What’s life like as an inmate?
That’s what drew Thomas Danny Jeyaseelan to the Singapore Prison Service’s Befriender Programme – pure curiosity, and the urge to help those in need. A Manager with the Singapore Science Centre, Thomas first heard about the Programme when he attended the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run in 2013. He has been a befriender ever since.
Befrienders are part of a network of committed volunteers who seek to foster meaningful relationships with inmates and ex-offenders in order to prepare them for a fresh start.
According to Thomas, most befriendees are well-mannered, extremely street-smart and easy to relate to as they share the same hopes and dreams as us. “Through active listening and reaffirming, we try to help them find new meaning in their lives,” he shared. “Most come out completely reformed, and the change in them is something really special.”
As part of the Befriender Enhancement Pilot programme, Thomas works with befriendees who are on Community-Based Programmes to support their reintegration after their release from prison. However, it isn’t always smooth sailing. Some supervisees become uncontactable upon release due to the challenge of establishing a new life.
“Some become disconnected from their families or have difficulties finding a job. This adds to their struggle of getting back on track,” said Thomas. “My hope is that at least some of the advice that I share with them will serve as a spark, and become transformative in the future.”
Despite his own busy professional schedule, Thomas makes sure to attend training that will help him as a befriender, such as courses on substance abuse and how to manage emotions. This dedication earned him the Home Team Volunteer Network Commendation Award this year.
“As with all commitments, we just need to make time for them,” he said. “I definitely encourage those with an interest in becoming a befriender to get into it and learn as much as they can.” – BY CHLOE LOWLionhearted Volunteer
Having served his National Service (NS) with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), Adam had no stronger desire than to continue this journey. “I didn't expect to join SCDF, but it truly was memorable!” recalled Adam of his NS days as a Fire Rescue Specialist.
One way that Adam has done so is by serving as the President of the Civil Defence Lionhearter Club at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. Besides sharing about emergency preparedness with his fellow students, Adam worked with other Civil Defence Lionhearter Clubs to share training materials and encourage cross participation in school-based events.
“It can be tough getting people to learn about emergency preparedness,” said Adam. “They don't feel it’s worthwhile to do so as you’ll only use them in dire situations. But this isn’t true at all!”
In 2018, Adam helped to raise funds during the SCDF Mercy Relief Cyclothon for disaster victims in Lombok, Indonesia. He also organised a food donation drive with Yishun Fire Station in June 2019 to provide food rations to 80 elderly residents.
Eager to do more to serve the community, Adam stepped forward to volunteer with the Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit, and was posted to Yishun Fire Station. “I volunteered to serve because I didn’t want to forget the knowledge that I’d attained as a Fire Rescue Specialist,” he shared.
One of the highlights of Adam’s volunteer experience was getting to work alongside SCDF Emergency Medical Technicians in conducting High-Performance Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (HPCPR) and other lifesaving skills. “This was the first time I’d performed HPCPR, and it left a deep imprint on me,” he shared.
For his contributions, Adam received the Home Team Volunteer Network Commendation Award. In September, his Home Team journey came full circle when he joined SCDF as an officer. “My NS and volunteer experiences made me realise how important the role of an SCDF officer is,” he said. “That’s why I want to serve!” – BY JOASH TAN
Written by Chloe Low and Joash Tan
5 November 2021