Another shot at life

EVERY year Malaysia loses millions of ringgit in foreign exchange when the large number of overseas workers here send their money back to their countries.

The Economic Report 2010/2011 by the Finance Ministry stated that there are 1.8 million registered migrant workers in Malaysia. From those total, 38.2% were employed in the manufacturing sector, 16% in construction and 14.2% in the plantation sector.

The reports are a clear testament that our country has become a haven for migrant workers.

Entrepreneurs are probably not aware there is an untapped source of workers right here in the country and all that is needed is a little faith and trust.

*Ayahanda, lived most of his life on the streets selling drugs and getting high but beneath the tough exterior beats a gentle heart.

If a young teen came looking for the substance in his territory, Chow Kit, he would chase them away.

He would help to give the children of addicts a new lease in life by finding them foster homes where they would be well-cared for.

When businessman V. Ravindran was introduced to Ayahanda, he was taken aback. For a person who did not have any formal education, Ayahanda spoke flawless English. He also wanted to turn over a new leaf.

Ayahanda found his first real job in Ravindran’s carpark.

A repented Ayahanda and enlightened Ravindran wanted to combine their efforts and extend support to all former addicts out there.

“In prison, we would swear that we won’t take drugs again but upon our release, with no opportunity for a second chance, there is a higher chance for us to succumb to temptation yet again. Out of sheer desperation we go back on the streets and start selling again,” said Ayahanda.

Ravindran believes that everybody deserves a second chance and helping these addicts gain a new lease in life means fewer drug mules in the country.

“Right now, we are using taxpayers’ money to give them shelter and food and all they want is to stand on their own feet,” said Ravindran.

Ayahanda roped in other ex-addicts he knew like *Katherine, a 55-year-old who kicked the habit last year and was now one of Ravi’s favourite carpark attendants.

Married off at a young age to a man who did not love her, she left her house at the age of 17 and ended up in KL.

Mixing with the wrong crowd landed her in the bad world of drugs. She has been arrested many times and sent to the National Anti-Drug Agency Service Centre (AADK) for rehabilitation.

But every time she comes out the irony of not being able to lead a normal life makes her go back to doing drugs.

Finally, after another stint at AADK, Katherine came to her senses and decided to kick the habit for good.

Under Ravindran and Ayahanda’s guidance, she flourished and found the love she was yearning for.

“My father was the only one who loved me, my stepmother used to lock my father outside the house for showing me any concern. I was yearning for compassion and love and I found it here,” she said.

Recalling her tragic past with tears in her eyes, Katherine said Ravi was like a brother to her and the AADK officers are her family.

Mak Wan is another success story of AADK and she is also a Pemulih Rakan Sebaya (peer mentor) at their Kuala Lumpur centre.

She was married off to a drug peddler at the age of 11 and her husband taught her the tricks of the trade. Mak Wan came with her husband to Kuala Lumpur but before long her husband was imprisoned and sentenced to death in 1981.

Going in and out of jail, she finally realised she was too old to be an addict anymore and entered a rehabilitation centre in Tangok Bachok, Kelantan in 1999.

“I stayed there and did not leave even after I was cured. I became part of the team in AADK and last year came back to KL to serve here,” she said.

Mak Wan, 58, wants to become a role model to her friends who are still on the streets. She feels that if she can do it so can everybody else.

Ayahanda has also started this endeavour to find as many jobs as possible for ex-addicts.

“All we do is take the ex-addicts from the AADK halfway house where they have been rehabilitated and are waiting to get jobs. I assess them based on my experience on their body language before deciding if they have been cured,” he said.

Once he believes they are ready to work, he introduces them to Ravi. Most of the addicts have different skills and some are even learned.

Ravindran has enlisted the help of his friends who are all eager to hire these addicts as apart from being cheaper, there also have a sense of gratitude.

“There are many people with various skills. Former addicts can be hired to work in restaurants, petrol stations, car parks and shopping centres,” said Ravindran.

However, Ravindran said these people should be paid accordingly.

He said many ex-addicts leave their jobs because they are paid too little.

*Jimmy is an ex-addict well on the way to recovery. He has many skills including hair-styling and sewing.

His last employee paid him pittance for his work and he could not even pay the rent of his room.

“I am willing to learn anything, I may be out of touch with the hair-styling industry but I am willing to work. If my mind and body is occupied I will not think of ‘ubat’ (heroin) anymore,” said Jimmy.

Ravindran has decided to help Jimmy get a job in his friend’s salon and hopes he can help others as well.

“I hope others will call me to employ ex-addicts and allow them the chance to lead their life with dignity.

“They ask for very little and we can help the country’s economy in the process,” he said.

Those looking to help ex-addicts with employment can contact Ravi 0126965259.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy