SINGAPORE - Incarcerated for drug-related offences, Madam Salimah Sukar could not spend time with her four children when they were growing up.
After being released from prison after almost five years in 2015, she made it a point to get closer to her two sons and two daughters, now aged between 13 and 21.
Madam Salimah said the Covid-19 pandemic was a "blessing in disguise", as the family was able to spend a lot of time at home together. They had joined as many family-related programmes as possible before the pandemic, but she said it was hard to for them to find time to spend together, as her children had their own activities.
Hers was one of the 100 families that joined a virtual family day on Saturday (June 26), meant to promote family bonding and provide support for families of reformed offenders during the pandemic.
Madam Salimah, who lives with her husband and children, said: "When they wanted me around, I wasn't around... So I want to take this opportunity to build bonds with my children and society."
The virtual family day was organised by the Iscos ReGen Fund (IRF), the charity arm of the Industrial & Services Co-operative Society (Iscos) for reformed offenders and their families.
The virtual event was held under IRF's Fairy Godparent Programme, aimed at empowering children and families through various academic and social initiatives.
Addressing participants, Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling said the role of the family is an important one, especially due to the changes brought about by the pandemic.
She said: "Some of us have found the year sad, challenging, stressful, and we've all had to deal with work from home and home-based learning, but at the same time, these challenges have presented new opportunities for all of us."
Despite the worries and frustrations with the new norms that some feel, "we can treasure one another even more and stay united with our loved ones", Ms Sun added.
As part of the 2½-hour event, the families participated in activities such as quizzes and a talent show, where they submitted video clips of performances to compete for prizes like gift cards and vouchers.
Final-year polytechnic student Crystal Tan, 20, clinched the second place in the competition with a painting she had done.
Ms Tan said: "I was surprised when I won because there were many great participants. This is definitely something that my family knows I can excel in and are proud of me when they see my work."