Published: 04 November 2023
Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal
Minister of State for Home Affairs, and for National Development
Ms Shie Yong Lee,
Commissioner of Prisons
Mr Phillip Tan
Chairman of Yellow Ribbon Singapore
Mrs Gillian Koh-Tan
President of the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. Good afternoon, everyone. Fantastic to see you. I want to acknowledge the presence of my fellow grassroots advisors, of course, starting with Minister of State at the Ministry of Home Affairs, Associate Professor Faishal Ibrahim, who has been a real driver of the whole Yellow Ribbon Community Project (YRCP) effort, including reaching out personally to all the grassroots advisors to mobilise efforts on the ground to ensure that the community support is there for YRCP. Other grassroots advisors who are here today includes Mr Derrick Goh, Ms Nadia Samdin, Ms Chan Hui Yuh, and Mr. Lee Hong Chuang. Thank you all for being here.
2. The efforts for the YRCP would not have been possible without leaders like Ms Shie Yong Lee, our Commissioner for Prisons, as well as Mrs Gillian Koh Tan, who is the president of the Singapore Anti Narcotics Association (SANA). Many grassroots leaders in various capacities have taken it upon themselves to be drivers, movers and shakers of this movement in your respective areas and we will get to talk more about that.
3. The Yellow Ribbon is a symbol of hope, resilience, and second chances.
4. The YRCP, was started way back in 2010, this being the thirteenth year. The idea was to support inmates, ex-offenders, and their families in their rehabilitation journey, because it is not an easy journey. The YRCP has come a very long way.
5. When we started YRCP in 2010, there were just eight grassroots divisions and 74 volunteers, helping 78 families. Today, all 93 grassroots divisions are participating in the YRCP, with more than 1,000 volunteers reaching out to more than 21,000 families. What a tremendous effort! Thank you all!
6. If you just do the math, being our volunteer is quite tough. Because when they first started, there were 74 volunteers helping 78 families. Roughly, it was a ratio of one is to one. Now, we have 1000 volunteers and there are 21,000 families that we're helping. So, the load that each volunteer is carrying is considerable. The fact, that we are able to recognise some who had been in this movement for 10 years, speaks of their personal sacrifice and their passion for the cause and the impact that they are making in our society.
7. I'm reminded by the fact that just two weeks ago, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong launched the Forward Singapore report, which as you know, is about how we, as a society, keep promises to each other. What do we promise to each other? It is not a question of what we get from society, it is a question or what we can give to fellow citizens in society. The Forward Singapore report certainly hopes to create the momentum and strengthen the momentum for everyone to chip in more in support of fellow citizens. But, here in YRCP, we already have a living, thriving example of how citizens are doing exactly that, giving back in their own ways, but helping others get a leg up, helping others move on, even if they have experienced a difficult episode in their life. So, the heart of the YRCP really is our volunteers.
8. Each and every one of our volunteers play a crucial role in supporting the inmates themselves, as well as the ex-offenders in their effort to reintegrate with society.
9. Our volunteers also play an important role in making sure that the families behind these ex-offenders are supported. They are very much a part of the healing process. Because we know from research and experience that unless the family provides the necessary scaffolding, the ex-offenders have a really difficult time, reintegrating back to society. Family members, therefore, being crucial, deserve our attention. And yet, at the same time, we must recognise that they can feel lost and helpless when someone they love gets incarcerated, especially if that loved one is also a sole breadwinner of the family. Before the family can be the scaffolding to support reintegration, they themselves need scaffolding, because in these instances, their scaffolding disappears overnight. Our volunteers therefore step in, to help the families through a stressful time by connecting them to the right community partners for help.
10. Today, we gather to recognise the efforts of some of our most passionate and dedicated volunteers. 52 of them will be receiving their long service award later.
11. One of our long-time volunteers is Ms Angela Kho Hue Hua. Angela has been a YRCP volunteer in Jalan Besar GRC for the past four years. She has supported Mdm Karuppiah and her family, when her husband was incarcerated. Angela helped Mdm Karuppiah settle caregiving arrangements for her nine-year-old son, so that Mdm Karuppiah could continue to focus on her work to provide for the family.
