Running Back to Life
The annual Yellow Ribbon Prison Run is a 10km road race and 5km fun walk that takes place around the Changi Prison Complex. Seeking to generate public awareness and support for the reintegration of ex-offenders back into society, the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run is part of the Yellow Ribbon Project, which is spearheaded by the Community Action for the Rehabilitation of Ex-Offenders (CARE) Network. The name of the project was inspired by a popular song, ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree’. Based on a real-life tale of an ex-offender's journey to forgiveness, the song tells of a man writing to his wife from prison, asking her to show her forgiveness by tying a yellow ribbon around the oak tree in their city square. A happy ending follows when a hundred yellow ribbons greeted him on his return. The act of wearing a yellow ribbon pin as a show of acceptance of ex-offenders has since become one of the signature activities of the Yellow Ribbon Project. This year, the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run celebrates its 10th anniversary in bringing the community together to run for second chances. Advocating Second Chances Nina Rafiee is aware of the struggles of ex-offenders reintegrating back into society. She is a Program Executive at New Life Stories, a partner with the Yellow Ribbon Project and one of the aftercare agencies under the CARE Network. She works closely with mothers in prison, helping them to stay connected with their young children and their families through the writing of short stories, which are then published in books. A highly active advocate of helping those who are released from prison to readjust back into society, Nina and her husband also volunteer beyond regular working hours with the Yellow Ribbon Project, helping former inmates get back on their feet in society and with their families. “My job requires me to work closely with mothers in prison, and their circumstances as varied as you can imagine,” says Nina. “They have to serve their sentences because of mistakes made, and this takes a toll on their families as well. We work hard to ensure that they stay connected with their children and parents, encouraging them to use children’s stories tell of their love for their families.” She acknowledges that it’s a job that is heart-warming, uplifting, and occasionally heart-breaking all at once. However, hope springs eternal and the chance to make a difference in the lives of others motivates Nina at her job. After a break of two years with the birth of her son, Nina is set to run in this year’s edition of the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run again. The positivity of the event always gives her a boost, and for Nina and her husband, it’s also a way to keep them motivated about personal fitness as all of their energies have been focused on their child for some time. The run is always a special occasion for Nina, as she gets to catch up with the people that she has worked with in prison, and are now also her friends. The running route, traditionally designed to be winding and with multiple elevation changes, is symbolic of the sometimes difficult road to re-acceptance back into society. It’s an event that is more than just about running, as community leaders, reformed ex-offenders and the general public at large come together and use exercise as a way to show support for the Yellow Ribbon Project. For Nina, seeing and catching up with the people that she worked with in prison now re-integrated back into society and with their families is always a wonderful experience. For running enthusiasts, the event is also a welcome change of pace from running events that are usually held around the city. An early morning run around the Changi district and a chance to wander around part of the Changi Prison Complex openly only happens once a year, so join the 2018 Yellow Ribbon Prison Run and show your support for second chances by signing up here: www.yellowribbonprisonrun.sg. 57-year-old Hanniel Choong tells us about his life in prison, his youth as a drug addict and how he survived to become a family man, father of two and a long distance trail runner in our next story of second chances. Check back soon!