Ex-offenders' families receive help with bursary awards
Over 150 students received bursary awards given by the Industrial & Services Co-Operative Society, which supports families of existing and former offenders. Foo Jie Ying speaks to two families who received awards
He's happy when his dad goes to jail.
Said Dani, 10: "I feel peaceful."
He fell silent when asked why.
His mother, Madam Amelia, 50, explained that her husband's presence made Dani and his siblings feel ill at ease.
Her husband has been in and out of jail nine times for theft and drug offences. He is currently out after serving a four-year sentence.
For years, Dani, his three older siblings and their mother, Madam Amelia, 50, have been relying on support from the Industrial & Services Co-operative Society (Iscos).
Iscos reaches out to families of ex-offenders through various programmes.
One of them is a bursary award that both Dani and his 15-year-old brother received last Friday.
They have a sister, 16, who is also a student and another sibling, 18.
Their names have been changed to protect them.
Speaking to The New Paper after the bursary award ceremony last week, Madam Amelia said that she, like her children, has given up on her husband.
Said Madam Amelia: "I have given up. I tried not just one or two years, but 21 years. It's been long enough. Each time he came out (of prison), I thought, maybe he would change.
"The father always promises not to (commit a crime) again, but something happens and he will be back (in jail).
"I think the children are disappointed, but they can't do anything... They cannot tell their father (not to repeat his mistake) because he has a big ego. He can't accept what they tell him," she said.
Initially, she felt abandoned.
"The first two or three times (he was jailed), I cried. But after that, I stopped. I think I've run out of tears," said Madam Amelia quietly.
The former housewife took up four part-time cleaning jobs to feed her children, who were of school-going age.
"I had to run from one office to another. I also tried to find all kinds of financial help I could apply for, from the CDC (Community Development Council) to Muis (Islamic Religious Council of Singapore)," she said.
Since her husband was released from prison in 2013, she has cut down to one part-time cleaning job, which pays $500 a month.
Her husband, who also works as a cleaner, lives with Madam Amelia and their children in a one-room rental flat.
He chips in to help with household expenditure sporadically, but is almost never home. The family gets by with government handouts.
Despite sharing a roof, the gulf between father and children has widened.
Said Madam Amelia: "They grew close to me, but not the father.
"He also doesn't bother asking them to do their homework or ask how their exams went. They were never close. That's the problem."
She added that she is going through divorce proceedings.
What the family lacks financially is made up for with a bond that money cannot buy.
For instance, the children are protective of their mother whenever their father loses his temper.
"Every time the father gets angry, they will say 'come, mother, let's go out'," she said.
Once, on her birthday, her children surprised her with a slice of cake.
"Even though it's just a slice, I was happy. Because I knew they didn't have much money. I was so surprised by their gesture. The cake even came with one candle," she said.
Madam Amelia's biggest worry is her children's future. She pushes them to study and hopes they will grow up to be successful individuals.
"I always tell them, 'Don't follow your father, don't follow me. If you can do better, do better than me'," she said.
The first two or three times (he was jailed), I cried. But after that, I stopped. I think I've run out of tears.
- Madam Amelia, 50, on her husband, who has been in and out of jail for drugs and theft-related crimes
The Industrial & Services Co-operative Society (Iscos) helps ex-offenders and their families gain a foothold in society so they can lead productive lives.
One of its programmes, the Yellow Ribbon Fund-Iscos Fairy Godparent Programme (FGP), aims to break the intergenerational offending cycle.
Under the FGP, bursaries are disbursed yearly (since 2011) to beneficiaries who have made progress in their studies.
These students, who range from primary to tertiary levels, have to be children of former offenders from low-income families.
This year, close to $60,000 worth of bursaries fully sponsored by Goldbell Foundation were given out to over 150students at a ceremony last Friday, at Queenstown Community Centre.
They were each awarded between $300 and $500, depending on their education level.