SINGAPORE – A Singaporean ex-convict has been given a second lease on life after letting go of a life filled with crime and convictions and getting a job with restaurant Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh.
Before 56-year old Lin Dao Cheng was released from prison eight years before, he had been a runner for illegal moneylending services for many years. But that wasn’t the only thing he was imprisoned for. During his time doing illegal activities, he was also found guilty for “causing hurt with a weapon.”
Mr Cheng had told publisher Lianhe Zaobao, “The longest jail term I’ve had was 10 years and 24 strokes of the cane. I had chopped someone’s hand.” And it was only after he had finished his jail term that he chose to turn to religion to get over his drug addiction and change his unlawful ways.
He managed to speak to someone about a possible job opportunity, but he admits that he didn’t think it was possible. He said, “Of course I wanted a job, but was it possible to find one? I’m tattooed all over, who would want to hire me?”
But what Mr Cheng didn’t realize was that the recommendation for the job was with 46-year old Jabez Tan, founder of restaurant Soon Huat, who happened to be an ex-convict as well. Not knowing Mr Tan’s background, he arrived for the interview but Mr Tan was too busy to see him, telling Mr Cheng that he would just call him when he had time.
According to the report in Zaobao, Mr Cheng felt defeated, believing that it wouldn’t happen. He explained, “Asking me to go home and wait for a phone call is the same as telling me you’re not going to hire me.”
Mr Cheng would soon find out was that Mr Tan actually had a mission to help other ex-convicts find jobs after being released from prison. It was just that unfortunately at that time, his restaurant was fully occupied and he didn’t have a place for Mr Cheng yet then.
Eventually, Mr Cheng was given a job at Soon Huat restaurant for at least four years, even becoming supervisor of the Jalan Kayu branch.
But after getting into another fight, he ended up in prison again for another few months. After his jail time was done, he came back to Mr Tan to ask for his job back, and thankfully, Mr Tan took him back.
Mr Cheng shared just how grateful he was to Mr Tan and his kindness at offering jobs to ex-convicts just like him. So far, Soon Huat has another three outlets with over 20 people on staff. At least 40 per cent of his workers happen to be ex-convicts, single mums, or low-income residents too.
Mr Tan was in jail for gang and drug-related activities for a total of 15 years himself. He told Zaobao, “I’ve walked the same path. Although Lin has been in and out of prison, I’m willing to give him multiple chances and hope that he won’t go back to his old ways. Although he’s heavily tattooed, the customers accept him and react positively. I’m prepared to train him again so that he can become a supervisor.”
Mr Tan’s mission was shared in a Facebook post as seen below, where he explains, “We all make mistakes, but mistakes are initial drafts and not our final version. Second chance is given for us to prove that we could do better even after we fall. We just need someone to have faith in us.”
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