Published: 14 November 2015
Mr Soh Wai Wah, Commissioner of Prisons,
Mr Chng Hwee Hong, Chairman SCORE,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am very happy to be here today at the Yellow Ribbon Celebrating Second Chances Awards Ceremony. We come together to recognise and applaud the efforts of individuals who have succeeded in their rehabilitation journey. We also are here today to thank key partners of the Yellow Ribbon project for their continued support. The Yellow Ribbon is an important symbol of acceptance and the offer of second chances to ex-offenders and their families and that is partly also why I am wearing yellow today to show my support.
The CARE Network and Yellow Ribbon Project
2. In Singapore, we are fortunate that many partners work closely together through the CARE Network to support the Yellow Ribbon cause. The CARE Network brings together government agencies and like-minded community partners to support the rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-offenders. Over the past 15 years, the CARE Network has implemented many initiatives to build a strong aftercare community to help ex-offenders reintegrate into society.
3. One key initiative is the Yellow Ribbon Project, which was launched in 2004 as a nationwide community outreach campaign. In the last 12 years, the Yellow Ribbon Project has grown from strength to strength. It has raised awareness and galvanised the community to accept and offer second chances to deserving ex-offenders. Its outreach efforts go beyond the families of ex-offenders to include corporations, non-profit organisations, government partners and the general public.
4. Since the inception of Yellow Ribbon Project, we have seen close to 1,900 community partners and 3,000 volunteers come forward to offer ex-offenders a second chance in life. We also have many employers coming forward. As of August 2015, SCORE's job portal had a database of more than 4,600 registered employers who provide ex-offenders with job opportunities upon their release. The Yellow Ribbon Fund disbursed more than $7.1 million through programmes and services that benefited close to 35,000 people over the years. In 2014 alone, the Yellow Ribbon Fund disbursed more than $1.5 million to over 4,000 beneficiaries. New initiatives such as the Yellow Brick Road programme were launched. The Yellow Brick Road programme focuses on the welfare of the families of inmates, and seeks to reconnect the inmates and their families through workshops and counselling.
Community Acceptance and Second Chances
5. The success of the Yellow Ribbon Project and the Yellow Ribbon Fund will not be possible without the strong support of our community partners.
Today, 5 organisations and individuals will be presented with Second Chances Awards. The award recognises their exceptional commitment towards the Yellow Ribbon cause.
6. These organisations and individuals are our Yellow Ribbon Champions. One such champion is the Singapore Art Museum. The museum has been an ardent supporter of the campaign since 2009. The Singapore Art Museum took ownership of the Yellow Ribbon Art Programme and helped to rally like-minded artists to support the cause and provide specialised training for inmates. The Singapore Art Museum also gave budding inmate artists an opportunity to display their artworks at the museum. This serves to encourage our inmate artists to stay offence-free and to do their best to further their skills.
7. I am pleased that the Singapore Art Museum will host the Yellow Ribbon Community Art Exhibition for the sixth time in December 2015. This year's exhibition will feature the 60 best artworks by inmate artists. I encourage all present to visit the coming exhibition to support our inmates.
8. The continued support and generous contributions of the Singapore Art Museum and other Yellow Ribbon Champions are the reasons behind the success of this Yellow Ribbon Project. I hope that more organisations and individuals will step forward to make a positive difference in the lives of ex-offenders and their families.
Celebrating our Successes
9. While community support is important, ex-offenders will also have to take personal responsibility for their reintegration. Ex-offenders face multiple hurdles and challenges in their reintegration journey. Many of them have shown great perseverance in staying crime-free and drug-free. Others have gone the extra mile to mentor other ex-offenders who are going through a similar path. I commend the 210 award recipients for your resilience and achievements. Through your actions, you have affirmed the trust of those who supported you. Your success goes to show that nothing is impossible if you truly set your heart and mind to it. You serve as role models to many ex-offenders who have just been released from prison and many more who are still serving their sentence.
10. I will like to share the story of Mr Zulkhairee. He is receiving the Merit Award today. He has kept a clean record for 6 years since his release in 2009 and is an exemplary example of the display of spirit of grit and fortitude.
11. Since his release, Zulkhairee worked hard in his job as a cleaner and even harder as a husband and a father. His sincere efforts touched his family who forgave him and accepted him. With the support of his family, Zulkhairee resolved not to go back to his old ways. His determination paid off when his employer promoted him to a supervisory role after 3 years. The encouragement and trust from his employer encouraged him and helped him to stay the course. Currently, Zulkhairee has set up his own business – he operates a food stall in a school canteen with his wife.
12. Zulkhairee did not forget the help provided by the community, such as the Industrial & Services Co-operative Society (ISCOS), which enabled him to get back on his feet again. He has chosen to pay his way forward, and is currently volunteering with the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (SANA) and actively participates in their aftercare activities.
13. Zulkhairee's enthusiasm and efforts to turn his own life around, and to also help other ex-offenders rebuild their lives, is highly commendable and deserve recognition. I applaud him for his achievements. I hope many others here today and outside, will be inspired by his example.
14. Beyond community support and individual efforts, the unconditional love and support from family and loved ones is crucial to helping ex-offenders get back on the right path. To the family members of the award recipients, I salute you and thank you very much. Your faith, love and continuous support have given them the courage and hope to change and to fight for a better tomorrow. Their road to success would have been a lot more difficult without you.
15. To conclude, I would like to thank everyone here today for supporting the Yellow Ribbon cause and for offering ex-offenders the precious gift of hope and acceptance. I hope that the many stories of grit, resolve and hope will inspire many more to unlock the second prison. On this note, I wish everybody a pleasant evening.
16. Thank you.