“I started volunteering with ISCOSFairy Godparent Programme (FGP) because I wanted to do something worthwhile. I’m currently a first-year law student, and for a while, it felt like I was wasting my life doing nothing but my readings.

I also joined the FGP because the past volunteer work that I’ve done was always with the elderly. I thought mentoring young people whose parents are ex-offenders would be an interesting change and would offer a very meaningful experience.

Similarities? I think there are more differences between working with youths and working with the elderly. The elderly typically talk a lot so you’re more of a listener, but you learn a great deal about society because they’ve lived longer and have lots of life lessons to share.

With youths, the roles are reversed. I’m now a mentor to a shy 13-year-old girl, so I’m the one who has to initiate conversation and constantly find topics to talk about. Our first meeting was a bit awkward because we met over a meal, and it’s hard to break the ice while eating.

After few rounds of games and fun activities, I realised that we’re both quite similar and I could relate to her in so many ways. We both like watching horror movies, so we plan to do that during the school holidays.

Right now, my focus is to meet up with her as much as possible. I’ll be coaching her with her school work as well, and hopefully we will have a much stronger bond through the activities we plan to do together.

Volunteering doesn’t take too much of my time. It’s the passion to help others that keeps me going. I first volunteered when I was in secondary school, when The Red Cross brought us to a home for the disabled. As someone who comes from a relatively privileged background, I realised that I should always try to give back to society.

Yes, I would definitely recommend volunteering with ISCOS. If you’re concerned about labels or stigma when working with children of ex-offenders, get to know the person first before passing any judgement. If I could play a part to help stop intergenerational offending, I would try my best to do so.” – Michelle, 20

Michelle Cheong is a volunteer at ISCOS.

Humans of ISCOS is a collaboration between The Everyday People and ISCOS, a co-operative that helps ex-offenders in Singapore. Read more here.

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