Ex-offender helps others change for the better with Professional Conversion Programmes
Workforce S'pore's Professional Conversion Programmes help mid-career professionals get a new start.
Mr Paul Tan arrived at Teen Challenge at age 17 after being caught with a knife during a fight at school.
Facing five years in jail and 12 strokes of the cane, he admitted himself into the Christian halfway house to try to reduce his sentence.
Two decades later, Mr Tan, 37, is helping offenders and addicts after completing the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for social workers in December last year.
He told The New Paper last week: "No matter how bad I was, the staff would still talk to me, telling me how God changed their lives. Some werein the same situation and had the same background as me."
Mr Tan started smoking when he was nine and was drinking alcohol by 13. He started fights and played truant. His parents sent him to study in Australia when he failed Secondary 3 to keep him from bad company.
"It had the exact opposite effect," he said. "I felt that my parents didn't want me."
In Australia, Mr Tan got addicted to drugssuch as Ice and heroin and sold them to feed his addiction.
He continued his drug habit and his involvement with gangs after he was sent back to Singapore, until he turned his life around. After he was given 12 months' probation at Teen Challenge and another 13 months of probation at home, Mr Tan got a private diploma in mass communications. He met the girl he went on to marry and found his calling - to help other addicts and offenders.
"I know how hard it is. Changing for the better is a lonely road," he added.
Mr Tan eventually studied psychology andfound work as a certified trainer, but the pull of social services remained.
He applied for the PCP for social workers, a place-and-train programme that requires trainees to first secure employment with a participating social service organisation or hospital before applying to study.Now a provisional social worker, Mr Tan is working to clock the hours to become a registered one.
He said: "The whole journey feels like I am coming home and fulfilling what I was called on to do."