Chalking up a big Score with ex-offenders

Ex-offender Richard Tee (in white T-shirt) nominated Mr David Wong for the Model Supervisor Award for helping him settle into his job at Ya Kun.
Ex-offender Richard Tee (in white T-shirt) nominated Mr David Wong for the Model Supervisor Award for helping him settle into his job at Ya Kun.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

69 individuals, organisations get awards for helping former inmates at the workplace

After spending eight years in jail, Mr Richard Tee was not used to life in a regular workplace.

But his supervisor at toast and coffee chain Ya Kun International, Mr David Wong, encouraged him as he entered the workforce.

For his praiseworthy behaviour, Mr Wong was given a Model Supervisor award yesterday. He was among 69 individuals and organisations recognised at the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (Score) Appreciation Awards Ceremony 2015.

The annual awards by Score, a statutory board under the Ministry of Home Affairs which helps inmates and former offenders rebuild their lives, were given out at the Grassroots' Club in Ang Mo Kio.

Mr Tee, 50, who was jailed for drug-related offences and is now a cook at Ya Kun, said: "I've never worked before so it was difficult because it's a very different lifestyle. But (Mr Wong) helped me a lot. He taught me how to cook ." And while it is difficult in the food and beverage industry to take Sundays off, Mr Tee said Mr Wong lets him do so, enabling him to go to church.

To show his gratitude to his "very good-tempered" boss, Mr Tee, who is the first ex-offender to be hired by Ya Kun, nominated Mr Wong as a "surprise" for him.

Mr Wong, 53, an executive chef at Ya Kun, said: "(Ex-offenders) are not different from anyone else... People make mistakes. They should be given a second chance. And being a supervisor, you have to be in their shoes to understand them."

Ms Maria Rona Malana, 39, from restaurant chain Nando's, was another Model Supervisor award winner - always willing to listen, and give work and personal advice.

She said: "As a restaurant manager, I'm like a mother to (the other employees). If there's a personal or work problem, we will discuss it and find ways to resolve it."

Others recognised yesterday included fast-food chain Burger King and hotel Regent Singapore.

As of May, Score had about 4,600 employers willing to offer jobs to ex-offenders. Last year, Score helped 1,938 inmates, and about 96 per cent secured jobs before they were released.

Ms Juliana Abdul Khalik, Score's director of reintegration, said: "Employment is one of the critical factors that helps them to stay away from crime. When they are stable and engaged at work, that ensures their time is meaningfully occupied and they find a purpose in life."

She said employers should also provide a supportive work environment, and treat ex-offenders like the rest of the employees.

Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo, who was the guest of honour at the ceremony, said: "There will always be things every one of us looks back in our lives and wish it was different, wish did not happen, wish we had not done...

"All of us can relate to how important and challenging it might be to find the acceptance and be reintegrated with society."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2015, with the headline 'Chalking up a big Score with ex-offenders'. Print Edition | Subscribe