It’s tough enough being a single mother supporting three kids. The stigma of being an ex-offender only adds to the challenge. “My biggest difficulty was overcoming stigma to land a job,” said Ramona Binte Rahman, who was released from prison earlier this year.
Resolving to Change
Ramona first abused drugs to distract herself from her financial woes. Shortly after, the law caught up with her and she was sentenced to the Drug Rehabilitation Centre. “Abusing drugs is my biggest regret,” she recalled. “Being separated from my kids is a pain I never want to experience again.”
Ramona also had practical worries arising from her imprisonment. Her mother was the sole breadwinner for the family, juggling her job with looking after Ramona’s three young children.
Knowing this inspired Ramona to be a better mother herself, and to turn over a new leaf. “Being there to support your kids, both spiritually and financially, is the responsibility of any decent mother,” she said.
An Employer (and Colleagues) with Heart
Ramona was recommended to join Wingstop Singapore as part of the Career Trial (CT) Programme. Initiated by the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE) in collaboration with Workforce Singapore (WSG), the Programme places ex-offenders on short-term work stints that allow employers to assess their job suitability.
Mr Chia Tze Yong, Director of Wingstop Singapore, is committed to giving ex-offenders a fair shot when they apply for jobs. “Of course they’ve made mistakes; that’s what makes us human,” he said. “But I believe ex-offenders deserve a second chance, just like everyone else.”
Ramona’s rehabilitative journey hasn’t been without challenges, such as getting used to the hours of the F&B industry. “I was also nervous about entering a new working environment,” she added.
Her colleagues quickly allayed her fears. “They’ve been nothing short of encouraging, and this has inspired me to continually give my best at work,” said Ramona.
Her supervisors were also mindful of her needs at home. “Ramona was assigned the nine-to-five shift as much as possible,” explained Mr Chia, “to make it easier for her to care for her children.”
Ramona’s efforts have paid off; she’s amongst the first batch of ex-offenders who successfully completed the CT Programme and received full-time employment. “I’m grateful beyond words to Wingstop Singapore for giving me a second chance at life,” she said. “I can finally put my past behind me and start afresh, with my children by my side.”
Through Ups and Downs
Appearances can be deceiving. With his shy smile and mild manner, it’s hard to believe that Joe (not his real name) has struggled with drug abuse for most of his life. His troubles began as a youth, and multiple jail terms failed to deter him. But Joe finally came to his senses when his only son gave him a grandchild.
Joe’s final prison term was a time for reflection for him. He decided to renounce drugs once and for all, in memory of his late wife, who’d passed away before he started serving his sentence then. “The worst part of imprisonment Is losing your freedom,” he said. “For me, it has meant losing the chance to be with my family.”
Determined to Make a Fresh Start
Based on his interest in working in the logistics sector, Joe was recommended to join SCORE’s CT Programme. Upon his release, he rejoined the logistics industry, a sector that he’d worked in previously, but with a twist – having done warehouse duties before, he was now assigned to work at a cold store for frozen items.
At first, he found the change difficult. “I would unload frozen food and carry them into the freezer room,” he shared. “The heavy loads and extreme temperature fluctuations were really challenging, and I almost quit on my first day.”
But Joe thought of his family and found a renewed conviction to not throw in the towel. “I’d blown my previous chances to change,” he recalled. “This time, I decided not to fail myself by dropping out.”
Having successfully completed the CT Programme and gotten a full-time job, Joe has gained much more than simply employment. “Many of my colleagues also happen to be close friends,” he said. “They provide a listening ear and give me good advice, helping me to make better life choices rather than turn to drugs.”
Joe’s duties keep him busy for much of the week, and he remains focused on what’s most important to
him now – his family. “I look forward to spending my off-days enjoying meals and
movies together with my son and grandchild,” he said with a smile.
SCORE’s Career Trial Programme
Since November 2018, SCORE has collaborated with WSG on a six-month pilot programme to place ex-offenders on the Career Trial (CT) Programme, with the aim of improving the job-matching and retention for ex-offenders.
Offered under WSG’s Adapt and Grow initiative, the Programme seeks to strengthen employment outcomes for short-term work stints, and to help ex-offenders navigate challenges in the workforce.
As of end-March 2019, 31 employers have come on board the CT Programme and benefitted 41 ex-offenders. After the pilot phase, SCORE will work with WSG to extend the CT Programme to more sectors.
Singapore Prison Service-SCORE Corporate Advance 2019
Read the speech delivered by Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs, at the SPS-SCORE Corporate Advance 2019.
Fatris Bin Jasmin
2 May 2019