It is his second home
For serving 50 years at Boys' Town, this resident-turned-manager was awarded the Long Service Award
Fifty three years ago, he entered charitable institution Boys' Town with a tinge of apprehension.
"My friends told me that the boys there would bully me," he said.
But the warmth of his fellow residents dispelled such thoughts.
He grew fond of the place and it became his second home for the next five decades.
On Aug 19, Mr Dewa Rajan Martin, 69, was given a Long Service Award for serving 50 years at Boys' Town, which makes him the longest-serving employee.
The Boys' Town's residential facility takes in males aged 10 to 21, who mostly come from abused or underprivileged backgrounds, or cases referred by the courts, social services and schools.
The voluntary welfare organisation also provides fostering, clinical services, and youth outreach programmes to both females and males up to the age of 21.
Mr Martin told The New Paper: "I wanted to contribute to the place that gave me what I could not get at home."
With seven siblings in a single-parent household, the then 16-year-old Martin could barely afford regular meals, let alone new trousers.
His days were mostly spent out in the sun, with little care for school work, and he went to Boys' Town on the recommendation of a staff member from his school.
His new principal changed his life.
OLD TIMES: Mr Dewa Rajan Martin at the binding unit in his younger days. TNP PHOTO
Strict and stern, even caning him when he skipped lessons, Brother Emmanuel made the young Martin promise to swear off his lazy ways on his first day at Boys' Town in 1963.
Mr Martin said: "I thought that was my last chance at getting on the right track, so I changed."
He quickly adjusted to the fixed schedule: He woke up at 6am, turned up at the chapel, regularly attended classes and studied every night.
The person he once feared also became the father figure he had always wanted.
"Brother Emmanuel guided us, taught us, and even sent a boy all the way to my house with an offer of a job," he said.
"It was especially comforting when he played the organ as we sang our hymns. Even now, the lyrics are still etched in my memory.
"'Do not worry over what to eat, what to wear or put on your feet', and I never did."
After three years as a resident, he was offered a job as a machine operator in the Boys' Town Binding Section.
Fifty years passed and Mr Martin is now an admin and operations manager. But his climb was wrought with challenges.
He took night lessons to upgrade his skills, receiving his General Certificate of Education in 1968 and finishing an offset printing course in 1972.
A heart attack in 1995 left him depending on medication every day. Also suffering from neck arthritis and gastric reflux, he takes painkillers daily.
But he still turns up for work every day.
"Boys' Town is my second home and I just want to contribute as long as I am medically fit," Mr Martin said.
His love for Boys' Town has rubbed on his family.Two of his three children enrolled in a school in the same compound as Boys' Town, and they understood why he loved it so much.
His daughter, Ms Anna Martin, 41, said: "My father likes having tea and biscuits every day at 6.30pm, and that is when he shares about his day-to-day work, and his upcoming project.
"Every day was a Boys' Town day in our house."
The family even relocated to Bukit Batok East in 1985 to be closer to Boys' Town.
They also support the Boys' Town cause by fund raising.
Another resident-turned-employee, Mr Harry Mealin, 48, recalls how students flocked to Mr Martin back in the 1980s.
Mr Mealin said: "Uncle, uncle, can we get exercise books - that was what I always said to him. In between, he shared bits of his story.
"Through the way he shares about Boys' Town, he makes the people who come to him like the place a little bit more."