Sana volunteers 'transformed lives'

Former drug addict Mustakeem Mohamed Rais spent almost 20 years behind bars, but in the last two years, the 40-year-old's life has been transformed with a stable job as a lorry driver and a second child on the way.

His success story was highlighted by Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli on Friday as he lauded the work done by volunteers from the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (Sana).

At an appreciation dinner at The Chevrons in Jurong, Mr Masagos stressed the important role that Sana's diverse group of 500 volunteers, who include housewives, religious leaders and students, have in helping former drug addicts stay away from returning to the habit.

Describing the drug situation in Singapore as "challenging", he noted that in the first half of the year, 1,790 drug abusers were arrested, a three-per-cent rise from the 1,731 in the first half of last year.

He also pointed out that close to three-quarters of drug-relatedarrests made in the first six months of this year involved repeat abusers.

Mr Masagos said the important role Sana plays cannot be overstated.

He said: "From offering legal advice to Sana's clients and families, to facilitating at workshops and camps for young students, your work has touched the lives of many people."

It was with the help of a Sana counsellor that Mr Mustakeem overcame the drug habit, which marred half his life and sent him to jail 10 times.

He told The Straits Times that in the beginning, he would refuse Sana's offers of assistance because of his "ego". He thought he could turn things around on his own.

But before his latest release from prison in 2011, he decided to accept Sana's help.

"The more I went for Sana's sessions, the more I got interested," he said, explaining how counselling made him believe that he could start again and to not worry so much about what others thought about him. "My counsellor was so patient."

The faith that his wife, his counsellor and his employer had in him restored his self-belief, he added.

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