Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Is this home, truly? Project Hiraeth raises $57,000 in a bid to unlock social prison

Being freed from the bars of prison should fill ex-offenders with optimism and hope. But for many ex-offenders, release brings with it stress of insurmountable challenges – one of which is re-integrating themselves back into society.

It was a casual conversation with a friend who shared about the difficulties encountered by her relative who was an ex-offender upon release from prison that stirred a group of four to work with a charity that is aligned with their desire of helping ex-offenders assimilate back into society.

In hopes of dispelling the stigma that is commonly associated with ex-offenders, Sarah Tang, Lui Kai Siang, Cathy Chen and Heer Ee Koh from Hwa Chong Institution (High School Section) and Nanyang Girls’ High School adopted the Yellow Ribbon Project as their chosen Voluntary Welfare Organisation (VWO) for this year’s Citi-YMCA Youth For Causes programme. Named Project “Hiraeth”, the Welsh word which means “homesickness”, the team envisioned a society where ex-offenders can truly call home.

To champion their cause, Project Hiraeth set out to achieve three objectives: raise funds and awareness for Yellow Ribbon Project, generate awareness of the myriad of difficulties ex-offenders face and to encourage society to have greater acceptance and understanding towards ex-offenders. To achieve these objectives, Project Hiraeth organised street sales and a concert featuring student and professional performers, as well as a band performance comprising ex-offenders who also shared stories about their past.

"The second prison is an invisible prison constructed by society to incarcerate ex-offenders for life even after they have received their due punishment in the physical prison. We believe that this second prison should be deconstructed, and are heartened that many, especially the younger generation, have stepped forward to help us in diminishing the social stigma imposed on ex-offenders," said Heer Ee Koh, a group member of Project Hiraeth.

Over $57,000 was raised by the team over a period four months from a seed funding of $1,600, an amazing feat that clinched them the Best Team title. “The energy of the team is amazing. One of the highest that we have worked with in recent years with a school group. The members were able to demonstrate compassion, leadership and responsibility at a very young age while juggling this project with their schoolwork and exams,” said Ms Denise Chow, Yellow Ribbon Fund Secretariat who is the VWO representative who guided the team in their project implementation.

“Project Hiraeth has done exceptionally well in planning and executing a real life project that made real positive impact to the lives of Yellow Ribbon Project’s beneficiaries. Despite their heavy commitments in their school and personal lives, they learnt to prioritize and compromise to ensure the success of this project. Through their effective team synergy, they found innovative ways to solve many challenges and adapted well to new circumstances. Each of them worked very hard. The project has turned them to polished diamonds, able to confidently withstand any stress or pressure that comes to them,” added Mr Lyndon Lingbaoan, volunteer mentor of Project Hiraeth.

In its 13th edition, this year’s Citi-YMCA Youth For Causes programme received a total of 175 proposal submissions, and the top 100 teams were shortlisted to champion the social causes of 46 voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) of their choice.

Citi-YMCA Youth For Causes is a community initiative jointly organised by Citi Singapore and the YMCA of Singapore since 2002. Funded by Citi Foundation, the programme is a catalyst to promote social entrepreneurship and community leadership development among Singapore youths. It provides youths aged 15 to 25 with seed funding, resources and guidance of selected mentors, to execute sustainable social entrepreneurship ideas and business models that benefit and support VWOs of their choice. In teams of four, the youths will learn to budget, raise funds, mobilise volunteers and increase public awareness for the social causes of their VWOs. The programme provides seed funding of $1,600 per team for participants to execute their creative ideas to benefit their chosen charity. For more information on the programme, please visit and

Project Hiraeth will be receiving the YFC Best Team Award (Category B) at the YFC Awards Celebration, along with nine other award recipients.

A total of 10 awards will be presented this year and the winners are as follow:

YFC Most Outstanding Team Award (Category A)
Project Hiraeth
YFC Most Outstanding Team Award (Category B)
Hundred Acre Love (#100AcreLove)
YFC Fund Management Award
Operation KIWI
YFC Volunteer Management Award
Team Dysire
YFC Public Outreach Award
The Dreamswork Project
YFC Promising Entrepreneur Award
Project Keep in Touch
YFC Best Mentor Award
Christina Cheng
YFC Most Supportive Teacher Award
Violet Ng
YFC Most Supportive VWO Award
Metta Welfare Association
YFC Most Supportive School Award
National Junior College

Teams were assessed by their mentors, VWO representatives, and the Citi-YMCA Youth For Causes judging panel. The Judging Panel consist of management executives from various corporate sectors who volunteer their time and expertise to assess the teams on their projects.

No comments :

Post a Comment