As a post-exam activity, SNCF brought 15 students from Holy Innocent High School (HIHS) to visit the Industrial and Services Co-operative Society Ltd (ISCOS) where they had the opportunity to peek into the co-operative scene, and find out more about ISCOS! We were welcomed by the enthusiastic staff, who then introduced the co-operative’s social mission and programmes with the students.

As an organisation that helps ex-offenders, ISCOS provides a variety of programmes and services to assist their reintegration, welfare, and well-being. It has a mission of promoting self-esteem and economic independence in ex-offenders, while guiding them towards good citizenship and good value systems.

These programmes and services include job placement, skills assistance subsidy scheme and the Titans programme. The Titans refer to ex-offenders who have successfully reintegrated with the community and seek to inspire and engage audiences by sharing their own life experiences.

In addition, ISCOS also cares for the dependants of the ex-offenders through a dedicated programme called the Fairy Godparent Programme (FGP). FGP focuses on the areas of student development, family support and home environment to help the children and families.

All these ongoing efforts tie in nicely with ISCOS’ tagline “You’ve got a friend” – the organisation welcomes and accepts ex-offenders and their families,  just like true friends!

Interested to be a friend too? You can find out more about the volunteering opportunities here!

Next, it was the highlight of the learning journey – the Titans’ sharing session.

In hope of inspiring the secondary school students, four Titans shared passionately about their life journeys – the events that led them to commit the crimes, their time in prison, their turning points, and the second chances that led them to better lives.

 They spoke about various circumstances that affected them adversely – a rough childhood, the wrong company, stress, rejection – leading to negative thoughts and undesirable actions.

However, through various factors such as religion, family support and help from agencies in the community, many of these ex-offenders eventually found their own turning point and stayed clean. Some even began their entrepreneurial journey and are doing so well!

 During the segment, we could see that the group of secondary school students paid rapt attention to the Titans. I am sure the thought-provoking stories will leave a lasting impact for a long time.

Here’s a cheery photo taken with the Titans, facilitators, and students to remember the meaningful day!

I was thrilled to be able to tag along on this learning journey, especially for the opportunity to hear the Titans – they are living testimonies that prison time really isn’t the end of your time, as long as you do not give up on yourself.

However, even after completing their term, ex-offenders’ sentences seemingly turn into their personal labels. Due to the social stigma, many employers turn down job applicants with criminal records.

Unable to integrate into the society, the ex-offenders’ hope for a new lease of life diminishes, and some turn back to their old habits, going in and out of prison for years.

It is so heartwarming to see organisations such as ISCOS helping ex-offenders find their footing in society. For instance, ISCOS matches them to willing employers and encourages them to continually upgrade the skills to enhance their career prospects.

A second chance is truly the best gift an ex-offender can receive. We can see that the community’s acceptance really plays a major role in enabling them to get back on the right path of life.

It is also proven that with proper support systems and jobs, ex-offenders are less likely to re-offend. The overall recidivism rate for 2017 remained low and stable at 25.9 per cent.

To rid the social stigma and create a better nation for everyone, it begins with you and me! They too deserve a second chance and an opportunity in the society. 🙂

This article is brought to you by Goh Yuxuan, a year 2 Busines student in Nanyang Technological University. She loves to cook and enjoy making dishes with her dad over the weekends! My favourite comfort food has to be chee cheong fun.