Turning over a new leaf: 253 ex-offenders commended at Yellow Ribbon Awards

Mr Moses Arulandu (right) was one of 253 former offenders recognised at the inaugural Yellow Ribbon Awards. PHOTO: YELLOW RIBBON PROJECT

SINGAPORE - He was hooked on cannabis at 15, and then got addicted to heroin. One night in 1996, when he was in his room with a stash of drugs, he heard a knock on the door. A group of officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau had turned up, tipped off by his mother.

Mr Moses Arulandu, now 51, vividly remembers the day he, then 26, was hauled up by the authorities, and how stunned he was to find out that his mother had reported his and his twin brother's drug addiction.

"I was angry and thought 'What kind of a mother was she?' But when she visited me in (DRC), I realised it was tough love," said Mr Arulandu, who was sent to a drug rehabilitation centre (DRC) for 18 months.

"She was a single mother and didn't want to see her sons destroyed by drugs."

On Wednesday (Dec 8), around 25 years after his arrest, Mr Arulandu's road to recovery hit another milestone when he was one of 253 former offenders recognised at the inaugural Yellow Ribbon Awards. The awards are given by the Singapore Prison Service and Yellow Ribbon Singapore, a statutory board under the Ministry of Home Affairs.

He received the Beyond Second Chances Award - the highest honour - for his services at halfway house The Helping Hand, where he works and counsels former offenders.

The award also recognises his commitment to start again after his stint in DRC did not deter him from taking drugs.

His mother had given him a choice: Go back to DRC or seek help at a halfway house.

"I made a choice. I was tired of addiction as there was no peace," said Mr Arulandu, who checked into a halfway house for two years.

Another 324 employers, community partners, volunteers and donors who have helped give a second chance to former offenders were also lauded at Wednesday's ceremony, which was held virtually.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, who was the guest of honour, said finding a job is a key part of reintegrating former offenders as it helps them to be financially independent, find community and develop a structured lifestyle.

A training academy will be set up in Changi Prison Complex next year to provide more than 500 inmates with courses to help them secure jobs upon release, he added. The facility is set up by Yellow Ribbon Singapore and the Singapore Logistics Association.

Former drug abuser Jenny Ang, 64, who was in and out of jail between 1979 and 1996, said it has been difficult to find work.

She received a second chance after her counsellor put in a good word with employers. She overcame her addiction with the help of former drug abusers and by regularly attending church.

Currently, she has put work aside to look after her elderly mother and daughter, who is partially blind and needs help with daily activities.

Madam Ang, who was given an award for overcoming drug addiction, said: "I'm thankful that I have changed or I won't even look like a human any more. If I hadn't, I wouldn't be able to look after myself or my family who needs me."

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