Yellow Ribbon Fund helps ex-addict overcome drug addiction through education
A month after completing school, he was jailed for drug trafficking and his brother had to collect his diploma for him.
Ali, not his real name, started taking Ecstasy pills when he was 21 and in his final year of his engineering diploma in Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP).
Now 31 and working in the shipyard industry, he told The New Paper: "I took my first Ecstasy pill before going to a concert and started taking it regularly at house parties. I was 21 and was curious to explore."
This month, he graduated with a specialist diploma in marine production from NP's School of Engineering with a Grade Point Average of 3.25, an improvement from 1.9 for his first diploma.
He is embarking on a degree programme partially sponsored by the Yellow Ribbon Fund (YRF).
Since it started in 2004, the YRF has extended its reach to about 6,100 inmates, ex-offenders and their families through the disbursement of more than $11 million.
The YRF Charity Gala Dinner last Saturday raised $1.1m.
Five months after Ali took his first pill, he sold drugs to fellow party-goers and got caught for drug trafficking. He was jailed five years and given five strokes of the cane.
"I was lost and confused when I entered prison, and I realised I did something impulsive and felt depressed," he recounted.
"Being a librarian in prison gave me time to reflect about myself. I learnt that I needed to find more meaning in life as not everything is about fun."
After serving three years, he was released for good behaviour and found a stable job. But a year later, he relapsed.
"I had progressed in my career, but I felt empty and had anger issues. A friend asked me to party with him, and I started partying and taking Ecstasy again."
Ali became addicted to methamphetamine or "Ice" and quit his job as he had wanted to stay home and take drugs.
He was jailed six months for drug consumption. "When I left prison the second time, I felt like everyone, including my family, gave up on me. But I found the YRF which showed me support," he said.
He is a recipient of the YRF STAR (Skills Training Assistance to Re-start) Bursary, which partially sponsored his diploma and degree.
Now, Ali is planning to take a part-time mechanical engineering degree with the PSB Academy. "YRF was my stepping stone in overcoming my addiction, because it gave me the initial drive to further my education," he said.
To find out more about YRF, visit www.yellowribbon.org.sg/yellow-ribbon-fund