“I’m currently a fourth-year associate at Wong & Leow LLC and I practise a range of corporate and commercial law.

My first few years of working life were challenging because I had to put in longer hours to get better at my craft, but things have since gotten better. I have better control of my time now, and I’m blessed to be in a conducive environment with very supportive seniors and juniors.

It’s funny; I didn’t start off wanting to practise law. At the age of 18, when I had to choose a field of study as an undergraduate, I chose engineering because I performed well in maths and science in junior college (JC). After doing some reading, however, I thought that might not be my area of interest.

While exploring other options, I chanced upon this book called ‘The Rule of Law’ in a bookstore. It talked about the ideals of law and how these came about. I was intrigued, and I liked how the concepts of law sounded so logical, so I applied for a position in law school, got accepted, and here we are.

About two months after joining the firm, there was an email from our Operations Executive Director, Edmund Ng.  He was raising awareness about the ISCOS Fairy Godparent Programme (FGP) which the firm supports and called for volunteers to join this initiative.

That got me thinking about how I used to be involved with community service when I was in secondary school and JC. For example, we would visit old folks’ homes and help to clean their living spaces. However, my involvement stopped after I joined the army and went on with my undergraduate studies.

I decided to read up a bit on ISCOS and learnt that they help to rehabilitate and reintegrate ex-offenders back into society and support their families. I felt the FGP is a great way for me to get involved in volunteering work again, so I responded to the invite.

It’s been four years now since I first met my FGP mentee. He was only 10 years old then. He was very shy initially, but the group activities that ISCOS organised really helped to break the ice and warm him up to the idea of having me as a mentor.

We first participated in a mini sports day together. It was important to do something fun to build rapport first because children see you through the lenses of a playmate – as someone who’s cool and whom they are comfortable to be with.

Interestingly, as our relationship progressed, I also started having slightly more serious conversations with my mentee around life skills and lessons. At the end of the day, what I also want is to try to have a positive impact on him and to show that he has a friend in me.

We are very comfortable with each other now – our friendship has strengthened over the years and we tried new things together. In fact, we just met last weekend to play basketball together.

In the process of growing up, parents obviously play a big role in the formation of a child’s character, habits and perceptions. But there are also times when it is good to have someone who’s more relatable in terms of age or stage in life.

At least the child will have a tangible role model – you know that this person has experienced this journey before, and you know it can be done. I think that’s what I’m trying to do – to help my mentee see things from a perspective that’s hopefully closer to him. That’s why mentoring is important.

Just this year, he progressed from primary six to secondary one. We had a little pep talk on Christmas Eve last year, just before the new school year started. He told me he was a bit scared because it will be a totally new environment.

I told him that the only way to grow is to place ourselves in unfamiliar situations and challenge ourselves to step out of our comfort zone. It’s normal to feel a bit apprehensive, but you shouldn’t be terrified to the point where the fear stops you from doing new things.

I also told him that he has to start being more responsible for himself. Previously, his parents had a very heavy role in caregiving, but now, he has to be more accountable for his own schedule and activities.

He probably didn’t retain everything I said, but if he remembers even a bit of it, I think I would have helped make a difference in his life.

We try to meet at least once every two months. Now, it kind of bugs me when I don’t see my mentee for a while. Sometimes I’d just give him a call or drop by his house to chat and play with his cat.

My mentee’s parents are always welcoming to me and just last year, they invited me over to have a meal with them when they broke fast during Ramadhan.

I think I have a soft spot for my mentee because I myself had come from a humble family background. I grew up in a simple family setting with nothing fancy, and my parents worked hard to meet our needs.

I came from a broadly similar place to be where I am now – there was lots of hard work involved, and I also see what I have as blessings bestowed on me. Now, I want to do my part to give that little blessing to someone else.

There’s nothing complex about how I’m going about doing it. I don’t have to be a politician or impact the world in some grand way. If I can just be a friend to somebody, especially somebody in need, that fills my heart with joy.” – Timon Chiong, 29

Interview by: Arman Shah

Timon Chiong is an associate at Wong & Leow LLC and a volunteer of 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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