The haze had threatened to derail the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run this morning. But in the end, a scaled-down version took place – with the 10km Competitive Run being cancelled and the 6km Fun Run turned into a 6km Walk. The post-race carnival activities was retained, though.
I had registered in the cancelled 10km run, so I turned up for the Walk instead, and strolled through the route very slowly, as the haze PSI levels had been about 150 at that point, that is, in the Unhealthy range – so I did not want to engage in any strenuous exercises.
ENGAGING AND INTERESTING WALK
This interesting walk was very educational and took us through some meaningful landmarks in the Changi area – including the Johore Battery (a labyrinth of underground tunnels constructed for the coastal defence of Singapore), Changi Chapel and Museum (a monument dedicated to those who died in the Second World War) and the Lloyd Leas Community Supervision Centre (housing the Community Corrections Command Centres which carries out the supervision, rehabilitation and reintegration work in the community).
At the same time, in a brand new addition by the organisers, the 6km route had included the introduction of fairy-tale characters which had been given second chances. This was to remind runners that the Yellow Ribbon Project is about giving second chances to ex-offenders. These characters had included the Ugly Duckling and his subsequent transformation into a swan, as well as the Princess and her”ugly” Frog Prince.
Looking at all these had all helped to take my mind off from the haze, which was quite strong this morning.
MAKING THE MOST OF WHAT WE HAD
Many of the other runners had made the most of what was left of the race.
Said consultant Maria Fernandez, 42, who was supposed to be running in the 10km category, “I do not want to feel sour about the 10km race cancellation. I just wanted to make the most of it and finish the day with a smile. After all, the haze is nobody’s fault. And I enjoyed the time I had here, to take photos and capture moments and to make the best of everything. Otherwise if you complain and moan about it, you will be on the losing end.”
Fellow 10km runner Andy Tay, 54, echoed her thoughts. He added, “There was no disappointment about the 10km event being cancelled as a 6km Walk was still on. My friends and I ran all the way through the 6km even though they said it was a walk. But of course, we listened to our bodies – and we had fun and really enjoyed ourselves. We think that this had been the best decision for everyone.”
A MEANINGFUL RUNNING EVENT ON THE CALENDAR
I must admit that I always look forward to participating in this event every year – and this morning had been no exception, especially once I had heard that the 6km Fun Run (converted into a Walk) would still take place despite the haze. The supporting of second chances is a cause that I have always strongly believed strongly in. I think people should not be stigmatised for the rest of their lives, simply because they have made mistakes in the past.
And other runners also agreed. Said Fernandez, “We have to accept the fact that some people have been to prison and that society will never treat them the same afterwards. People always have the fear or doubt in ex-offenders when they try to get back into society. This perception should slowly change with events like this.”
MEANINGFUL POST-RACE CARNIVAL ACTIVITIES
Besides the run itself, meaningful post-race carnival events were held to educate runners on the giving of second chances to ex-offenders. These had included a mock-up “prison” and a rehabilitation game, whereby we walked through the journey of an offender, from the time they are sent to prison, to the time that they are released and rehabilitated into society.
During the game, we were grouped into three teams of eight and had to solve simple puzzles and clues to unlock codes – similar to the Escape Games that have become very popular nowadays.
The game was definitely interesting, for example, to see with my own eyes, how few valuables the convicts are allowed during their time in prison. In fact, their possessions fit into a small plastic box about the length and breadth of an A2 piece of paper.
In addition, the carnival also comprised of exhibitions such as a mock-up prison cell and a mini wall mural exhibition describing the journey of ex-offenders, from the time they are released from prison and the stigmas that they feel, told through the eyes of actual ex-prisoners.
Other runners also found these carnival activities meaningful. Said civil servant, Hong Jing Ying, who was taking part in the Yellow Ribbon Run for the first time, “I think this is a very meaningful project and going through the mock-up cell has increased my awareness of what the inmates go through and what their lives are like inside. It was very interesting and informative and I would definitely come back again to support this good cause.”
EX-CONVICTS GENUINELY APPRECIATE SUCH EVENTS TO EDUCATE THE PUBLIC
However it is not just the runners who find the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run interesting and meaningful. For the ex-convicts themselves, they are really grateful of how events such as this run, have helped the public to successfully see them in a new light and change the common perception towards them.
One such ex-convict is Awasha Ahmad Asah, 40. Said the bubbly and cheerful cleaning supervisor, who was imprisoned twice for drug offences and was released the last time in 2011, “Events like this helps – as it shows that there is a community out there who supports us and these really help me to feel much better.” So as a result, she is really grateful for the help and education programmes available.”
She continued, in a very upbeat and optimistic tone, “Life is not as easy as people think after you have been released from prison as we do not simply bounce back to a normal life immediately. There are stigmas to live with, even if you genuinely want to change. But if you make the effort to not return to your old ways, and you have the support of others behind you, then it can be done.”
For Awasha, she feels that she was fortunate to have had the support of family and close friends behind her, upon her release from prison – but she still admitted that it was hard to re-integrate and fit back into society immediately upon her release, due to current stigmas surrounding people like her.
And Awasha is so grateful for all the support that she had been given by everyone around her – that she registered for the 6km fun run, for the first time, this year. She added, “I came here alone and I met some new friends, too. They know about me now – and vice versa. I don’t mind sharing my past with them because everyone makes mistakes. I deserve second chances and they do, too. That is why I have chosen to be out here running today!”
Continued Awasha, very cheerfully and enthusiastically, “So today, prison is no more for me!” And as long as she continues to maintain that optimistic attitude towards life, Awasha will definitely be able to make a difference in her life.
Other blog posts
- What Yellow Ribbon Project Means To Me
- Yellow Ribbon Run Race Pack Collection
- Race Comments – Yellow Ribbon Run 2014
- Reflections for Yellow Ribbon Run 2013