A recent study revealed that Singaporeans do not mix across social classes. However, we are proud to share a story that says otherwise.
He is a former convict and a secondary school dropout who has spent around two decades in and out of prison for drug offences. She is a Hwa Chong alumna, a master’s graduate who studied in the United States and now sits on the boards of directors of a dozen firms and charities.
Despite living in two different worlds, Mr Joel Lee Hong Seng, 49, and Madam Lorinne Kon, 52, are close friends who enjoy each other’s company, often reminiscing over tea at a coffee shop near his flat or listening to sermons together in church.
Mr Lee now lives alone in a one-room rental flat in Jalan Besar. But for nearly seven years, his home was Cluster A2 of Changi Prison. In stark contrast, Madam Kon, who is married with two children, lives in a 1,600 sq ft condominium unit in Balestier.
Now a delivery driver, a job he found thanks to the help of Madam Kon and other friends at Paya Lebar Methodist Church, Mr Lee says his life of crime and drugs is over – all because of a chance encounter in 2014.
Then, she was one of three Thursday volunteers with Prison Fellowship Singapore (PFS), which conducts regular weekday Bible classes for inmates. Says Mr Lee in Mandarin: “She sat next to me during the Bible classes, so when there was a passage that I couldn’t understand, I would ask Lorinne.”
Her first memory of Mr Lee is of him asking thoughtful questions, and of his attentiveness in these classes. He would also shush others when their attention lapsed, reminding them that the volunteers were there every week out of goodwill.
Technically, the PFS programme ends when the inmate is released. But Madam Kon continued to keep in touch with him.
This is an excerpt. To read the full story, see it on The Sunday Times.