Published: 28 November 2020
Fellow Grassroots Advisors and Grassroots Leaders
Ms Shie Yong Lee,
Commissioner of Prisons
Mr Chng Hwee Hong,
Chairman of Yellow Ribbon Singapore
Mr Teo Kian Teck,
Vice-President of the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association
Our honourable volunteers, ladies and gentlemen
1. A very good afternoon. Thank you for joining us this afternoon. I am very pleased to join you at this year’s Yellow Ribbon Community Project Awards & Appreciation event.
2. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Yellow Ribbon Community Project, or YRCP. From a humble beginning, with eight grassroots divisions and 74 volunteers when YRCP was launched in 2010, it has since made significant progress. Today, 89 grassroots divisions have come on board, with over 1,200 volunteers trained and involved in this meaningful cause. This is a great achievement.
3. I am heartened by the dedication and commitment of the volunteers who play a key role in reaching out to support and provide assistance to offenders and their families. These efforts go a long way towards helping offenders reintegrate into the community upon their release. I hope that going forward, more people will become volunteers, make a real and meaningful difference to the lives of offenders and their families.
Appreciation for YRCP Volunteers
4. The COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented. It has severely impacted the lives of Singaporeans. Some have lost their loved ones. Many faced uncertainties from the loss of employment or reduction in their income.
5. For offenders and their families, the pandemic has added to the challenges they face, and they will require stronger support to cope with the situation.
6. During this difficult time, YRCP volunteers play an even more critical role in supporting offenders and their families. When the home visits ceased in view of the COVID-19 safe management measures earlier this year, YRCP volunteers continued to keep in touch and close contact with families through regular phone calls. Your effort in keeping up the engagement, providing immediate support to the families of the offenders and helping them access government and community assistance, is crucial to stabilise the family situation quickly and minimise further disruptions to their daily lives.
7. Today, I would like to recognise the efforts and dedication of a very special group of YRCP volunteers. They have been volunteering with YRCP for the past 10 years and have received a special 10-year Long Service plaque in recognition of their contributions.
8. There are 30 recipients of the 10-year Long Service plaque. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to each and every one of you, for the sacrifices that you have made in contributing to this worthy cause.
Key Initiatives of YRCP Over The Last 10 Years
9. The 10th anniversary of the YRCP is an important milestone and it is timely we revisit and celebrate our high points over the last 10 years.
10. As mentioned earlier, YRCP had a humble start in 2010, with eight divisions. We had 74 volunteers, who reached out to 78 families.
11. Today, YRCP has grown to 89 divisions, with more than 1,200 volunteers. Cumulatively, we have reached out to more than 15,000 families.
12. In 2016, YRCP 2.0 was launched to enable grassroots volunteers to contribute more to the lives of ex-offenders and their families. YRCP 2.0 aims to enrich the volunteers’ engagement in the following three areas:
(i) Firstly, in rekindling familial bonds. YRCP volunteers help to rekindle familial bonds by encouraging the families to communicate with their incarcerated family member, either by visiting them in prison or via tele-visits.
(ii) Secondly, YRCP volunteers provide positive pro-social support to the families by engaging the family beyond the first home visit such as linking them up with various community programmes and inviting them to community events to support them on their reintegration journey.
(iii) Last but not least, to better support vulnerable children. YRCP volunteers help to identify vulnerable children of offenders who may require support in their studies or counselling and refer them to relevant community programmes.
13. YRCP also works in close partnership with government and community organisations. In 2018, M3, a collaborative effort between three key community institutions, MUIS, MENDAKI and MESRA, was introduced to support the needs of the Malay/Muslim community. Under the M3-YRCP collaboration, YRCP worked with FITRAH, an office under MUIS, so that mosque and grassroots volunteers go on joint home visits to the offender’s families, so that they can assess the needs of the families in a more holistic manner. The families are then referred to MENDAKI, MUIS, MESRA or other community organisations where they can access the relevant social assistance and programmes.
