“We will endeavour to continually be a channel of God’s love and mercy to reach out to help exoffenders, individuals with drug, alcohol and gambling addictions so that they get back on their feet again and be transformed by the restoration through His grace.”
For more than 20 years, Mr Francis Santhanam, 54, had been in and out of prison for robbery, gang fights, housebreaking and drugs, beginning when he was 17. Even in prison, he got into fights with fellow inmates and the prison authorities.
One night in 2002 during a jail term, he had a personal encounter with God, and felt the Lord Jesus rooting out his bondage to crime and his past. He began to change for the better, and was recommended for the Community Based Programme to be attached to Christian Care Services, a halfway house for people with drug, alcohol, or gambling addictions.
Residential Rehabilitation Programme
The Centre provides a one-year, free Residential Rehabilitation Programme, counselling, aftercare and support, life-skills training, education through partnerships and networking. It accepts walk-in cases, and referrals from family service centres and government-linked correctional institutions and statutory boards such as National Addictions Management Service (NAMS in IMH), Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association, Ministry of Social and Family Development, and SCORE.
Residents are assessed and interviewed, and approval from the Central Narcotics Bureau is obtained before admission to the Centre is granted.
Francis is one of the 4,200 residents who have passed through Christian Care Services’ doors. There, he accepted Christ, was baptised, and completed the recovery programme. He now works as a heavy-truck driver in the construction industry, found accommodation and has reconciled with his family. 70 per cent of the residents are Christians, and attend Pentecost Methodist Church while in the programme. Many continue to attend the church after that.
The Centre’s vision is helping and caring for needy individuals and dysfunctional families to be productive and responsible to the community. It also aims to assist substance abusers regardless of race and creed to lead wholesome lives by instilling right values and encouraging them to face their future with newfound purpose and goals.
Adapted from the 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous programme, the rehabilitation programme comprises spiritual, work, physical and social components. Residents begin their day with praise and worship, and biblical teachings. They handle general maintenance of the Centre, cooking, laundry, and store work in their first month. Upon further progress, they get involved in social enterprises such as moving and grass-cutting for houses and offices, under supervision. Their work is a primary income source for the Centre.
As residents’ bodies have been wracked by years of drug or alcohol abuse, the Centre emphasises physical training and recreational activities such as working out in their gym, jogging or swimming. Some have severe medical issues requiring treatment, and the staff work with hospitals to waive these bills.
For the social component, they help in general maintenance in other voluntary organisations and sending rations to needy families. Most residents have reintegrated into society, found accommodation and secured jobs.
Besides providing a conducive environment for recovery, the Centre’s staff monitor residents’ progress and review them monthly, conducting smokerlyzer, breathalyzer, and urine tests at random for relapse prevention.
Mr Charles Koh had two drug relapses after being arrested by the Central Narcotics Bureau and detained at the Drug Rehabilitation Centre (DRC). At DRC, he attended Christian counselling sessions. In Christian Care Services, he was gradually transformed by Christ, and is a personal driver for a managing director of an MNC today. He has been drug-free for more than 12 years, and is happily married with two children. He still volunteers as a befriender to the residents and encourages them in overcoming their addictions.
Enhanced Supervision Programme (After Care)
Under a separate, six-month Enhanced Supervision Programme, Christian Care Services accepts referrals from Singapore Prisons for inmates who are homeless upon release from prison, or those who need time to adjust to society after many years in prison. The Centre provides accommodation, breakfast, supper and laundry services for six months while residents work outside in jobs secured by SCORE or Prisons. They keep to a 10pm curfew, take weekly urine tests, and on their off-days or evenings, attend Bible sharing sessions and prayer meetings. The staff partner Prisons’ reintegration officers to aid residents’ reintegration into society.
Another service of the Centre is Ray of Hope, which educates the public and helps people with problem gambling. To date, many clients whose addictions brought destruction to their own lives and fragmented their families have successfully turned over a new leaf, becoming productive citizens accepted by their families and society.
Mr Gabrieyel Guna, Executive Director of the Centre said, “We have been very blessed and encouraged that in the course of Christian Care Services’ ministry, through the moments of disappointments and the times of rejoicing, God’s love is always demonstrated to all our residents and their families, regardless of whether they are Christians or of other faiths.
“We will endeavour to continually be a channel of God’s love and mercy to reach out to help ex-offenders, individuals with drug, alcohol and gambling addictions so that they get back on their feet again and be transformed by the restoration through His grace.”
Photos courtesy of Christian Care Services (Singapore)
In the Residential Rehabilitation Programme, the physical component involves physical training such as working out in their gym. The discipline gained from sports also helps build character and teamwork
Chia Hui Jun is Editorial Executive at Methodist Message and worships at Foochow Methodist Church. She put this article together with valuable input from Mr Gabrieyel Guna, Executive Director of Christian Care Services (Singapore).