Published: 11 October 2019
Commissioner Desmond Chin,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I’m very happy to be here. Today, we are here to honour you - our volunteers, members of the community. Thank you for the work that you have done, your selfless dedication in serving people. In particular, the most vulnerable among us. The work that you do is very, very important. It is a noble mission, and it’s one that I feel very strongly about. I’m very happy to be part of today’s celebrations.
2. The theme for this year’s award ceremony is a “Kaleidoscope of Heroes”. You come from all walks of life, diverse backgrounds. I met many of you and you come from all walks of life. There are many familiar faces, but I’m also happy to see new faces. More new people are joining us, and inspired by the work that you do to continue this very important mission. With your diverse skills, diverse backgrounds, you’re better able to reach out to offenders, who also come from different situations, different backgrounds.
3. It is most rewarding to see how your individual contributions come together beautifully, like the patterns you see when looking through a kaleidoscope. Together, we further a common mission.
4. Many of you here channel your personal time and energy to help offenders get back on track. I think each of us come in with a certain fear of thinking whether we have something to contribute, thinking whether we can give. When we get through that, get past our vulnerabilities and our weakness, to contribute to a bigger cause. I think one of the persons interviewed in video we saw just now, said that this is a recycling business. I think it’s a very appropriate term. It is about recycling, it is about giving people hope. We recycle to something bigger and better; and I think it’s very meaningful work.
Dedication and Contributions of Volunteers
5. There are three things that I want to highlight. The first is the unwavering dedication of our volunteers.
6. Some of you are religious counsellors, academic tutors, motivational speakers, Befrienders, and the list goes on. But no matter what your role is, you represent, more importantly, a symbol of our society’s willingness to give offenders a second chance –to give them hope, to let them know that when they are released, there is someone at the other side welcoming them, receiving them, letting them know that they continue to have a place. I think that is a very important signal.
7. So, thank you very much for stepping up, for instilling hope in their lives and for inspiring them to change for the better.
8. For many of you, what keeps you going is knowing that you have made a real difference in their lives. Tonight, 350 volunteers will be receiving the Long Service Award. This award is a very small gesture of appreciation to recognise your many years of selfless dedication and contributions.
9. I would like to share the stories of two volunteers.
10. The first is Zuraini. She is very special. When I read about her profile, what is most interesting about her is that she was an ex-offender herself. She knew the difficulties that offenders face, having been there and done that. She successfully went through the reintegration journey. Upon her release seven years ago, she gave back and decided to counsel people who are down in life and get them back on track by sharing her experience and sharing her personal story.
11. I think this is very important. This is very effective and it also shows that we have done well to get people like her who believe in the system, who have been through the system, to come back with a conviction and on her own time, to send a message of hope and encourage people who are undergoing this process to get through it. I think that is a very powerful statement. Thank you Zuraini, you will be receiving the Five-year Long Service Award. Thank you very much.
12. Another volunteer here with us today is Mr John Lee. He was first inspired to volunteer in prisons in 1984. He believes strongly in second chances and wanting to help offenders have a second chance, or turn over a new leaf. So he began volunteering with Prison Fellowship Singapore to run Christian religious programmes for offenders for the past 35 years.
13. John’s passion for this noble mission of rehabilitating offenders extends beyond the prison walls. He believes that continued engagement with the offenders, after they re-join society, is key to breaking the cycle of re-offending. In John’s own words: “It is about walking with them, and showing them a different way, and helping them to believe”. So, please join me in applauding John for his 35 years of service.
14. There are many of such stories, I’m only sharing two. Each of you have your own special stories. I think what is important is for these stories to be heard not just in this hall but outside.So that more people will join us because there are many others in prison, who may need the support and who need that encouragement, and with your unique backgrounds have a way of reaching out, letting them know that there is hope, and there is something that they can work together.
Community Partners Championing the Throughcare Approach
15. The second thing we are celebrating tonight is how our community partners and volunteers have internalised and are now championing the throughcare approach alongside Prisons. This has made a tangible difference in the lives of offenders.
16. What is throughcare? Throughcare is a holistic and start-to-end approach to help the offender. From the time he enters prison, during his incarceration, to his release and return to society. So without the strong support of our community partners and volunteers, it would not have been possible for Prisons alone to implement such a comprehensive approach.
17. I am heartened to see our volunteers applying with their heart, this concept in the design of their programmes.
18. Let me share briefly about the Industrial and Services Co-operative Society (ISCOS)’s Kawan-Kawan Programme. Volunteers and trainers start engaging the offenders in prisons, through practical life skills classes such as stress and money management and team-building activities. Upon their release, the same group of volunteers and trainers run support groups for these offenders. Such continuity is essential in building rapport and trust. It provides a consistent presence and it provides that steady encouragement. As such, this is a good programme because it builds relationships. I’m happy that we are helping our offenders to build these pro-social networks which carry on into their community and provide stability and that continuity of presence.
19. Other examples of programmes that are similarly designed with a throughcare approach are the Singapore After-Care Association (SACA)’s craftwork and befriending sessions for women offenders, and the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (SANA)’s Step-up programme. I’d like to take this opportunity to commend our community partners for adopting the throughcare approach, and hope that more will come on board to do the same.
A Common Goal
20. Thirdly, we use this occasion to celebrate our journey together and celebrate how we have grown in strength. We are working together for a shared mission, to help offenders rehabilitate and reintegrate back into society. We can only succeed if we support each other and work together. The set-up of the FITRAH Office clearly illustrates this.
21. Since its launch in May 2019, the FITRAH Office provides support services to Muslim offenders and their families. What is heartening is that how this unit comes about is not just by itself on its own, but it leverages on extensive experience by various groups, from Prison Fellowship Singapore, SANA, SACA and ISCOS, together with MHA, Prisons, MUIS and other Muslim organisations, came together to offer their support and to pitch ideas together. To come up with programmes that have worked in your various units and departments and suggesting for FITRAH to take on.
22. One good example is the Prison Fellowship Singapore’s throughcare ministry that has been adopted by FITRAH where FITRAH volunteers receive inmates on their release. I think this is a wonderful programme and tells our offenders when they are released that they have someone that they can rely on.
23. I congratulate all for their support and congratulate FITRAH for their willingness to learn from others and others in our CARE Network for their generosity and openness in sharing their knowledge and experience. So, thank you very much.
24. In summary, I strongly support all of you to find synergies in your work and support each other where possible so that we can collectively bring about a greater positive impact in the lives of offenders and their families.
25. This evening, we honour our heroes – all of you our volunteers – and your selfless contributions and your sacrifice. We honour our valued community partners who work alongside Prisons towards this meaningful mission and we celebrate our community spirit and collective achievement, as we grow from strength to strength, united by our common mission.
26. As a Prisons volunteer, it is not uncommon to encounter offenders with seemingly insurmountable family situations, or offenders who return to prison repeatedly despite our best efforts. But it is important that we do not give up and keep on trying. As there may come a time or moment where things may just happen. I think that in many instances when people opened up to receive help and they reintegrate back to society. It takes courage and it takes determination to serve as a Prisons volunteer and to do it well.
27. So, on behalf of the Singapore Prison Service, the offenders and their loved ones, I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all of you for your invaluable contributions.
28. I wish you all a pleasant evening ahead and congratulations to all award winners.
29. Thank you.