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The Heart of SACA Volunteers
It’s all about taking that first step to support ex-offenders and their families. Nicole Ong and Clara Yap share their experiences as volunteers with the Singapore After-Care Association (SACA).

Nicole Ong, 42, has been a volunteer with the Singapore After-Care Association (SACA) for 12 years. This year, at the SACA Appreciation Night, she was presented with the Outstanding Volunteer Award in recognition of her contributions.

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“As a volunteer, when you hear successful cases, you feel motivated,” said Nicole Ong. PHOTO: Olivier Lee

One of her most memorable experiences as a SACA volunteer was organising a bonding event at MacRitchie Reservoir Park a few years ago for clients (who are serving their home detention) and their families. “We began the session with a series of friendly games,” Nicole recalled. “I felt a sense of satisfaction because I could see that our clients and their families were playing together, which shows acceptance. The children really enjoyed spending time with their parents.”It was an urge to help others that made Nicole become a SACA volunteer. “I learnt about SACA when I was surfing the Internet,” said the 42-year-old. “I wanted to channel my free time into doing something meaningful.”

Wanting to do more, Nicole then volunteered for the Initiative for Incarcerated Mothers and Affected Children, a programme under SACA. Besides conducting home visits to assist caregivers and children, she also provides support by recommending resources such as those offered by the Fei Yue Family Service Centre, the Ministry of Education Financial Assistance Scheme and The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.

“We can help our clients in different ways, be it emotionally or by referring them to organisations that can provide financial aid,” said Nicole. “One case involved a grandmother who is the caregiver for her grandchildren because her daughter is currently serving a prison sentence. Sometimes, we just lend a listening ear and give them the emotional support they need.”

For Nicole, the hope for positive change is constant. “I believe in second chances because we all make mistakes,” she added. “Don’t judge a person based on his or her past. With an open heart and mind, we can see how someone can become a new and changed person.”

Walking with Her Clients

“I chose to volunteer with SACA because I was confident that I can help our clients with my skills and resources,” said Clara Yap, who has been volunteering with SACA for 18 years.

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“Volunteering provides vital help to people in need and it gives me a sense of meaning and purpose in life,” said Clara Yap. PHOTO: SACA

Clara’s journey as a SACA volunteer began when her friend signed her up after seeing a call for volunteers in The Straits Times. For 18 years now, Clara has been assisting with her clients’ reintegration into society. One of which was through the facilitation of SACA’s Coping Skill sessions, which ended in 2014.

These sessions are conducted in a group setting. To gain her clients’ trust, Clara, 53, emphasises how she is focused on helping them to persevere and move forward with their lives. “I am passionate about facilitating group work because I want to help clients from different age groups,” she said.

Clara ensures that her clients know about resources and agencies that can assist them with issues close to their hearts, such as skills training and employment. During her sessions, she also helps to improve their communication skills so that they can better engage with their families and the community.

“The group work also includes anger management and choice theory,” explained Clara. “I conduct role-playing activities with our clients so that they are able to reflect, and learn.”

One common concern of Clara’s clients is their need to better themselves and upgrade their skills in preparation for their release. Clara addresses this by encouraging her clients to be thirsty for knowledge and to constantly improve themselves. “I tell them that we are the captains of our own lives,” she said. “In order to lead a better life, we need to steer in the right direction.”

Click here to read more Volunteers' stories.
© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Jamie Ang
  2. 30 November 2017
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