It is not easy for anyone to put themselves out there, let alone those who face the stigma of incarceration. For this reason, we are grateful to our friends who have come forward to share their stories. Their courage and determination inspire us at Lakeside to persevere in our mission to change lives and transform communities.
We hope more people will extend compassion and understanding to (ex-)inmates and their families and support them as part of our community. Thank you for reading these stories from our staff and beneficiaries.
“Kor Kor, thank you for giving up your leg for me.”
Known as a swimming champion to his childhood friends, Tan Lee Chiew’s lifelong ambition was to become a professional diver. However, he was introduced to drugs by his peers, and everything spiralled out of control. His brother, heartbroken over Lee Chiew’s drug addiction, attempted suicide. He survived, but was left a paraplegic with mental health issues.
Lee Chiew had tried to grab onto his brother but failed, ultimately witnessing his fall from the 4th floor. Wrecked with guilt, he blamed himself for his brother’s predicament. In prison, he found God and the strength to overcome the urge to take drugs. After asking his brother for forgiveness, they reconciled.
While on the Work Release Scheme (WRS), Lee Chiew learned that his father was diagnosed with terminal kidney failure. There was nothing he could do for the father he loved dearly. He suffered another blow last year with the passing of his father, who had wanted to see him complete the WRS programme.
“I was able to return home to spend quality time with my father. Although my father was not healed eventually, I am truly grateful to God for the opportunity to journey with him until his last breath. He provided me the chance to be with my father, to see him for the last time and even be present at his wake.”
Lakeside has been working steadily with Lee Chiew, providing counselling and case management. He felt the sessions were helpful as he could turn to his case manager for support whenever he felt downcast or overwhelmed. He no longer bottles up his feelings, and learned to focus on his motivations for staying drug-free.
Today, Lee Chiew is on a better path, volunteering with other ex-inmates to serve the elderly and training to become a volunteer counsellor. He leads a quiet life at home, fulfilling his father’s last wish by taking care of his mother. He is also active in church activities and swims in his free time.
“The journey to reintegration is long, but it begins with a single step”
I made a mid-career switch at the age of 45 to become a social worker. It has not been easy but it opened my eyes to the struggles that some individuals and families face daily, and I learned to be grateful for the little things I have in life.
As caseworker under the Prisons Team at Lakeside Family Services, I work with inmates under the Work Release Scheme to help them reintegrate into society. It was the first time I saw how prison looks like from the inside and had a glimpse of the challenges in their lives.
It has been a very satisfying journey, especially when I saw how a supervisee who lived a life of drugs and crime changed his life around, after he scored straight As in prison school, and realised he could study! He is now in SUSS doing a social work course (YES!) and his dream is to help those going through the same struggles and to give back to society.
It is a beautiful story and there are a lot more, of inmates overcoming their addictions and the families who did not give up on them. They need your support & encouragement and your donation will go a long way.
To my family, friends, ex-colleagues, ex-students, and all whom I have crossed paths with, thank you for journeying with me. I am grateful for your contribution to support my 35km walk from Lakeside to Changi Prison. Thank you!
More stories coming soon…