Do you believe in giving second chances – especially to an ex-offender? I’ve always been of the mind that everyone deserves a second chance if they have learned and changed from their mistakes.
One person who has shown that people can learn from their mistakes is Noorhafizah Abdul Rahman.
Like every other young adolescent, Noorhafizah led normal childhood. However, her life changed when she found out at 12 that she was adopted.
Feeling angry and upset, Noorhafizah, also known as Fizah to her friends and family, decided to do whatever she wants to do. She began mixing with the wrong crowd and refused to go to school.
The breaking point came when her father passed away. Her father’s passing changed everything because they were very close and her father would even pick her up from school, even until she was in Secondary 3.
“And he just passed on and I felt so alone. I had nobody to turn to. I was not close to my mum and younger siblings. So, I did more bad things. I started to take drugs,” said Fizah.
Landed in prison because of drugs
Now 34, Fizah said she still cannot forget the dark times she had to go through.
Fizah was eventually placed at the Singapore Girls’ Home for rehabilitation when her mother put up a Beyond Parental Control order application against her, after failing to discipline her.
Unfortunately, instead of making her a better person, Fizah took a turn for the worse. “I took more drugs and got involved with bad company after I got out,” she said.
In the end, these activities landed her in prison in 2001.
Even though it was only for a short period of time, however to Fizah, it was a horrible experience which she never wanted to experience again.
But little did she know, Fizah went back in there again in 2017, because of drugs.
Second time in prison
Fizah decided to pull herself together when she had to enter the prison for the second time. She realised that she couldn’t be there at her brother’s wedding. It was four days after she was scheduled to start her prison term.
She recounted the words her brother said to her on the day she went in. He said: “You’re my elder sister, I need you to be at my wedding.”
Fizah told herself that she must stop taking drugs, stop going back to all the bad company and work and be a better person.
The words Fizah’s mother said to her during a visit too, made her even more determined to change for the better. “My mum told me she needed me to help her take care of my siblings. She wanted me out of prison soon,” said Fizah recounted.
“It broke my heart and was devastating because I was inside, I couldn’t do anything. I wanted to take care of her. Even though I’m not her real child, I believed that it was my responsibility to take care of her when she’s old,” Fizah said.
The changing point
As though everything is predestined, Fizah later came to know about Agape Connecting People, a social enterprise and contact centre that employs disadvantaged people, even inmates serving their time.
Unbeknown to many, Agape also works with NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) to equip Fizah and other disadvantaged individuals like her with the tools to succeed at the job through the place-and-train programme.
Her opportunity came and that was the beginning of Fizah’s transformation. She started training for the job in September 2018 and began working three months later. She continued working at Agape for more than a year.
A few months after her release in July 2020, Fizah joined the company full-time as a customer service officer.
“Agape doesn’t believe in judging others and they accept you as you are – as long as you have the correct attitude, a positive mindset, and you’re willing to grow with them,” Fizah said.
At last, Fizah was on the right path.
Better days ahead
Fizah was recently promoted to assistant team leader after nearly eight months on the job. With the trust and training she received from Agape, she is confident about her prospects for a better life.
She also believes that as long as one has the mentality and capacity to learn and absorb as much as possible, one will definitely go far.
Looking ahead, Fizah says that she would want to have a better career, her own family, her own house, and a chance to travel. She also wants to keep growing with Agape.