From the confines of Singapore Changi Prison, an idea was born. An idea that brothers coming out from prison should be given a leg up. An assistance for them to start all over again after paying for their crimes.
At the point of release, we are like a vulnerable 5-year old kid, hopeful yet fearful, happy yet frightened. If we mix with the wrong crowd, chances are that we will end back in prison, like the fate of 60% of drug-offence releases. If we have the opportunity to commune with people accepting us and encouraging us as we try to restart, we might just stand a chance; a chance not to relapse into oblivion.
Such is the soul of “The Caffeine Experience”. A place where we are accepted not just for our past but also who we are. A place where we can call home and start again.
In the year of our Lord, 2017 and with the help of my prison officer, Mr Hilary Lo, we started building this Ark. 9 months of tears and sweat as we faced criti- cism and rejection while raising funds. With the blessings of our Lord and some generous benefactors, we opened our first cafe in Tanjong Pagar in April 2018. The road was not easy; from product failure, to low sales, to hopelessness, but we continued to press on. Some stood by us, some abandoned ship. It was a winding road of emotional roller-coaster.
We got another breakthrough as we open our second cafe in Tan Tock Seng Hospital in November 2018. Sales was good and staff’s moral was high. Slowly complacency creeped in and delinquency became our stumbling block. 9 months later, we had to take stock of our direction as accusations of fraud and legal threats threatened to destroy the the existence of this social enterprise.
At this point of crisis, most of our beneficiaries courageously stood up for the cause. Though they were individually targeted and fired from their jobs, they stood firm in their core belief of TCE. Their courage showed us the reason to continue the work. The work of a supportive social enterprise. And again, with God’s blessing, the same benefactor came forward to buy over the aggressors share, gave them the money they so treasured, kicked the “Pharisees” out and gave TCE a new lease of life.
The Caffeine Experience 2.0 restarted.
My Name is Matthew Poh and I am an Ex-offender. I love to share my experience of falling into the depths of oblivion and the 2nd chance given to me by others.