Published: 01 April 2022
Mr Teo Wee Wee
Chairman, Singapore Teochew Foundation
Mr Keith Tan
Vice Chairman, Yellow Ribbon Fund
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. A very good afternoon.
2. I’m very happy to be able to join you today. It is truly a pleasure for me to be invited to witness the generosity of yet another community partner, to help inmates and ex-offenders rebuild their lives.
Yellow Ribbon Fund
3. The Yellow Ribbon Fund (YRF), was launched in 2004 to fund programmes that improve the employability and self-sufficiency of inmates, ex-offenders and their families, and in this way, improve their rehabilitation and reintegration outcomes.
4. Since its inception, YRF has disbursed $17 million to support 54,000 beneficiaries through 46 different programmes.
Skills Training Assistance to Restart (STAR) Bursary
5. The Skills Training Assistance to Restart Bursary, or STAR Bursary, is one of the programmes under the YRF. It was launched in 2010. The STAR Bursary provides financial assistance to inmates and ex-offenders from low-income families who wish to pursue tertiary education, by subsidising up to 100% of the course fees.
6. In addition, recipients of STAR Bursaries can also apply for a living allowance. This puts them in a better financial situation to pursue their academic aspirations.
7. Since its inception, $2.5 million has been disbursed to over 230 beneficiaries.
8. Education is an important driver for successful rehabilitation. With education, inmates and ex-offenders have a better chance of securing employment and better economic and social opportunities for themselves and their families. This will help them desist from crime. For inmates, the pursuit of higher education enables them to spend their time in prison purposefully, acquiring discipline and focus while still incarcerated, and aids the process of reintegration back to the family. Quite a number of inmates shared with me that they are preparing for their exams in prison school while their children are preparing for their exams at home. This shared experience has helped at least three or four inmates I met to develop closer bonds with their family, especially their children. This is a result of the support that the inmates have received from SPS, YRSG and community partners
9. Let me share the story of “Thomas”. He was admitted to prison in 2009 and is currently 40 years old.
10. In 2017, “Thomas” was transferred to the Tanah Merah Prison School to pursue his studies. In 2018, he took his GCE ‘N’ Levels and obtained 5 distinctions. The next year, he took his GCE ‘O’ Levels and again obtained 5 distinctions. In 2020, “Thomas” went on to take his GCE ‘A’ Levels and obtained distinctions in General Paper and Economics.
11. When I met “Thomas”, I told him that he has achieved better than many people I know, including myself. Given his good track record, “Thomas” was awarded the STAR Bursary in 2021 for him to pursue a degree in Human Factors and Safety at the Singapore University of Social Sciences. Thus far, he has completed one semester, and has done well, obtaining A- and B+ for the two modules he took. Due to his good progress, he is pursuing three modules this semester. I am also happy to note that “Thomas” is well supported by his family in his education journey in prison.
12. “Thomas” is only one example of the many inmates and ex-offenders who are upgrading themselves through education. And this has been made possible with the support of our community partners.
Collaboration with Singapore Teochew Foundation
13. I am happy to announce that the Singapore Teochew Foundation has generously offered to contribute to this meaningful cause. Singapore Teochew Foundation has committed to fund $2 million over the next 10 years under the Singapore Teochew Foundation-YRF STAR Bursary. Their generosity will be able to help 100 beneficiaries, and in turn, 100 families.
14. My sincere thanks, and we greatly appreciate Singapore Teochew Foundation’s support. It increases the sustainability of the STAR Bursary and enhances the outreach of the programme, enabling more inmates to further their studies, and build a better future for themselves and their families.
Importance of Support from Community Partners
15. The Singapore Prison Service (SPS) and Yellow Ribbon Singapore (YRSG) have been working very hard to rehabilitate and reintegrate inmates and ex-offenders, so that they do not fall back into crime.
16. SPS rehabilitates and prepares inmates for reintegration into society by providing programmes in prison to address their re-offending risks and needs, as well as equip them with relevant knowledge and skills. These programmes include psychology-based correctional programmes, family programmes, work programmes, skills training and religious programmes.
17. YRSG supports inmates and ex-offenders through job coaching, placement services and job retention support. In addition, YRSG also works with partners to offer skills training and upskilling opportunities, in sectors such as food services, precision engineering, and media. In 2021, over 4,700 inmates underwent skills training and 92% of those eligible were engaged in work programmes.
18. The efforts made by SPS and YRSG have borne fruit. The two-year recidivism rate has more than halved in the last two decades, from 44% in 1998, to 20% in 2019.
19. However, it is not possible for SPS and YRSG to do this alone. We know that support from community partners is critical. I am, therefore, very heartened and grateful to see community partners like Singapore Teochew Foundation step up to help inmates and ex-offenders get back on their feet and give them a second chance in life.
20. I hope Singapore Teochew Foundation’s generosity will inspire other community partners to step forward. Let us work together to enable and empower more inmates and ex-offenders to build a new life.
21. Once again, I would like to express my heartfelt and sincere appreciation to Singapore Teochew Foundation. Thank you very much for your generosity in supporting the STAR Bursary programme.
22. Thank you.