Kevin: A Portrait of Statelessness, Part 2

A portrait of a clean-shaven man in a striped shirt. He is sitting in a relaxed manner and is looking at the camera. In white text, are the words: A portrait of statelessness. "I was waiting to be called up for NS, but I never got that call."

“So I started my first job as a barista…started working while waiting for National Service. One by one my friends were called up. I was like ok, just wait lah. I was then discharged from the welfare home, so I continued working, which is also how I met my wife. I was waiting to be called up for NS, but I never got that call. Looking back I should have called NS to find out why I didn’t get called up. That was my mistake that I didn’t call them up,” Kevin disclosed. “I really didn’t understand why, cos’ you see some foreigners get to go for National Service, and after that they get citizenship or PR, but I also don’t know how lah,” he sighed.

Being stateless was not by choice, but by birth, and circumstances that started in the 1960s, way before his time. “From what I understand, at that time it was still Malaya, so there was no passport. But when the separation happened, my Mother’s family was living in Singapore, and my maternal grandfather unfortunately just passed away, so he did not get the chance to register for citizenship for my mom and some of her siblings who were still little at that time. Then I was born out of wedlock, my parents were unmarried, so I had to follow my mother’s nationality and she was stateless. Eventually after some time, my father was strong enough to acknowledge me as his son, so he also tried to go to ICA with me to help me get my citizenship. But because they did not marry, I still have to follow my mother’s status even though my father acknowledged me. That’s why I am also stateless.”

“At ICA we went from level 1 to level 5, and they ask a lot of things lah, even about permanent job. But like wah, why is it so hard? I was born here you know? Born in KKH (KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital) and I was supposedly a Singaporean, at least I felt I was Singaporean. But then when you are stateless, it makes it difficult to get a job, especially a permanent job. One time the employer asked me ‘how come you put your nationality like this?’ another time they said ‘I am very sorry, because of your nationality I cannot accept you, because it is too risky for me.’ It’s sad to hear this lah, but what to do.”

Despite these setbacks, Kevin was determined to do better. He made his way to undergo training in the security line, which allowed him the opportunity to take on additional shift work. Since welcoming his first child in 2018, Kevin as the sole breadwinner, has been juggling between adhoc jobs in logistics and security, up to 16 hours at times, so that he can also make time to care for his wife and 2 children.

Then 2020 came, and life almost came to a standstill for Kevin and it wasn’t just from the pandemic.

__

[Stay tuned for part 3]

Contribute to our work in giving the gift of hope: bit.ly/hopeactually2022

__

Photo: Juliana Tan

PAST AWB POSTS

Another Week Beyond 2428 – The Making of a Youth Leader

By: Nina, Community Relations I met Atiqah ten years ago when I was a Community Worker. It was at a photography workshop we had organized for youths. She was a shy, soft-spoken 16-year-old. Her family had only recently moved in, so she didn’t know any other youths in the neighborhood yet. Throughout the few sessions we held, she mostly kept to herself, except when she offered to help me with minor tasks. Despite her discomfort being around others, she always showed up when invited to our programmes. I always admired Atiqah’s quiet determination and was pleased to see her slowly

Read More »

Another Week Beyond – 2427

No Wealth, No Health? Written by: Pei Ling, Community Relations How often do you find yourself in this situation? You’re unwell or in pain, and it’s been going on for while. But you choose not to see a medical practitioner because you feel you cannot afford it. This is a common scenario amongst Singapore’s financially-challenged – families living in rental public housing. And this is what happened to Ismail. When I visited Ismail on a routine follow-up, he was limping and clearly in pain. He told me he had a slipped disc. I asked about the medical treatment he was

Read More »

Another Week Beyond 2426 – Grizzly to Teddy

by Wilson, Community Worker Grizzly to Teddy During one of our recent learning programmes, one of the kids who attended was an often moody, sometimes truculent 8-year-old.  Let’s call him “Teddy.” Our expectations of Teddy were, from experience, tempered. How well he participated in our activities and interacted with others depended on his disposition from week to week. At this particular session, Teddy was what we had come to describe as “his usual self” – shouting vulgarities and being disruptive. He risked injury by playing with a sliding door, even after being asked by a volunteer to stop. In fact,

Read More »

