Ms Khairiyah Kassim is on a mission to give ex-offenders and delinquents in Singapore a new lease of life
By Ratna Ramli
August 6, 2019
While many of us socialised with friends and caught up with the latest pop culture trends when we were 18, Ms Khairiyah Kassim spent her free time mentoring at-risk youth.
“Growing up, I accompanied my mum when she volunteered with local community organisations. I witnessed how they helped others and developed an inclination to want to help others as well,” she says. She started volunteering with Mendaki’s Youth-In-Action programme when she was in junior college. Targeted at those aged between 10 and 17, the programme is designed to help young people build confidence and character, and nurture their leadership potential.
These volunteering efforts opened her eyes to the challenges that Singaporean youths with difficult life circumstances face. She remembers sitting helplessly through a biology lecture in junior college, unable to assist her pre-teen mentee when she received news earlier that morning that he had been sent to the Singapore Boys’ Home, a juvenile residential home.
Determined to help individuals like him turn their lives around and spurred by her curiosity about human behaviour, Ms Khairiyah decided to pursue a degree in psychology at Nanyang Technological University, and joined the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) as a prison psychologist after graduating in 2009.
The 33-year-old shares her thoughts about her decade of experience in this field.
Working with offenders has been a humbling experience. I am always reminded that we are all humans with a unique story, and I believe that social factors can help to facilitate change in offenders.
My work includes forensic assessments; psychological interventions; research; programme development and evaluation; training and consultation; and administrative and managerial tasks. One of the projects that I led was the development of specialised training packages for prison officers — to increase the positive impact of their interactions with offenders.
I was offered the opportunity by SPS and was privileged to have my postgraduate studies sponsored by them and the Ministry of Home Affairs.
I knew I needed to upgrade myself, especially after several years in the service. I chose clinical psychology as I desired the rigour of the programme and find value in learning about mental health, a core subject in the curriculum. The programme’s flexibility is also ideal as it allows me to balance my career ambitions and personal commitments as a mother of two. In the past two and a half years, I did a combination of full-time work and part-time studies; took study leave from work for full-time studies; and balanced part-time work and part-time studies.
I never imagined that I could survive juggling these roles. But I prepared by seeking advice and tips from fellow working mothers. I also have a strong support system in my family and friends. It helps that my partner is understanding and manages our two young children while I am busy studying.
It increases my knowledge and hones my skills as a practitioner of clinical psychology.
The programme has also broadened my perspective and improved my therapeutic and analytical skills, which can be applied to issues and cases.
It helps you to be a better version of yourself so you can better the lives of others. Through the programme, I have grown wiser and learnt to reflect on becoming a better person.
MASTER OF PSYCHOLOGY (CLINICAL)
Accredited by the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC)
James Cook University Singapore
Full-time: two years
Part-time: four years