“When I was approaching 50 last year, I began to feel somewhat empty within my soul. It could be a mild form of mid-life crisis, due to the crossing of a certain age. There were times where I’d come home from work and wonder what I had achieved for the day. There was this need to seek some sense of purpose in my life.
I’ve been in banking my whole working life. I have worked hard to build my career, especially in my twenties and thirties when the industry I was in was growing rapidly. Life became even more hectic when my son was born and I had to juggle both work and family life.
For my own well-being, I began to seek new direction to take a path that has less of budgets and deadlines as I approach my sixties and seventies. When I shared how I felt with my friend Daniel, he asked if I was keen to try something different.
Daniel and I were colleagues in another organisation before he left to become the chairman at ISCOS. When he told me about how ISCOS helps ex-offenders, I decided to “give it a try” and volunteered with ISCOS, hoping that through this work, I could give back to society in some way.
A few months after joining him as a board member on a voluntary basis, Daniel and the Board appointed me as the Honorary Treasurer. This was the beginning of an interesting journey. What they do here is really unique. In particular, I find helping ex-offenders seek employment to be something very meaningful.
A highlight for me would be the visit to Changi Prison where I saw what life behind bars was like. I was pleasantly surprised by the wide range of programmes offered to the inmates. As long as there’s a keenness to learn, these programmes are there to help them acquire a life skill.
During the visit, I got to watch a play performed by the inmates. The Singapore Prison Service partnered up inmates who were interested in the arts with acting coaches for the production. It was all very professional, and I found the inmates well-spoken and talented.
Moving forward, our job at ISCOS is to persuade prospective employers to give them jobs. Even if they have rehabilitated and displayed good attitudes in prison, it will be a pity if society doesn’t accept them. We must look beyond the past and give them a second chance.
Challenges? Well, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to contribute to ISCOS at first, but thankfully, the skills that I’ve picked up over the years came in handy. My prior work experience was helpful, even when applied to the setting of a non-profit organisation.
In my role as the treasurer, one concern that I have would be the sustainability of funding. ISCOS is self-funded currently, so we need all the financial support we can get to continue doing the good work that we’ve done for our beneficiaries.
Another challenge I faced was time management – to balance my time between my full-time job and what I do here. I am happy that it has worked out well so far, but certainly there is more to be done and learnt going forward.
Yes, I feel happy and satisfied now. My full-time job helps pay the bills, but the work I do here keeps me feeling fulfilled. To call it a calling would be an exaggeration, but I do feel a sense of satisfaction knowing that I can at least contribute something worthwhile back to society.” – Mike, 51
Mike Hue is Honorary Treasurer of the ISCOS Board of Directors.
Humans of ISCOS is a collaboration between The Everyday People and ISCOS, a co-operative that helps ex-offenders in Singapore. Read more here.
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