12. Angela also extended her support to Mdm Karuppiah’s spouse after he was released, ensuring that he had a smooth transition back into the family and community. Together with the YRCP team at the Jalan Besar GRC, Angela has certainly made a positive difference to Mdm Karuppiah and her family, in a time of need. Through this process, the community bonds are also being strengthened. I hope that as result of this, for Mdm Karuppiah and her family, they will never feel alone, that they will know that there is always going to be someone else in the community that is willing to chip in and support them in whatever difficulties they may encounter. So, on that note, I want to thank Angela and the YRCP team at Jalan Besar for your great efforts! Well done!
13. Like Angela, every one of our volunteers here have similarly made a difference to the families that you have invested time and heart into supporting. It is my sincere hope that this good work will continue, and more families can be helped.
14. I also want to thank the grassroots divisions for coming onboard YRCP. Without your help in supporting our volunteers, we won’t be able to do the full range of things that are needed.
15. Even as we pay tribute to the best of our volunteers to motivate all of them, we want to galvanise and build an esprit de corp amongst our volunteers.
16. To this end, we will be enhancing the identity of YRCP and its volunteers. First, we will launch a new YRCP logo, starting today. It is a symbol of a yellow ribbon – a powerful symbol of hope, resilience and second chances. Second, we will also launch a new YRCP Volunteer Pass. We have come up with this because of the feedback that volunteers themselves have given. The Volunteer Pass aims to strengthen volunteer identity, making it easier for families to know who it is that is approaching them, so that you can start building the relationships and trust.
Deepening Community Collaboration
17. We will continue to strengthen the YRCP to better support families through various ways.
18. First, we will deepen collaborations with community partners, and streamline the referral process. For example, to better support Malay-Muslim families, the Singapore Prison Service (SPS), has embarked on a collaboration with MUIS, MENDAKI and MESRA, or “M3” to make it easier for YRCP volunteers to refer clients to M3 directly through use of electronic house visit forms.
19. Second, we will have YRCP volunteers take on the role of a family befriender over a longer duration. Today, YRCP volunteers focus on providing support to the family up to point of the inmates’ release. With this new initiative, for inmates and families who need the additional continuing support, our volunteers would continue to engage the families after the inmates’ incarceration period. So, you extend the time period for support. It means taking on more work. But, I think we know, from the past experience, that this is probably work that will produce meaningful results for the families involved.
20. Third, we will enhance volunteer training, and I cannot over-emphasise the need to do so. SPS will curate and enhance training to equip volunteers with the necessary skills and knowledge to enable them to engage the families. In fact, we were discussing this with President of SANA Mrs Gillian Koh Tan that because of the stress our volunteers may face, part of the training may need to include coping mechanisms, or. how do you deal with the emotional burden involved in helping someone in need. We do not underestimate the amount of effort that our volunteers put in, and neither should we underestimate the support that they themselves may need as a result. SPS will do this and make training more accessible, by offering a variety of platforms, such as traditional classroom training, webinars and online training. Most likely, there will also be some form of peer support amongst the volunteers. You may have senior volunteers who can take on the role of mentors, coaches to help our younger, newer volunteers deal better with the emotional demands of such a role.
Initiatives to Help Families
21. Today, I am pleased to share that we will continue with the initiative to support the needs of families through our Booster Packs, an initiative since 2018. Seven hundred and ninety families will be receiving $80 worth of grocery vouchers each. Those with children aged between 6 and 12 will also receive bookstore vouchers.
22. I certainly would like to thank the sponsors – Heartwarmers Volunteer Group, Inmates' Families Support Fund, and Yellow Ribbon Fund for their generous sponsorship of the Booster Packs.
23. The theme of this year’s YRCP Awards & Appreciation Luncheon is “Mobilising Communities, Strengthening Families”. It is very much a part of Forward Singapore. It is very much a part of creating a culture and an ethos in our society that we will do everything in our power, and everything within our abilities to support those who need it most.
24. Volunteers and community partners are very much at the heart of the eco-system, to support, help and strengthen the family of inmates and ex-offenders. Collectively, we can achieve much more, to help families better support their loved ones in rehabilitation and reintegration journey. It is about the tone of our society. It is about what we stand for as a people and as a nation.
25. On that note, thank you once again to all of our volunteers and congratulations to all awardees.