Rolling out message of second chances

Ex-offender Ng Ting Wei is grateful for the help he received from the Yellow Ribbon Project, and now volunteers at its events. He will be sharing his experiences with visitors to the Yellow Ribbon Community Truck.
Ex-offender Ng Ting Wei is grateful for the help he received from the Yellow Ribbon Project, and now volunteers at its events. He will be sharing his experiences with visitors to the Yellow Ribbon Community Truck.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Volunteers on outreach truck to voice struggles faced by ex-offenders

The message of giving second chances to ex-offenders will now be transported on wheels to a wider part of the community, with the launch of the Yellow Ribbon Community Truck (YRCT) last Friday.

From now till Nov 25, the truck will visit various schools, public buildings and community areas as part of a new outreach effort by the Yellow Ribbon Project.

It has three interactive zones that allow visitors to experience some of the struggles faced by inmates, ex-offenders and their families, such as the stigma attached to incarceration. Visitors will also learn how the community can make a positive impact on ex-offenders' lives.

Upcoming locations include Singapore Polytechnic, the HDB Hub in Toa Payoh, Sentosa and this year's Home Team Festival which will be held at the Singapore Expo from Nov 13 to 15.

Started in 2004, the Yellow Ribbon Project is an initiative to encourage a society that supports second chances for ex-offenders.

A SECOND CHANCE FOR ALL

When you give an ex-offender a second chance, you're not only helping him, but also his family members.

MR RICKY LIM, Prisons Superintendent and chairman of the YRCT initiative

"When you give an ex-offender a second chance, you're not only helping him, but also his family members, who are often the unintended victims," said Prisons Superintendent Ricky Lim, who heads the Yellow Ribbon truck initiative.

Volunteers - a mix of students, Yellow Ribbon Community Project (YRCP) volunteers and ex-offenders - will be on site to answer questions and share experiences, he said.

In total, some 60 individuals will be involved, including Mr John Choo, who has interacted closely with several families of inmates since he became a YRCP volunteer almost two years ago.

"The family (members) have a lot of frustrations that they may be embarrassed to share with others, so we're here just to be their listening ear," said the 47-year-old owner of an enrichment school, recalling a family he visited recently who were devastated when their child was jailed for snatch theft.

BCA Academy student Ng Ting Wei believes the truck will allow for more personal interactions between volunteers and visitors.

Before his release last October, the 25-year-old had been in and out of prison for drug consumption and gang-related activities since he was 16. Grateful for the help he received from the Yellow Ribbon Project, he now volunteers at various events.

He said: "Sharing my personal stories will allow them to have a first-hand account of what the (project) is about. It's something very small I do to give back to the community which I hope will encourage people to better accept ex-offenders."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2015, with the headline 'Rolling out message of second chances'. Print Edition | Subscribe