Khairiah began as an intern at the Young Women’s Christian Association of Singapore (YWCA), an agency that meets the needs of society through active involvement in community services and various programmes and activities. Today, she’s a Social Worker who works with children aged seven to 13.
Heart and Hard Work
I think about enacting positive change often, and consequently, it’s shaped many of my life decisions. When I was 20, I pursued my degree, a Bachelor’s in Political Science, with the goal to drive change through policy-making as a career. However, I also wanted to gain on-ground insights about our community.
Intent on acquiring this knowledge, I volunteered at Bringing Love to Every Single Soul (BLESS), an organisation that provides opportunities for individuals to participate in community problem solving. There, I read to children at least once a week. Something in me shifted when I began to grow closer to my clients during our sessions as they started confiding in me. My clients would share with me their stories, and sometimes, problems in their lives.
I was happy to provide them with a listening ear and the occasional piece of advice or guidance whenever they needed it. During my time with BLESS, I found that I could connect with children easily, and realised that helping them this way was also deeply meaningful to me. This experience ultimately led me to embarking on an internship with YWCA.
Stepping into Social Service
My three-month internship was certainly different from volunteering because I was entrusted with organisational responsibilities, such as helping my team organise, plan and manage their programmes. It also gave me an up-close perspective of how the agency ran, and the ways in which we could improve our services to help others. Despite the short stint, the internship gave me both the insight and experience about a role in social service, and it cemented my decision to continue working in social service.
In 2017, I was offered the position of Community Service Executive, and I happily accepted. During that time, I worked as a programme coordinator for two of our main programmes. I also coordinated volunteers, and liaised with external facilitators, staff, parents or guardians, social workers and relevant school parties to ensure that different parties were kept informed of a child’s wellbeing and progress. Having developed a keen interest in social work, I pursued a graduate diploma in social work the year after so I would be able to become a qualified Social Worker.
Pillars of Support
My journey thus far has been wonderful, but I’d one particular hitch along the way, and that was my family. While generally encouraging in nature, my family was initially not fully aware of what my role entailed. I suspect it was the lack of social work exposure amongst my family members, and there existed the misconception of low wages and long hours that came with the work. However, as time went on, they could tell how much joy and fulfilment I received from the role, and they became increasingly supportive.
In fact, it took me by surprise one day when my mother announced that she was curious about my role and wanted to volunteer at YWCA. Needless to say, I was nervous about what she might think, but was excited to involve her in a large part of my life that had brought me much joy.
She volunteered for a programme that allowed her to mind infants for several hours, and I’m happy to say that she’s been on board ever since! She now actively and proudly advocates for my job with my family, and it warms my heart to know that the people I love is tremendously supportive of my career.
Changing the Tides for Others
That I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a supportive family, I aim to provide the same for my clients. While the fundamental function of my job is to manage and conduct programmes, I like to think that I also play an instrumental role of being a confidante and pillar of trust for many of my clients.
Some of them come from troubled backgrounds, and having an adult they can trust allows them to surface problems they may otherwise bottle up. These revelations then enable me to help them process their issues emotionally, and allow me to suggest ways or services in which YWCA may help.
Additionally, having an adult role model in their life also lets them emulate healthy traits so they may be influenced and empowered to make positive life decisions. For example, I once had a client who admitted that he felt like a failure because was worried he’d be retained in school, and that he felt hopeless about the course of his future. He found it difficult to believe that he would ultimately have a good career, and he felt bleak about life.
I quickly understood how he felt – simply because I had once been retained myself. I told my own story, and how it was vital not the see examinations as the be all end all of life, and what was important was that he tried his best. His outlook on life and school gradually improved afterwards, and I’m proud to say that he eventually passed his examinations, and progressed successfully thereafter.
Cases like these remind me the importance of working closely with my clients, and assuring them that they are not alone in their journeys of life.
Deepening One’s Understanding
Having connected with my clients deeply, I realised that I wanted to be more involved with their cases. In 2019, I completed my graduate diploma in social work, and I’m now a certified Social Worker who’s qualified to engage in case work with clients. While having the on-ground experience is important, I believe that gaining the necessary qualifications is just as crucial, for it equips us with the knowledge and skills to conduct social work.
As always, I look forward to continue working with my clients to enable them to grow into independent and happy adults.
A Social Worker is one of many roles in social service. To find out more, click here
Khairiah interacting with children at Young Women’s Christian Association of Singapore (YWCA).