2 Jan 2013, by Adeline Lum CM-
On 18th December, I visited Kajang Prison under the wings of Malaysian Care, to witness their Christmas event for the juveniles there. Malaysian Care has a long-standing division called the Prison, Drugs and AIDS Department, aimed to help those who are most ostracized by the society, yet needing most help to return to normal life.
The Christmas Party began at 9 A.M. After leaving our personal items at the locker followed by a body check, we passed through the cold bars before reaching an open tarmac field enclosed by a column of cells.
At a distant, a canteen with 200 boys clad in shirts of different shades—red, green and purple—sat in rows of chairs. The humming of the crowd became louder when we approached. Several boys interposed the buzz with a friendly “hello” to us, before joining all the other boys in standing and greeting the Commandant of the Juvenile Prison (also known as Sekolah Integriti Kajang or SIK) with a loud and energetic, “Selamat pagi Tuan Ranjit!”
A hand-painted banner bearing the words “FAMILY… Father and Mother, I Love You” hung onstage,which is also the theme for the Christmas event.
“Most of the kids here come from dysfunctional families. Because of that, friends are king to them. Immediately after they step out, they are chased by their (old) friends, falling back into their old ways,” said Poh Siew Lin. “Through this event, we hope to bring the message to the boys that they do still care for their own families and families need to be aware that they too play an important role in their rehabilitative process and holistic growth.”
Siew Lin is a counsellor with Malaysian Care. “God opened doors for her” when she did her practicum at Kajang Prison during her completion ofher Masters in Counselling Psychology from UKM (University Kebangsaan Malaysia).
“Many of the boys live without dealing with their personal issues, leaving them angry and filled with resentment,” said Siew Lin. “At one point in their lives, they did something wrong, made a wrong decision, but they are very talented and normal individuals.”
Three years ago, she began a special programme at the Sekolah Integriti Kajang (SIK) to provide counselling to newcomers for two months before they are absorbed into classes to prepare them for UPSR, PMR or SPM. SIK also provide the boys’ sponsorship to assist them in returning to school. Malaysian Care assists in helping them to find a job upon release.
When asked how she found courage to counsel the boys, she said, “Although the prison has high walls and fencing, there are still greens here as well to give peace. I felt moved by God to put aside discrimination and do something for these troubled kids.” A few of them still kept in touch with her upon release. One boy who was convicted of Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) brought encouragement to her when he reconciled with his family and attained a stable job.
The “FAMILY” event started with Mr Wong Young Soon, Executive Director of Malaysian Care, who gave a speech about how Malaysia is a multi-racial country and it was a privilege to celebrate Christmas with them. Kenneth Wong, Director of the Prison, Drugs and AIDS Department in Malaysian Car, was the emcee for the event.
The first guitar performance was headed by 13 boys, accompanied by five music teachers from Addtone Guitar Ensemble. The boys that had been selected were assessed earlier on by Siew Lin and her team to join the music class cum character building classes. The music class was taught by the Addtone music teachers. Although the boys had only learned to play the Christmas song for a month, their ensemble delivered a remarkable orchestra in incredible synchrony, i.e. Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Jingle Bells.
Next, Dr Joanne Yeoh, a sought-after violinist who performed in Jacky Cheung Music Odyssey Tour (2002 or 2003) and Alan Tam (2008), brought an electrifying performance to the boys, who applauded and gasped as Joanne walked down the stage to play amongst her ardent fans. Moving swiftly to the back, she sat on empty chairs side-by-side with the boys who blushed and clapped at the beat of her songs. “Lagi satu (meaning Encore in malay)!” the boys exclaimed. And Joanne obliged by delivering a total of four memorable and uplifting performances.
Next, the same boys from the music classes did a stage drama, focusing on family values. The show started with a family breakfast scene, of a boy who’s excellent academic results did not please his father of high expectation. Feeling neglected by his family, he called a friend who invited him out to karaoke joints. The whole play was interjected with downright creativity and humour. At the karaoke scene, a few boys dressed in blouses, skirts and wigs, acting as female friends. The audience burst with laughter! Turned out, the boy was conned to carry drugs by his friend and convicted to imprisonment at the end of the play. What realistic and relevant issues are brought by this drama!
Lastly, the Addtone Guitar Ensemble performed two amazing songs, entitled “Romance De Amor” and “Concerto RV93 by Vivaldi” to the boys’ applause! The event ended with giving out Christmas goodie bags with snacks, accompanied by the Malaysian Care team singing Christmas carols.
After the event, I shook hands with the boys thanking them for their performance, in which they responded in gushes and smiles. At that instance, I stepped back to reflect on my initial impression I had on these boys. That feeling of threat and fear I had before visiting them, and that justified resentment buried in me for the harm they committed to others. Some of them were robbers, snatch-thieves, gang-fighters, drug launderers, drug abusers and even murderers. But after shaking their hands, their gush in turn made me embarrassed for my “self-righteous” attitude. They look normal; in fact, they ARE normal kids who despite committing petty to heinous crimes, laughs, smiles, jokes, appreciates compliments, values relationships, yearns for approval and attention.. Yes, they have desires, want and needs like a normal kid.
“I am very proud of your performance and it is evident that all of you are very talented people who carry a burden to be good examples to your peers,” said Siew Lin to the boys. “Apa sudah berlaku sudah lalu (meaning what has passed has become the past)… learn from the past but move forward from today.”
When Jesus was crucified, two criminals were also crucified beside him, one denying Christ with an unrepentant heart, while the other accepting his punishment and admitting to sin. The latter only asked that Jesus remembered him, but Jesus offered him something even more, something eternal: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43)”.
And today, God’s grace has shone upon the boys of Kajang Prison, whose repentant hearts God would accept. Hence, shall we not accept them if God is a God of second chances? May the Lord bless Malaysian Care with more volunteers for their ministry because “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). Amen.
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