Mary (not her real name), 18, craved love and attention when she was a child.
But she did it by stealing cans of beer for her alcoholic mother. All while she was still in primary school.
Today, Mary is pursuing a course in social work, and even garnered a perfect score in her first semester of tertiary education. She also obtained a scholarship.
She credits the change in her life to DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre, where she spent a year-and-a-half.
They had their opening ceremony for their new Transition Home last Friday. (See report above.)
Life for her before DaySpring was hell.
Her mother did not allow her to make friends, saying they would "ruin" her life.
Family consisted of her mother, a pair of twin brothers who are eight years older than Mary, and a sister 12 years older, whom she hardly saw and did not live with.
Her siblings were from her mother's previous marriage, while her father was her mother's second husband. Her mother had three husbands in all.
She has never seen her biological father, as her parents divorced when she was six months old.
Mary said she was physically abused on a daily basis at home.
Mary's mother would use whatever she could find to throw at her or hit her with.
Her mother, who worked as a cleaner, died in 2009 because of binge drinking.
Her brothers, who were in secondary school then, also hit her.
When she was in Primary 3, her family hired a domestic helper, who would slap and verbally abuse her and make Mary do her chores.
The abuse eventually came to light during a visit to the hospital when she was 12.
"A medical social worker made friends with me. It was the first time in my life I opened up to someone," said Mary.
The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, as it was known then, subsequently arranged for her to move in with a foster family on the day of her PSLE results.
But she did not get along with her new family, and was transferred to a children's home, where she claimed she became more rebellious.
She was eventually moved to DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre in December 2011.
The centre's assistant director (residential), Ms Dara Chee, 28, said: "She was highly distrustful of us when she first came in, and tried to jeopardise her stay by breaking all the rules she could.
"But it's amazing to see how she changed with the efforts of the whole team here."
Mary graduated from DaySpring in June last year, and has been living at a friend's place since.
She now dreams of being the "rescuer" she never had, having been inspired by the social workers who have helped her.
"They are the reasons I'm doing well now. And I've always wanted to help others," said Mary.
This article was first published on JULY 8, 2014.
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