Ivan Soh

Despite how hard the challenges along the journey can be, it can be done with the right determination and support.

As a social worker in THK Family Service Centre, my role covers three main areas: casework and counselling, group-work, and community-work. My current focus is on youth-work, in which I mentor youths in various school that requires remedial and developmental support.  
My prior experience working with the ex-offenders community was during my time spent at an institution working with young offenders, providing them with support and counselling to help them reintegrate back to the community. While working in THK Family Service Centre, I started working more with the adult community and families of the ex-offenders. I have since encountered many situations in which ex-offenders would come to us in search of support and hopes of reintegrating back into the community. However, many of them find it difficult due to the stigma and lack of proper support. My motivation for working with them has always been to see ex-offenders reunite with their family, as well as helping them to contribute back to the community and to help reduce the stigma attached to them.
In Mdm Salimah’s case, I actually met her when she was just released from prison. THK Family Service Centre had already been supporting the children in school. Ever since Mdm Salimah was discharged from the DRC, the counselling and support started. When we first met, Mdm Salimah started to open up after finding out I have had experience working with other offenders and am able to provide the necessary support for her.
During the initial phase, I would meet up with her 1 to 2 times a month to follow up with her and find out about how she was coping and if she was facing any challenges. I also provided counselling support to Mdm Salimah when she felt down or discouraged. THK Family Service Centre also provided support to the family to ensure all family members were settling well during the transition. Home visits were made to show support to the family members and create awareness among the family members on the resources available in case they require additional support
The journey with Mdm Salimah through her recovery was really pleasant one as she was very forthcoming. She was and still is determined to change for her family members. Amidst exploring the ways to cope with her triggers and stressors in life, I could sense Mdm Salimah’s determination and strength. Hence, I tapped on her strengths which, in turn, allowed her to learn to be independent as we progressed. Mdm Salimah has been a very strong and positive person throughout the 2 years that I have worked with her. Mdm Salimah herself went through many challenges. However, Mdm Salimah’s determination for her family is admirable. This helped her to stay focus in her rehabilitation.  
Today, Mdm Salimah is doing well and she is coping better. She stays focused and alert about her triggers and the temptations around her. She has also gone for courses to upgrade herself! She is determined to be a role model and good example to her children. I have also seen her lending support to her friends and the community, and even encouraging other ex-offenders to stay clean.
For many ex-offenders, it is actually very important for them to have the support and guidance needed to reintegrate back into society. For Mdm Salimah, she used her volunteering opportunities as a channel to keep herself on track. This made her feel useful and accepted by the society. Because of this, she is less afraid of the stigmas. In all, Mdm Salimah is definitely a good testimony. Her story shows us all that despite how hard the challenges along the journey can be, it can be done with the right determination and support.  
And this is exactly what brings out the best in me too – my passion to see the changes, joy and happiness when others experience a new lease of life. If I could reimagine the world that we live in, it would be a place where people live in consideration for one another. I believe that being considerate towards one another promotes harmony and peace, so that we all can live happily together.
THK Family Service Centre is part of the family-focused arm of Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities (THKMC), which provides multiple social and welfare services to the various groups in our community through more than 60 programmes and services for the elderly and the sick, families, persons with disabilities, and children.
Ivan Soh