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Second Chances: Stories from the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 2019
Beating drugs with the support of friends, and a love of music.

SPS YRPR 2019 Azmi and Sara 01
PHOTOS: Jade Tan

What goes into a second chance? 

For ex-offenders, this is what the Yellow Ribbon Project seeks to provide. Now in its 11th year, the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run has become an annual rallying point for the public to unite in their support for ex-offenders, and celebrate second chances. We spoke to two of this year’s Run participants to learn their stories. From the power of the community to the joy of music, this is what second chances mean to them.

All in This Together
For second-year participant Mr Azmi bin Rahman, the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run is a symbol of redemption. Previously incarcerated for two drug-related offences, Azmi has dedicated the two years since his release to giving back to the community, using his experiences to guide those unaware of the dangers of drug abuse. 

Home Team News YR Run 2019 Second Changes 1
PHOTO: Jade Tan

Azmi first participated in the Run last year, taking a relaxed walk while many of his friends ran with passion. Seeing these friends turn over a new leaf, he was inspired to join again this year to run with more effort, and to not let them or himself down. 

Sometimes, it takes a courageous first step to create change. For Azmi, this step was joining the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (SANA), where he now works as a Peer Leader.

It’s the small connections that make second chances worthwhile, and which help little things to become huge changes. Azmi knows this best from his own stories, one of which involved a 55-year-old friend who was prone to relapse.

“He’s been in and out of prison six to seven times, and now, he calls me every morning,” says Azmi. “We motivate each other and make sure we’re on the right path. I know that when someone has relapsed, he doesn’t call me for one or two weeks, and if that happens, we help each other and pull him back.”

Home Team News YR Run 2019 Second Changes 2
Azmi (second from left) with his buddies from the Reforming Support Group, always ready to make a change. PHOTO: Jade Tan

To Azmi, this sense of community is more important than anything else. By remembering to help one another, the community creates a healthy chain reaction, where support naturally extends from one person to another. As he puts it: “No matter how tough things are, there will always be positives somewhere.” 

Azmi and his team at the Reforming Support Group (which collaborates with SANA) aim to create these positives by raising awareness about the dangers of drugs and running support groups for those in need. Having once been in their shoes, Azmi knows that a lack of knowledge can be more dangerous than anything else, especially to vulnerable youths. 

Rediscovering Her Calling
Sara’s road to rehabilitation allowed her to rediscover her love of music. 

Caught in a toxic relationship two years ago, Sara was led into a downward spiral of drug abuse. “You can get pretty unproductive when you’re not careful,” she admits. “In the end, it’s about how you look at things, and how you make the most out of your time.” 

Sara was determined to turn her life around. While serving her sentence for drug-related offences, she took part in several National Youth Achievement Award programmes and completed her O-Levels with three As, topping her cohort. “There’s no going back for me,” she proclaims proudly. 

Home Team News YR Run 2019 Second Changes 3
PHOTO: Jade Tan

With a passion for music and the performing arts, Sara also won the 2017 Yellow Ribbon Songwriting Competition with a song inspired by the theme "beyond here." After a series of well-received performances, she cemented her place as the sole resident female performer with the Singapore Prison Service’s Performing Arts Centre band.

Family was the cornerstone of Sara’s rehabilitation. Despite undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, Sara’s mother continued to visit her regularly, urging her to persevere. In return, Sara was inspired to write a song for her mother. 

Home Team News YR Run 2019 Second Changes 4
Beyond here: Performing a song of change at the Rehabilitation Fair. PHOTOS: Jade Tan

With this motivation, Sara’s performance at the Run was also one of her favourites. Together with Prison officers and other inmates, she delivered a spirited performance, running through classic tunes as well as singing her own compositions. 

Currently a resident of  The Turning Point halfway house, Sara works as an administrator in the music industry and aspires to complete a diploma in songwriting. Sharing the most important thing she learnt from her experiences, she concludes: “Just know yourself.” 

Check out our photo feature on the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 2019.
© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Soo Jun Xiang
  2. 03 October 2019
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