New hope for former addict
The 35-year-old mum wants to start life anew, hopes to find work at job fair
Getting arrested by the Central Narcotics Bureau in front of her seven-year-old daughter was the wake-up call she needed.
The humiliation of being surrounded by the officers with her child staring at her was enough to make her realise that she had to stop taking Ice.
She lost her job and was to find that she would lose more than that.
Today, she is hoping she will be able to find work again at the Industrial & Services Co-operative Society (Iscos) job fair so that she can start life anew.
Fifi (not her real name) said her experiments with drugs are now her biggest regrets.
She was jailed for 18 months in January 2012 for drug consumption.
But the experience that Fifi, 35, craved was not worth what she had to give up when she was arrested in 2011.
The former administrative assistant, who was earning about $1,000 a month, said: "I was curious when my friends introduced me to Ice three years ago. And I felt a lot of energy taking it. I wasn't even an addict. It was all for nothing."
Now, out of prison, she is still struggling to pick up the pieces.
She was formerly an active grassroots volunteer who helped coordinate workshops for needy families and financial management courses. But her record meant that she could not participate as an official volunteer any more.
The Iscos event will help former offenders like her re-enter the workforce.
Five companies and four training institutions will be at the fair to showcase available job vacancies and training opportunities. The fair will take place at the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association at Sengkang from 10am to 2pm.
More than 120 positions, like warehouse assistants and drivers, will be available at the fair.
In her two-room rental flat, the divorcee told The New Paper that finding a job after her release in May last year has been hard.
She said she had been offered an administrative job at Kaki Bukit, but turned it down because the conditions of her release require her to report to the police station for a urine test every Monday and Friday before 7pm.
She said: "I would be able to leave Kaki Bukit only at 6pm and would not make it back in time to take the test as the commute back home takes more than an hour, so I had to give it up."
Since then, Fifi has been supporting herself and her daughter, now nine, by selling baked goods.
She earns about $400 a month. Her brother offers financial and emotional support as well.
She said her brother took care of her daughter while she was in prison.
Her eyes welling up with tears, she said it was difficult leaving her daughter behind.
"When my daughter visited me, I told her that I was staying with the police because I did something bad. And I told her not to do bad things," said Fifi, who said she enjoys a close bond with her daughter despite their time apart.
"Now, I just want to make sure that I have a job, so my daughter and I will have a good future despite my past mistakes and regrets," said Fifi.
Now, I just want to make sure that I have a job, so my daughter and I will have a good future despite my past mistakes and regrets.
- Fifi (not her real name)
More willing to hire former offenders
Iscos hopes that re-offenders like Fifi will find their second chance to return to work as employers' attitudes towards hiring former offenders have changed over the years.
Its executive director, Mr Patrick Ng, said: "These days, employers are more aware of the needs of ex-offenders and are ready to give them a second chance by offering them job opportunities.
"The number of employers who are willing to employ ex-offenders has increased over the years, and we have heard many success stories of ex-offenders doing well in their jobs."
He added that the transport, logistics and food and beverage industries typically have more jobs available for former convicts.
One of the participating employers at the fair is The Wok People, a catering company.
Mr Alfred Chua, the director of operations of The Wok People, said the current tight labour market has made companies more open to hiring former offenders.
Singapore Prison Service statistics released in February showed that a record 2,114 inmates bagged a job even before their release last year.
In 2012, the figure was 1,708, up from 1,586 in 2011.
There has also been a 12 per cent jump in the number of employers registered with the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises' database - from 3,457 in 2012 to 3,876 last year.
By registering, employers can put their job vacancies on an online portal for current and former inmates.
Mr Chua said: "I believe that many companies, including The Wok People, have experienced good employment relationships with ex-offenders who appreciate the second chance and value their job more as a result."