More training for Yellow Ribbon grassroots volunteers

SINGAPORE - Two nights a week, public relations officer Mohamed Fawzi Ali, 46, visits families of offenders.

He recalls visiting a 10-year-old girl two years ago. One of her parents had been jailed, and after visiting the girl and her young mother, he introduced the girl to the weekend madrasah which she now attends.

Being able to help the community in Macpherson, where he grew up, has kept Mr Fawzi motivated over the years.

Grassroots volunteers of the Yellow Ribbon Community Project like him will soon be trained to identify vulnerable children of inmates and provide deeper community support for families, said Parliamentary Secretary (Home Affairs) Amrin Amin on Thursday (May 12).

Speaking at the annual Workplan Seminar for the Community Action for the Rehabilitation of Ex-Offenders (Care) at Sheraton Towers, Mr Amrin announced new initiatives for volunteers as part of the enhanced project.

Highlighting the need to deepen community involvement and reduce intergenerational offending, Mr Amrin said: "Without proper family support and a conducive growing-up environment, the children will be at a higher risk of developing anti-social behaviours or may face difficulty coping in school."

Besides training volunteers to identify these children's needs and connecting them to Care Network agencies, volunteers will be encouraged to introduce families to community programmes organised by the grassroots and to help rekindle bonds between inmates and their loved ones.

The initiatives are expected to take effect this year, with more details released at a later date.

Since its inception, the Yellow Ribbon Community Project has helped more than 4,000 families. It has over 800 grassroots volunteers, up from about 60 in 2010 when it started.

Volunteers approach inmates' families after the inmate agrees to it. Some 70 per cent of newly-admitted offenders consent to be part of the programme after being briefed on it.

byseow@sph.com.sg