Andrew Ong – 2020 SG Silent Hero
29 November 2020 • 4 mins read
Outstanding Adult Category Winner – 2020
Nominated by: –
Andrew was once a school dropout and a gang member. At the age of 18, he was incarcerated for 9 months for a rioting offence. In addition, he had to work through his anger issues and addiction to vices. Upon his release, he took on a job as a waiter in a nightclub. Unfortunately, this was an environment brimming with numerous vices. As a result, Andrew soon turned to his old lifestyle and started dabbling in his addictions of drugs, alcohol and smoking. This continued for three years until he was imprisoned a second time, during his National Service where he served time in the detention barracks for insubordination.
Fortunately, he found his way back to complete his studies and graduated with a degree in Communications Management. This in itself is a huge achievement. He spent the next 15 years in the field of marketing, communications, advertising and business development both in public and private sector After a 4 years’ stint as General Manager of an advertising agency, he felt his heart string being pulled to do something even more impactful and meaningful. He returned to Singapore and subsequently joined Empact as Head of Corporate Partnerships and Marketing.
Having gone through what he went through during his youth and having to rebuild his life and relationships, he understands what it takes for ex-offenders to stay on course and rebuild their lives. It requires a strong support system which some ex-offenders may not have. So, Andrew has been an active mentor and advocate for ex-offenders.
On his journey back to the right path, Andrew learned a few important lessons.
1) The presence of a community that provides a positive environment where he feels nurtured, empowered, loved and supported. Andrew’s spiritual encounter with God at 21 years old provided him that safe haven where he flourished, see new possibilities and found his way back on the right path.
2) Andrew learned that it is important to anchor oneself with a good habit. A good habit requires a complete system of the right attitude, behaviours, mindset, structures / systems for it to be established. Ultimately, it is who you become.
3) Andrew had the benefit of a mentor who guided and counseled him, providing him with an accountability structure.
Using these lessons as inspiration, he co-founded Break the Cycle that goes by the slogan “Live Free Ride Free”, which combines Andrew’s love for cycling and his commitment to support ex-offenders by providing these three important structures to help the ex-offenders break the cycle of re- offending. Break the Cycle involves a community of cyclists, using this sport as a way of connecting and supporting ex-offenders towards re-integration. Cycling is an easy sport (habit) to pick up, and through this sport, participants get to develop personal mastery of mind and body. Cycling also helps build self-discipline. This will be useful as ex-offenders will need that muscle to choose the right path, persevere with actions, thoughts and behaviours towards their desired future. This also helps build one’s self-confidence from achieving milestones.
Furthermore, cycling being a team sport, provides ex-offenders opportunities to engage with other fellow cyclists, breaking down stereotypes and constraints they might feel, building a sense of belonging which are all keys to facilitate reintegration. Mentoring happens organically through engaging ex-offenders in building a healthy lifestyle rather than structured programmes.
What Andrew and his fellow cyclists are doing here are important because it helps to save the lives of the ex-offenders literally because if they become repeated offenders, it is a life wasted. If they reintegrate into society, they become a contributing member of the society. Furthermore, it will also help save a family, a unit that builds the Singapore society. Literally, it creates a ripple effect of positive outcome. Since Break the Cycle started last month, it has 4 ex-offenders who are mentors and who are being mentored.
Beyond his involvement in Break the Cycle, Andrew also serves as a board member in Architects of Life and is involved in charting the growth and strategic direction of Architects of Life, including the introduction of new initiatives such as the Arche-preneurship programme. The board also reaches out to corporate partners such as the Fitness Movement, We Pee Rainbow and FatBoy’s Burger Bar. Architects of Life is also a member of the Mentoring Alliance. More recently, Andrew was part of the organising committee that put together the Architects of Life anniversary events, that was graced by then Social and Family Minister Desmond Lee.
Andrew Ong was nominated for the “Outstanding Adult” Category for the SSH Awards 2020. He was the selected winner and received award from Guest of Honour: Mr. Masagos Zulkifli – Minister for Social and Family Development and 2nd Minister for Health, at Shangri-La Hotel on 21st November 2020.
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Other 2020 Silent Heroes
Recognising humanity with an award that expresses gratitude of our society for their kindness towards fellow individuals, families, community and environment. Through this award, we look forward to inspiring more to become Silent Heroes. Someday soon, everyone shall be a Silent Hero, not only in Singapore but globally.