Ex-cons, prison officers team up for Yellow Ribbon Prison run
She is running to help inmates turn over a new leaf.
Bella (not her real name), an administration clerk, 31, will be taking part in the first ever team run in the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run on Sunday.
Volunteers, prison officers and even celebrities will be running with former inmates in the 5km race.
Bella said she was given the chance to have a new life with the Yellow Ribbon Project - a community initiative to create awareness of the need to give ex-offenders second chances, to accept them and their families in the community, and to support their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
Now, she wants to help give others the same opportunity.
Looking at the petite and well-spoken woman, one would not have guessed that her father called the police on her for doing drugs at home with her older brother.
"I was also threatening suicide. My father couldn't bear to see us sinking lower and lower," Bella said.
It was a culmination of a long journey that had started with one bad decision to try drugs when she was 18.
The journey also saw her dropping out of school and being arrested for various offences through the years.
She was despondent when her father called the police.
"I felt I had let myself and everyone down. I wanted badly to make something of myself," she said.
In jail, she met prison officer Siti Hawa Ahmad Salleh, 31.
"Ma'am was strict, but at the same time, she listened when we told her our problems.
"It was because of her caring ways that I wanted to become good and stop my drug habits," Bella said.
She went on to earn her N-level certificate during her incarceration and was placed on a job through the Yellow Ribbon initiative.
"It was because of Yellow Ribbon that I was given a second chance.
"When I found out about the run and that for the first time there was going to be a team effort, I signed up," Bella said.
As for Ms Siti, she agreed to run with Bella even though she had given birth about four months ago.
She said: "Many of the former inmates made mistakes while they were young. They want to turn over a new leaf, and for them to do so, we must give them a chance."
She admitted to being apprehensive at first as the recent pregnancy meant she was not in top running condition.
Fortunately, Ms Siti's husband, a Singapore Prisons Emergency Action Response (SPEAR) trainer, was ready to help. He not only helped her build her stamina through a strict exercise regimen, he also took care of the baby while she exercised.
Chief Warder Irwan Kurniawan Rahmat, 37, said he was happy and proud that his wife was participating in the run.
"As prison officers, we have always believed that not everyone started out wanting to be bad. Deserving inmates should be given a second chance," he said.
Since she was released from prison two years ago, Bella has got her life together. She is married and has stayed away from drugs.
She is also working hard at her administrative job, "hoping to lead an ordinary life".
Bella is looking forward to the run.
She said: "I hope that by running together with Ms Siti, we will be able to raise enough funds for the Yellow Ribbon Project to help other offenders find their footing in society again."
"Ma'am was strict, but at the same time, she listened when we told her our problems. It was because of her caring ways that I wanted to become good and stop my drug habits."
- Bella, who will be running with her prison officer Siti Hawa Ahmad Salleh
The Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 2016
For the first time, a team run has been introduced as part of the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run this year.
There will 13 teams, featuring wardens and celebrities running with ex-inmates in the 5km race. There are about 9,000 runners in the various categories, and about $123,000 has already been raised for the Yellow Ribbon Project.
The Yellow Ribbon Project, managed by the Community Action for the Rehabilitation of Ex-Offenders Network, was started in 2004 to create awareness of second chances for and acceptance of ex-offenders and their families in the community.
First flag-off: 7.45am
Venue: SAF Field (Changi Village)
Categories: 10km, 5km Schedule: 7.45am: 10km competitive run