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Finding Jobs for Ex-Offenders – And So Much More
Tough clients, inspiring stories and life lessons – two years into the job, Sonam Damani shared how being a job coach for ex-offenders has allowed her to work with the lesser-known segment of society and how it has broadened her perspectives.

“I wanted to see what they really went through and what challenges they faced”, said Sonam Damani, 25. A Psychology graduate, she was intrigued by the group of people that people rarely talk about – ex-offenders.

Sonam is a job coach at the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE). She helps her clients, ex-offenders, to find gainful employment opportunities after their release from prison.

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Sonam Damani has been a job coach for two years – in that span of time she’s learnt a lot from her different encounters and experiences. PHOTO: Aizil Rahim

And the job isn’t easy – while her main focus is employment, many of her clients come out from prison with various needs and personal struggles. Many of them have no accommodation, family support or finances – these challenges have to be managed first, before job coaches can focus on finding jobs for them.

“Though we aren’t counsellors, they tend to share a lot of their personal issues with us. Our work is so much more than just finding employment. We help them cope with their personal issues too, making sure that they stay on the right path,” she said.

Her aim as a job coach then, is to help them become contributing members to society in any way possible.

“Once they’ve managed to find a stable job, reconnect with their families and develop healthy interests that prevent them from relapsing, I can safely say that they’ve made it” she said.

Over the years, Sonam has learned how to handle the challenges she faced while dealing with clients.

“Initially, older clients take me less seriously because I’m younger – they feel like they’ve seen and done more than I have. Over time, I’ve learnt to be firm and professional when working with them,” she quipped.

In order to overcome this, she says that it’s crucial to build rapport with them. This allows her to gain their trust, making it easier for them to share problems that they might otherwise keep from others.

“I’m kaypoh lah so I ask them a lot of questions and try to get to know them better – it’s important because the more willing they are to share their problems, the better we know how to help them,” she said.

Though challenging at times, Sonam says that it’s inspiring to see them hold proper jobs and flourish despite having their own setbacks.

One client she was particularly inspired by was a woman who managed to overcome her painful past and exceeded expectations by performing well at her job.

“Despite the physical abuse she had been through, she still adopted an outlook that everything would eventually be okay… She never missed a day of work and was never late and they eventually promoted her 6 months into the job, which is a feat for many ex-offenders,” she said.

Job coaches manage an average of 60 cases at any given time. This means managing demanding expectations from her clients and their employers. But the job has taught her two things.

“Be grateful and be patient – I’ll never truly understand what they go through. I can only see it from a third person perspective. But they go through it, and more, on a daily basis – it’s only fair that I treat each of them with the respect and dignity they deserve."

© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Muhamad Khair
  2. 14 September 2017
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