Born and raised in Singapore, Kevin, 27, always felt a strong sense of belonging to this country. “To me, Singapore is really my home, I’ve lived here all my life, I feel proud like a Singaporean”.
It was only natural for him to feel that way, after all, Kevin grew up in the heartlands and like many other Singaporeans, sang the National anthem ‘Majulah Singapura’ in school. But despite having spent every minute of his entire life in Singapore, Kevin is stateless.
Growing up for him was not easy, as both his parents were in and out of prison, from as early as he could remember. “I was still wearing diapers then”, recounts Kevin unabashedly. He lived with his paternal grandmother in a public rental flat nestled in Bukit Ho Swee. ‘Nenek’ was his main caregiver and rock, and the only constant in his childhood life, who also worked as a cleaner to keep the family going. “I never went to any preschool or kindergarten. At that time, a social worker for my dad spoke to my grandma so she asked me to go to Beyond for an interview, that’s when I met the community workers at the Kids United programme, Mrs Quek and Uncle Vincent. That was around 2005. They really helped me out with my education. By the time I started primary school, I was about nine years old”. Kevin was Primary 2 then and had to play catch up with his classmates. School fees were also more expensive as Kevin was not entitled to local rates, which eventually was managed with the support of the school and donations through Beyond. Kevin completed PSLE and went on to secondary school, where he then faced more challenges with his studies, leaving him to drop out of school and find work instead. Through the help of a welfare home, he got into part-time jobs as a barista and subsequently in banqueting as a server, which he enjoyed, as it gave him a sense of purpose and allowed his warm and friendly personality to shine through.
At that time, Kevin was 15.
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Photo: Juliana Tan