Grandma’s death turned ex-gang member around
Former gang member says he didn't realise then how his actions affected others
When he was 15, Mr Ang Yee Ann was in a gang and had 25 secondary schoolmates in the same gang as him.
They would fight with rival gang members from their school outside the school gates in uniform and even during lessons.
The school got teachers and discipline masters to counsel them but to no avail.
This continued for a year, until Mr Ang visited his grandmother, who was dying from cancer, in hospital.
He said: "My grandmother used to be a plump lady in her 60s, but I couldn't recognise the woman lying on the bed.
"Her stomach was concave, and I could see her bones."
I realised how selfish we were, because there were students in class who wanted to study but could not because of the fights.Mr Ang Yee Ann, on his gang fights when he was in school
"That was when I realised I was so involved in gang fights that I had completely neglected the people around me."
His grandma later died and that loss prompted Mr Ang to approach a youth worker at Lutheran Community Care Services (LCCS) for help.
Through him, Mr Ang and his friends met their rivals and thrashed out their differences.
Mr Ang said: "It took months to prepare. When it happened, my classmates and I sat down together to talk about how the fights had disrupted many people in school.
"I realised how selfish we were, because there were students in class who wanted to study but could not because of the fights."
Mr Ang said this counselling approach - restorative practice - gave him a chance to hear how other people in school had been affected by their actions.
It took him two years to completely rid himself of gang influence.
Mr Ang returned to LCCS in 2016 after his national service to work as a youth worker.
Now 23, he said: "I hope my story will help at-risk youth to mend their ways."
Mr Ang left LCCS in June.
Youth worker Jeremy Tan, 25, from non-profit organisation Trybe, which helps at-risk youth, said restorative practice has gained popularity in the last few years.
Mr Tan, who has been working with the youngsters from Boys' Hostel for four years, told TNP that while punishment can serve as a deterrent, these youths may not know how their actions can impact others.
He said: "When the perpetrator can see he has affected the victim, that is when change can happen."
LCCS is organising a Restorative Practice Conference today and tomorrow, where experts will share their experiences with the approach.