Published: 14 July 2019
Dr Jade Kua, President, Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association,
Mr Chng Hwee Hong, Chairman, Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprise,
Mr Desmond Chin, Commissioner, Singapore Prison Service,
Mr Goh Peng Tong (BBM), CCC Chairman, Taman Jurong,
Members of the SANA Board of Management,
Ladies and Gentleman,
A very good afternoon.
1. Thank you for joining me in launching Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association’s (SANA) Step-Up @Taman Jurong. I am happy that SANA is making its reintegration programmes and services more accessible to recovering drug abusers and their families who are staying in the Western part of Singapore.
ROLE OF SANA STEP-UP CENTRE
2. In July 2016, I launched SANA’s first Step-Up Centre, Step-Up @Sengkang. This was located at the Sengkang Community Hub, at the centre provides a purposeful environment to help recovering drug abusers and their families take first steps towards reintegration. Over 1,500 walk-in clients and families have benefitted from the programmes and services at Step-Up @Sengkang.
3. Given the positive reception at Step-Up @Sengkang, I asked SANA to consider setting up more centres to reach out to more people in recovery and their families in the community, particularly those who do not live in the vicinity of Sengkang. SANA’s regular dialogues with its clients and feedback received from the ground suggested there is a need for similar programmes and services among recovering drug abusers staying in other parts of Singapore. SANA studied the profile of its clients, and found that a sizeable number of people in need of assistance resided in the West and North areas of Singapore. A satellite Step-Up Centre model was conceptualised, to offer reintegration programmes and services for walk-in clients similar to Step-Up @Sengkang.
STEP-UP @ TAMAN JURONG
4. In partnership with Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and Fei Yue Family Service Centre, SANA co-located the Step-Up @Taman Jurong at the Social Service Office (SSO) @ Taman Jurong. Step-Up @Taman Jurong will serve residents in Jurong as a start and will progressively cover other areas in the West. In fact, SANA is already receiving walk-in clients who are staying in Boon Lay, Bukit Panjang and Clementi.
5. Since the commencement of Step-Up @Taman Jurong in January this year, the centre has received close to 100 walk-ins comprising recovering drug abusers and their families who require reintegration support, as well as youths seeking information on drug abuse. Programmes such as peer support counselling, employment assistance and tattoo removal help to give the clients a new beginning in their recovery journey.
6. I am glad that SANA is also using Step-Up @Taman Jurong as a means to reach out to youths for preventive drug education (PDE). This is a cornerstone of Singapore’s harm prevention strategy.
7. In a 2018 survey conducted by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to gauge public perception on the drug situation in Singapore, it was worrying to note that while there is strong support among the Singaporean population for Singapore’s anti-drug policies, youths hold a more liberal attitude towards drugs, particularly cannabis.
8. The young, who tend to be easily influenced by the growing acceptance of recreational drug use overseas, coupled with the glamorisation of so-called soft drugs on social media, many feel that is alright to experiment with cannabis because it is less addictive or harmful. Of course we know that is not true.
ROLE OF COMMUNITY IN REINTEGRATION
9. Step-Up @Taman Jurong is a good example of community collaboration in action to help recovering drug abusers overcome the stigma of their past incarceration. Being co-located within the SSO would allow SANA to refer clients who require social support assistance to the SSO and Silver Generation Office. Similarly, clients in need of family support services can be referred to Fei Yue Family Service Centre which is also co-located within SSO @ Taman Jurong. Likewise, should MSF and Fei Yue encounter clients requiring reintegration support, they can approach SANA for assistance. This is indeed a good model of a one-stop social, rehabilitation and reintegration support centre in the community.
10. The collaboration extends beyond the SSO environment to include other community partners. For instance, SANA works closely with the Taman Jurong division, and the Tasek Jurong Limited. Located at the Jurong Town Community Club, Tasek Jurong focusses on uplifting the socially disadvantaged community, including at-risk youths and former offenders. Tasek Jurong works with SANA to run programmes for at-risk youths and will refer potential clients to Step-Up @Taman Jurong for assistance.
11. A Futsal Tournament co-organised by SANA and Tasek Jurong as part of SANA’s Rise Above Campaign 2019 is currently taking place at a nearby Futsal court. Participants include at-risk youths, SANA’s clients and their families. I will be joining them later to encourage and support the teams.
12. I am indeed happy to note that the SANA volunteers are playing an active part in the recovery work. Every day, at least two volunteer para-counsellors will be stationed at Step-Up @Taman Jurong to provide counselling to the walk-in clients. Many of the volunteers do not stay around the area and need to travel from different parts of Singapore after work to volunteer at the centre.
13. Let us also not forget the contributions of the recovering drug abusers who are giving back to the community in their role as SANA Peer Leaders. They help co-facilitate the SANA Peer Support Groups and conduct outreach at schools to convey the anti-drug message to youths.
14. At this point, allow me to share a story about Zulkifli, a person in recovery whom SANA encountered at Step-Up @Taman Jurong. Zulkifli was one of the first few clients who walked into the centre after it opened and he has shown great commitment to his recovery by attending every support group and counselling session without fail. He has since made more than 20 visits to the centre to attend the sessions and made it a point to share the progress of his personal development with the para-counsellors during these sessions.
15. Zulkifli has also paid it forward by referring six new clients to the centre, and has taken up the responsibility of ensuring that his peers attend the support group sessions, even going to the extent of knocking on their doors if he could not reach them over the phone. Zulkifli does all these despite facing other personal challenges at home and work.
16. Zulkifli has also set up his own music band composed of other people in recovery. As a way of giving back to the community, he plans to use the band as a platform to spread anti-drug messages among the youths. This is the way in which we counter the glamourisation of drugs. We have people who despite their own tempests, have talent, and show that they are able to rise above. I think that is the essence of the SANA’s Rise Above Campaign. It does not matter who you are, and what abilities you have, but the fact that you do so much to overcome your adversities and challenges –that is what makes you so special and it is what we value you for. It is not so much the great music that you play, but it is despite all your hardship, you produce that music, and that, in itself, makes the music beautiful and meaningful.
17. To Zulkifli, and all of SANA’s partners and volunteers, I thank you for your contributions and for helping to make a difference. Without you, a great building like this would be meaningless, because at the end of the day, it is you that provide the personal touch, and it is your stories that matter, it is your music that lifts spirits, and it is you that will make all the difference. Thank you for partnering with us, let us do this together.
18. Thank you.