I have been giving talks in Prison school on a pro bono basis before I even started my year off last year through a contact in Hindu society. My 1st interaction with these young boys was when I went to the min security prison in Kaki Bukit sometime in June before I set off for Mustagh Ata in China. These boys are mainly 1st or 2nd time offenders for drug consumption and trafficking and/or petty thefts. Most of the boys were taking their ‘O’ Levels at the end of the year and studying for it but didn’t seem to find motivation and were very disillusioned with life. Many of them were from broken families with very little income and were struggling to earn a living for themselves and for their families thus lured by these easy opportunities to make a quick income by trafficking and thefts. The feedback I got after my 1st sharing session with them was positive. They could identify with me as a young individual setting a goal and achieving my dream through seemingly impossible odds and enjoying myself in the process. I was asked to give another talk after I had returned from some of my trips since the boys wanted to hear about my progress. I returned to this group of about 12 boys in their new complex at Tanah Merah Prison after Cho Oyu. My 1st thought was how I was going to face them after 2 consecutive failed summit attempts in Musatgh and Cho Oyu after having inspired them before my climbs. To my big surprise, they drew more strength from my tenacity to carry on with my journey despite the repeated failures and in general, they were just happy to see me. I had apparently set off news spreading through the whole of Kaki Biukit Prison about my endeavours and the young prisoners of all races and religions were rooting for me and trying to follow my progress through whatever media that was allowed in prison. Many of the boys that I had talked to previously have served their sentence and have been released and I heard some of them were interested in meeting up in person for a coffee outside.
I was once again invited through Hindu society to continue giving talks to the inmates due to the extremely positive feedback they had received through the 1st 2 talks. I agreed immediately. Today, I went to give a talk to another group of prisoners in the tightly secure Changi prison whom were serving moderate term sentence of about 10- 25 years. This time, the group comprised of 32 inmates and their age ranged from 18 all the way to 50+. It felt odd being a young member of the public preaching some values to the inmates who were 2-3 decades older than me. The session fortunately went well and I was requested to return after Everest to give a talk again. I will be giving another talk next week to another group in the max security side for inmates serving max term to full life sentences. Its going to be extremely challenging as I ponder what I would say would motivate these guys who might have lost everything to hope for in life. I am very intimidated at the immense task ahead.
Above all, something unforgettable happened today. After today’s visit, one of the volunteers who had been with me previously for all my talks told me that one of the boys we counselled from the original Kaki Bukit prison had become the top ‘O’ level student in the entire prison and he was also Singapore’s top ‘O’ level private candidate scoring an astounding 8 points! This great achievement was coming from a boy who had failed ITE exams numerous times and had given up on studying and himself all together. This wonderful news came out in the new paper and can be found at (http://www.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne+News/Singapore/Story/A1Story20080210-48914.html ). It seemed that after my talks, his tutor noticed him to become more resilient and started practising more maths papers with more vigour and was keen to learn from his mistakes instead of giving up easily. My fellow volunteer friend told me that apparently I had given confidence for him to believe in himself once again. I was almost moved to tears when I heard this wonderful news. Such a small and insignificant sharing session that I did, had made such a big difference in someone’s life. That moment made me realise that all the bleak times where I was about to give up but carried on working hard for my dream was all worth while. That was satisfaction at its zenith. I will continue to follow my passion and dreams despite the difficulties I will face and continue to give my talks to those interested and hopefully I’ll be an inspiration to others as how much others have been an inspiration to me.
“Be the change that you want to see in this world” – Mahatma Gandhi