I have met many people over the past 2 months since entering politics. Many have interesting stories to share with me and issues to raise. None is as unforgettable as Miss C, a young lawyer-turned-civil-servant living in Joo Chiat SMC. This blog post is shared with her permission.
She first emailed me after reading my blog which I provided in my campaign materials before nomination day. She next emailed me after attending my first rally speech on 29 April at Serangoon Stadium. I eventually met with her in person after polling day.
Her story is amazing. She grew up in a broken home as a child, with her parents going through a divorce. She first attended court at age 10, again at age 12 just before PSLE and then once more at age 15. Her father had an affair. Her mother used her to fight for maintenance. Her mother had to also appear in court for battering the mistress.
At age 15, Miss C was chased out of her house by her father five times, who had by then brought his new wife into the house. She was reminded daily that she was an unwanted child. Sometimes, she slept in East Coast Park. She lived on the $150 per month maintenance ordered by the court, but often, her school expenses especially for textbooks were more than that. When she broke her glasses, she plastered them. She turned to music to get away from the misery and practiced hard with her school band and did well.
I am amazed that in spite of the environment, she turned out well. She entered a good junior college and then NUS, graduating to be a lawyer. She practiced martial art after graduation as a form of exercise and did well enough to represent Singapore in a world championship. She has not seen her father for years. Her mother lives apart from her and remained bitter over the divorce. She blamed the children for not helping her fight harder with her ex-husband over her rights during the divorce. Miss C has now set her heart on helping others to avoid or to cope with such the situation she had been in.
Her case is an exception. How many children from such broken environment can make it good in life? Last year we had several news-hogging brutal teenage gang fights, including a murder at Downtown East. My daughter was at Downtown East the evening when the murder of 19 year-old Darren Ng took place. It was gruesome, with blood splattered all over. The gang involved have been caught and are awaiting trial. All are in their teens. Many teens have wasted their lives on gangs and violence. Many led astray in their teens could end up in a life of drugs, crime and debt.
The case of Malaysian Mr Yong Vui Kong is another example of a teenager led astray through broken family and environment influence. Born to a family of 6 in Sabah, his parents divorced when he was very young. His mother brought the children up on her RM200 a month allowance as a dishwasher. Vui Kong went to Kuala Lumpur as a teenager and was introduced to gangs. He went from debt collector to drug runner. At 18 and a half years old, he was caught in Singapore with drugs and is now in death row awaiting the outcome of an appeal for clemency.
In our pursuit of economic progress, there’s a real danger that our social fabric will be torn if we do not consciously maintain the values that have held our family and society together. The family is the building block of the society and hence the nation. Strong families hold people together. The casinos have bankrupted many and destroyed families. Parents saddled with career pursuits have neglected their children.
There should be more proactive programmes targeted at youths and at families to prevent youths from being led astray and from family break-ups. Even simple reminders for parents to play more active roles at home with their children in the crucial growing up years could make a big difference. There should also be more programmes to engage youths meaningfully to move them away from gangs and to give them self confidence in the future.
Miss C is fortunate to escape the trap that snared children of broken homes. A recent news of 18-year old student Krystal Aki Mizoguchi who committed suicide is a sad reminder of what can happen in a broken home. According to her blog, the Yishun Junior College student grew up in a single-parent family and has been living with her 17-year-old brother. Her parents are believed to be separated. In the most recent blog post before her death leap, she wrote:
“PSLE, I xxxx-ed up. Couldn’t get into dream secondary school.”
“‘O’ Levels, I xxxx-ed up. Couldn’t get a place in dream polytechnic course.”
“Ended up transferring to YJC. I got my dreams crushed again, after seeing my ‘A’ Levels grades yesterday.”
“Bye bye to NUS FASS and NTU Humanities”.
Let’s constantly remind ourselves that there are youths with needs that we can reach out to. Let’s work together to prevent the wasted lives like those who committed the murder of Darren Ng and that of Miss Krystal.