, Danial actively chooses to volunteer across multiple sectors, as he believes in contributing to the different segments of society.
Danial highlights the free legal clinic that he set up in Jurong Spring with four other lawyers as the community initiative he is proudest of.
Started in September 2016, the legal clinic, which is open once every month, allows residents living in the area to consult Danial and his partners on any legal matters they need help in, without having to pay a single cent.
“There are always people who require social aid in terms of municipal and legal issues, especially in areas they are not familiar with,” Danial said. “The demand for legal advice is there, but the challenge was more the process of making the clinic a reality."
Danial (second row, second from left) mentoring students at the Jurong Central Community Leadership Programme.
“The clinic was my first large-scale collaboration with community partners, and it eventually became a springboard for me to launch many more initiatives later on, like organising leadership programmes for secondary school students in the area."
“The process of opening the clinic also taught me a lot about how to build such initiatives from scratch, and actually get it going at the community level.”
Danial credits his experience in the National University of Singapore (NUS), where he studied law, for equipping him with the skills to undertake such community projects.
“The soft skills that I picked up from my legal training in NUS, such as reasoning and negotiating, definitely came in handy in my community work,” Danial said. “It has helped me to handle stakeholders appropriately, which has been useful in my career.”
Taking on leadership roles in NUS - Danial was President of the NUS Law Club, as well as vice-chairperson of the Freshman Orientation Camp committee - also helped him learn key people management skills.
Danial (fifth from right) with members of the NUS Law Club.
And, thanks to the rigour of the (NUS Law) syllabus, Danial was able to build a strong foundation in a wide variety of legal subjects.
"Overall, studying in NUS allowed me to learn more about myself, and that made me the person I am today. It was, quite simply, a transformative experience," added Danial.
Having graduated from NUS in 2016, Danial continues to maintain a close relationship with his alma mater whereby current law undergraduates volunteer at the legal clinic.
Through this partnership, which sees NUS Law students get first-hand experience in handling various legal issues, Danial hopes to do his part in helping to groom the next generation of lawyers.
"We try to guide the students who come down to our clinic, to get them involved not only in the legal aspects, but also to try and answer their questions about school, the industry or any concerns they might have about their academic or future prospects,” said Danial.
"The other lawyers and I are of different ages and career backgrounds, so we are able to share different perspectives of life in the working world with the students."
"For me, I hope to be a positive example for my juniors - firstly, by showing them that pursuing a law degree does not mean that your future and happiness only lies in the legal industry."
Danial (fourth from right) and his schoolmates posing for a candid graduation shoot at Marina Barrage.
“Secondly, I hope to inspire them to use the knowledge and experiences they have garnered from university to contribute back to society, and make a positive impact on the lives of others.”
Danial added that he still keeps in touch with some of these NUS Law juniors, and occasionally meets them for coffee or a meal. He also makes it a point to join the Muslim lawyers and Law students every year, during Ramadhan, to break fast together.
While community work is “meaningful”, Danial acknowledges that it can also lead to disappointment. Despite that, he remains steadfast in his resolve to touch as many lives as he can.
"Of course, there will be highs and lows in the process of giving back to society,” Danial admitted. “But, even when your efforts do not pay off, there is still much you can learn and gain from these experiences - the connections and new friendships I get to make, especially across generations, races and religions, while doing these (community) activities are what bring me great joy."
“The fulfilment from knowing that the work you do has managed to help others is the best feeling one can get.”