Another Week Beyond 2425 – Do you see me? Do you hear me?

by Nina, Community Relations Do you see me? Do you hear me? Last Saturday, we held a Learning Journey for members of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO). This is an immersive journey we offer to interested parties who are keen to understand how   communities in public rental housing live, work and play. Our 19 YPO guests were led on a Community Walkabout by 11 Community Guides – each a resident of Lengkok Bahru of varying ages. Their task was to lead our visitors through shared spaces in the neighborhood, while revealing the purpose and character of each area visited. After

Read More »

Community, a place to care and grow (Another Week Beyond – 2424)

By Grace Yew, Community Worker “Pergi, jom” (Let’s go!). We go back to office with you to help you carry all these. You one person, how to carry all alone?” Fauziah insisted as she walked to the side of the lorry, ready to jump onto the passenger’s seat. Her husband who had helped her to hoist two huge tables and fifteen stools onto the lorry followed.  I laughed in disbelief.   It was 6 pm and Fauziah, had been out since ten in the morning, supporting 15 children to set up a community gathering below their flats that boasted carnival-style games

Read More »

Another Week Beyond – 2423

“Oh no, more bee hoon,” a mother uttered half embarrassed. “We need to coordinate better the next time,” she added. Our colleague who was present at this children’s birthday party organized by neighbours quickly responded, “Hey, we are having a been hoon feast prepared in 3 different ways and it’s great to have 3 flavours!” The generosity, hospitality and ownership displayed by the organizers were the indicators of success that we sought, and these were already in abundance. For example, a young man appeared in his military uniform to check that the cake his mother had baked on his behalf

Read More »

Reconnecting with Gratitude 

2 weeks ago, our senior advisor Gerard received an email titled “Reconnecting with Gratitude” from someone who volunteered with us 20 years ago.  She told Gerard that she got his email from a friend of a friend and wanted to thank him in person for what he had said to her then. “I recall what you said to me that has impacted my life to this day,” was how she had put it.  She wrote that she was helping with a juggling programme where she accompanied the children to performances and as she was driving them back to the Centre

Read More »

Another Week Beyond – 2421

“Don’t bring your hooligan attitudes from your neighbourhood into ours!” A mother screamed at a teenager as he continued taunting her from a distance. Just a few minutes ago, the teenager and his friends were enjoying a game of street soccer against opponents below 12 years old.  His friends and he were visibly bigger and those watching were rooting for the “home team” of younger boys.   When spectators accused one of the older boys of unsporting rough play, play stopped, and angry words were exchanged all around. Recognising that they were not welcome, the older boys left the court grudgingly,

Read More »

PAST AWB POSTS

Another Week Beyond 2428 – The Making of a Youth Leader

By: Nina, Community Relations I met Atiqah ten years ago when I was a Community Worker. It was at a photography workshop we had organized for youths. She was a shy, soft-spoken 16-year-old. Her family had only recently moved in, so she didn’t know any other youths in the neighborhood yet. Throughout the few sessions we held, she mostly kept to herself, except when she offered to help me with minor tasks. Despite her discomfort being around others, she always showed up when invited to our programmes. I always admired Atiqah’s quiet determination and was pleased to see her slowly

Read more >

Another Week Beyond – 2427

No Wealth, No Health? Written by: Pei Ling, Community Relations How often do you find yourself in this situation? You’re unwell or in pain, and it’s been going on for while. But you choose not to see a medical practitioner because you feel you cannot afford it. This is a common scenario amongst Singapore’s financially-challenged – families living in rental public housing. And this is what happened to Ismail. When I visited Ismail on a routine follow-up, he was limping and clearly in pain. He told me he had a slipped disc. I asked about the medical treatment he was

Read more >

Another Week Beyond 2426 – Grizzly to Teddy

by Wilson, Community Worker Grizzly to Teddy During one of our recent learning programmes, one of the kids who attended was an often moody, sometimes truculent 8-year-old.  Let’s call him “Teddy.” Our expectations of Teddy were, from experience, tempered. How well he participated in our activities and interacted with others depended on his disposition from week to week. At this particular session, Teddy was what we had come to describe as “his usual self” – shouting vulgarities and being disruptive. He risked injury by playing with a sliding door, even after being asked by a volunteer to stop. In fact,

Read more >