In the pages before you are the stories of six former offenders.
Each one faced difficulties in their growing-up years, committed offences, was caught, convicted and served a sentence in correctional facilities.
Today they have turned over a new leaf and are on a journey of restoration and integration back into society – and have done so in an exemplary way. They have learned to accept their past and are now forging ahead as inspirational yet humble prominent figures in society. They are role models even for the best of us.
What you will read are their stories, in their own words, of their individual journeys out from prison into prominence.
Wei Hao was a defiant teenager whose desire to be part of something greater misguidedly led him into gang involvement. While in a boys’ home, Wei Hao faced a crossroads to either continue on as a gang member into a life of regret or to re-enter school to prepare for a better future. He chose the latter and was supported by his mother who never gave up on him. His mother’s undying love together with his sheer hard work and academic flair bore fruit when Wei Hao received nation-wide recognition for his national exam results. In 2004, he was the National Top Scorer for the GCE ‘N’ Level exams and the following year, was National Top Ten for the GCE ‘O’ Level exams as well as recipient of the Lee Kuan Yew Award for Outstanding Students
Wei Hao went on to win multiple accolades in National Service including Best Knowledge, Overall Best Trainee in Ground Based Air Defence and the Sword of Honour. Today Wei Hao serves our nation as an officer with the Republic of Singapore’s Air Force. He also has volunteered with the Ministry for Social and Family Development for Youth Hostels, Homes and the Ministries’ events. His vision is for Singapore to be a society that allows for all youths with a rough start to life to be able to excel to their fullest potentials.
As a teenager, Andyn thought he had found significance in gangs, vice and fighting. Only when shown mutual respect while in prison did Andyn restore his belief in society and sought to do his best while in prison school. Out of prison, his life changed when given a chance to work as a personal trainer. This started him on a tough yet rewarding journey of coaching and learning the ropes of starting his own business.
Now the owner of the gym Strength Avenue, Andyn cares for the fitness and welfare of his clients and has over 10 years of fitness coaching. Clients of his sports performance studio gym include professional athletes, mixed martial artists and amateur athletes and patients undergoing sports rehabilitation. His gym is also home to a team of record-holding Powerlifting and Kettlebell Sport athletes with whom Andyn has trained from the start. Andyn firmly believes that dreams can flourish with hard work, passion and encouraging mentorship. His dream is to see former offenders working competently in meaningful job roles for gainful employment
Formerly in sales, Norli believes in helping others in their time of need. Her heart especially for the younger generation is captured in her current job in a Social Enterprise. Having had a difficult childhood (due to the early death of her mother), Norli struggled with issues of self-esteem, which caused her to experience multiple cycles of drug addiction, offences and subsequent release from corrective facilities. Today she lives drug-free and lives everyday to exemplify to her children what it means to live life to the full.
A strong believer in giving back to her community, her advocacy spirit has led her to share her story to a wide range of audiences from schools to corporate events with the organisation “Beautiful People” for whom she volunteers. Most recently, she has shared her story in the book “From Stereotypes to Archetypes” published in 2018 by Architects of Life. Her story has captured the attention of local and regional news outlets such as Singapore’s Lianhe Zaobao, Berita Harian and the China Press in Malaysia.
A family woman, Norli prioritises time with her children and childhood friends with their families. Her dream is to help mothers in the drug rehabilitation centres triumph over their drug addictions so that once again, they can embrace motherhood.
Coming from a disadvantaged background, Kenneth was an angry and violent teenager. His rebellious heart drove him deep into gang involvement, including secret society involvement, violent gang fights and drug-related crimes. Eventually at age 19, Kenneth was arrested by police. In prison, he turned over a new leaf due to his Christian faith and when finally convinced of the empty show of a gangster’s life.
Kenneth’s life changed when his creative talent was discovered by a local media and design school. Today, Kenneth’s design work is prominent in Singapore and the region with an impressive track record of awards and achievements.
Gifted with a creative design talent from a young age, Kenneth holds multiple awards – most notably the Singapore Spring Design Award in 2008 and Singapore Young Designer Award in 2009 – and has won many local design competitions such as those organised by Converse, Mini Cooper and Canon Photography. His rise in Singapore’s creative design industry has allowed him to further build his skills in roles such as Design Director, Senior Art Director and Creative Director. Today, Kenneth is an entrepreneur managing 2 companies for advertising, branding and interior design projects both locally and regionally.
He also has a heart for the community, strongly believing in mentoring the younger generation and in preparing them for the future. A volunteer with Architects of Life, Kenneth has shared his life story with the boys and girls at the Singapore Boys’ Home, Singapore Girls’ Home, Gracehaven Salvation Army and Singapore Boys’ Hostel.
Formerly living a life of gangs and vice as a rebellious teenager, a near-death experience was Yuzree’s wake-up call. After realising the fragility of life, his purpose to truly help others was renewed.
Today Yuzree is a recognised local musician who lives to inspire others through the sharing of his personal songs and stories. He has performed at events organised by the Yellow Ribbon Project, Architects of Life, Orita Sinclair School of Design and Music and also at numerous local music festivals and corporate events on a regular basis.
With a humble heart for the younger generation, Yuzree also regularly gives talks to youths in secondary schools and tertiary institutions, seeking to inspire them onto a life of chasing their dreams and never limiting themselves. His story has captured the attention of local news outlets such as the Berita Harian Singapura and Millenials of SG.
Once a school dropout and gang member, Andrew’s growing-up years were filled with vice, substance abuse and self-indulgence. It took a second time in prison before, through his Christian faith, Andrew committed himself to freedom from addictions and a renewed purpose to help others.
Today Andrew holds a degree in Communications Management and is certified in Digital Marketing, Advertising and Business Development. He has over 15 years of experience in marketing, communications, advertising and business development in various industries holding titles such as Marketing Communications Manager, Business Director and Associate Director. His work experience has brought him overseas to He Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam where for 4 years he worked to establish and head a Singapore-based integrated marketing communications agency as its General Manager.
Andrew’s passion is to connect with people in order to impact positive change and toward that aim, he regularly mentors youth at-risk, using his past experiences to connect with and guide them towards pursuing purposeful lives. Andrew also volunteers as a Board of Advisor with Architects of Life, a Committee Member with the Unlabelled Run and previously was Honorary Secretary with the Singapore Business Group in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Chapter.
“Once in a long while, a book is written that helps impact and transform lives. I believe this is such a book, because it is all about transformed lives. Transformed lives will always impact other lives. They offer hope to those searching for hope – “If it can happen to you, it can happen to me too! If you can make it, I believe I can imake it too.” I applaud AOL for making this great resource available to all of us. Thank you!”
“This book will empower the reader, and encourages one to look at youths-at-risk and ex-offender from a different perspective, to find hope in them and their circumstances. Definitely a must-read!”
“A thoughtful and wonderful effort by AOL to capture stories of struggles and hope by fellow Singaporeans. It is a heart-warming read which celebrates the triumphs of everyday heroes, and we can definitely all take something away from it. It reminds me that as a society, we need to be more open and forgiving, to work towards a better Singapore.”
“The rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders and ex-offenders require the collective effort of the community. Their journey in changing for the better, and to be accepted back into society, is a challenging one. This is why we must continue to support them as they rebuild their lives and get back on the right path. “FROM STEREOTYPES TO ARCHETYPES” is a collection of stories by ex-offenders on this journey to change for the better. I hope you draw strength and motivation from the stories.”