Monday, April 15, 2024
HomesingaporeEx-offenders thriving in community recognised by Yellow Ribbon Singapore

Ex-offenders thriving in community recognised by Yellow Ribbon Singapore

SINGAPORE – Nearly 30 years ago, his drug addiction made him lie and cheat his own family. He was jailed three times for drug-related offences and once for national service desertion.

But he mended his ways and, on Saturday, Mr Mohamad Riduan Ishak, 49, was one of eight recipients of the Beyond Second Chances (Overcomers) award.

The honour, handed out at the Yellow Ribbon Appreciation and Awards (YRAA) Ceremony 2023, recognises those who have gone above and beyond to positively support and impact the lives of former offenders and their families.

Mr Riduan said: “As I was addicted to drugs during my national service, I went absent without official leave to work outside and feed my habits.”

During his final jail sentence, he had to serve six years and endure three strokes of the cane.

His parents helped him decide to turn his life around. During his imprisonment, he saw another inmate who resembled his father.

“I came to the realisation that I can’t do this any more. It reminded me to not grow old in prison,” he said.

His mother never gave up on him during this period. “She was already in her 60s and struggling to move, but yet she still found ways to visit me every fortnight. Seeing her suffer made me want to be a better person,” he added.

Today, Mr Riduan is a business owner who has been running Tarkiz, an events and training company, with his wife since 2015. Tarkiz is also a partner of the Central Narcotics Bureau’s Dadah Itu Haram campaign.

The campaign was started in April 2017 to raise awareness within the Muslim community that drugs are forbidden in Islam, and to share the importance of living a healthy, drug-free life.

Mr Riduan helps both at-risk youth and offenders by sharing his experiences and organising peer support activities with the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association. He also provides training programmes to organisations and homes. “It has become second nature to me. Every time I help someone, I feel like I’m helping my own recovery journey,” he told The Straits Times.

On Saturday, 186 employers, community partners, volunteers and former offenders were recognised for their contributions towards championing second chances for inmates and former offenders at the YRAA ceremony, held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

Speaking at the event on Saturday, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said he hopes Singapore can become a society that does not ostracise former offenders.

“As a Singaporean community, we are defined by our hearts to reach out to those that are most vulnerable,” he said, adding that Singaporeans should take care of one another regardless of their background or where they come from.

Mr Nelson Ong was one of 83 recipients of the Advocates of Second Chances (Overcomers) award. It is given to former offenders who have remained free from crime and contributed back to the community.

In 2001, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 10 strokes of the cane. Just 27 then, he had been in a gang and took drugs after dropping out of school.

Mr Ong said he got involved with drugs when friends from a gang introduced him to the illegal substances. “I started trafficking drugs because it seemed like a quick way to make money,” he said.

His prison supervisory officer encouraged him to take his O levels while he was serving time.

“I began to realise that I wasn’t alone, that help was available from many sources. Having heard numerous Yellow Ribbon success stories, I became motivated to strive for my own future,” he said.

Now a senior manager at Yellow Ribbon Singapore, the 49-year-old helps to manage companies that partner the organisation to set up workshops in prison. These workshops provide a simulated work environment for inmates to practise reintegration into society.

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