14. This initiative has been piloted in areas such as Sembawang GRC as well as Taman Jurong, Bedok, and Kampong Chai Chee divisions, and has benefitted over 240 families. Going forward, we aim to expand the M3-YRCP collaboration and we look set to roll out the initiative in Nee Soon, Pasir-Ris Punggol and Marsiling Yew-Tee by early next year.
15. Starting from 2018, YRCP distributed booster packs to help families of offenders with household needs. Close to 2,000 families have benefitted from the YRCP booster packs in 2018 and 2019. This year, 880 families will receive the booster packs which contain grocery vouchers twice the amount received by each family last year. For families with children, each child will receive bookstore vouchers to give them a good start to the new school year. Offenders were encouraged to write a letter of encouragement to their children, which will be given to them along with the bookstore vouchers as a reminder of their parent’s love even while being incarcerated. I understand that the YRCP volunteers have started to distribute the Booster Packs to the families.
16. I would like to thank our generous sponsors – Heartwarmers Volunteer Group, Inmates' Families Support Fund and Yellow Ribbon Fund for their support, without which this project would not have been possible.
Strengthening Engagement with Families
17. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic affected the physical home visits, this did not stop the volunteers from engaging the families by calling in to check on them. The regular phone calls helped to provide assurance to the families that the volunteers continue to do their best to support the families in need.
18. Thank you for continuing to stay in contact with the families and often going the extra mile to help them. It is crucial that YRCP volunteers continue to do so, in order to get a better sense of whether the families are coping well, and to identify any new issues and needs early.
YRCP Volunteers Going the Extra Mile
19. Here, I have a heart-warming story to share. It is about the friendship between Madam Anna’s family and Nancy. Nancy is a Yellow Ribbon Champion who leads a team of YRCP volunteers at the Marsiling division.
20. Madam Anna (not her real name) is one of the YRCP beneficiary families. She experienced depression after her husband was incarcerated and had to cope with the stress of looking after their three young children by herself. She also faced the anxiety of managing a three-year old son who was greatly affected by the absence of his father.
21. During the house visit, Nancy and a fellow YRCP volunteer noticed that Madam Anna’s three-year old son was behaving aggressively towards her. Having ensured that the family’s immediate needs were addressed, Nancy and her fellow volunteer did not stop there. They went the extra mile to befriend the child. Over time, through their engagement with the child and Madam Anna, they helped Madam Anna to manage and improve the child’s behaviour.
22. Madam Anna was grateful to Nancy and her team for spending time to engage her son and that she noticed the tremendous change in her son’s behaviour. Their dedication and support contributed positively to her family’s well-being.
23. So, YRCP volunteers like Nancy and her team have made a real and significant difference to the lives of many offenders’ families as they journey through a challenging phase in their lives. The community will continue to benefit from your partnership, efforts and contributions.
24. I would like to congratulate all the 30 YRCP award recipients. I hope your good work will inspire more volunteers to support and join the cause, and I want to sincerely thank all of you for making this very meaningful effort. I know there are many more like Nancy out there, who have spent your time and effort quietly under the YRCP banner, to visit and care for fellow human beings and their families.
25. It goes without saying, how thankful the families are. Last week, I met a few of the families who are benefitting from this programme, and almost all of them shared with me that they are very appreciative of the work being done by YRCP and the volunteers.
26. One of them told me, “We follow some of the news that has been shared about what is being done. I, representing my husband, we are very thankful to you and all the volunteers.” So, they are very, very appreciative of what has been done by all of you, and I hope you will continue this journey and bring more people on board, so that we can help one another to make life better for each and every one of us, regardless of our situation and the incarceration of any of the family members.
27. On that note, I wish you a very pleasant afternoon ahead and thank you for joining us once again. We are all very blessed to have all of you on board this journey with us.
28. Thank you.