S'pore ex-convict finds new lease of life at Bak Kut Teh shop, was trained to become supervisor

He is very grateful to the shop's founder.

Mandy How | August 26, 2020, 04:38 PM

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Lin Dao Cheng, 56, was released from prison eight years ago.

He had been a runner for illegal moneylending services.

In the course of debt-chasing, Lin was found guilty of causing hurt with a weapon.

"The longest jail term I've had was 10 years and 24 strokes of the cane. I had chopped someone's hand," Lin told Lianhe Zaobao.

With nowhere to go after his release, Lin turned to religion to overcome his drug addiction.

It was there that he met a staff who asked if he wanted a job.

He replied, "Of course I wanted a job, but was it possible to find one? I'm tattooed all over, who would want to hire me?"

Through the recommendation, Lin got an interview opportunity with 46-year-old Jabez Tan, the founder of Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh.

When he arrived at the F&B outlet for an interview, however, Tan happened to be busy.

The founder then said that he would call Lin afterwards, Zaobao reported.

Lin recalled feeling defeated upon hearing that, and said, "Asking me to go home and wait for a phone call is the same as telling me you're not going to hire me."

Tan, who was also an ex-convict, hurriedly explained that he intended to hire Lin, but happened to be occupied at that time.

Lin eventually went on to work at Soon Huat for four years, and even got promoted to a supervisor overseeing the Jalan Kayu branch.

Lin at work. Photo via Jabez Eagle/Facebook

Photo via Jabez Eagle/Facebook

Unfortunately, he soon got into another fight and went back to jail for a few months.

After serving his sentence, Lin went back to Tan, asking for a job.

Photo via Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh/Facebook

Lin expressed his gratitude for Tan and his generosity in giving ex-convicts second chances.

Some of Lin's colleagues at Soon Huat are also ex-convicts.

Lin revealed to Zaobao that everyone needed time to adapt to each other, but they also encouraged one another along the way.

Soon Huat currently has three outlets and more than 20 staff.

40 per cent of these are ex-convicts, low-income residents, or single mums.

Social enterprise

The bak kut teh shop is a social enterprise that makes it a point to actively hire ex-offenders, giving them a chance to contribute to society.

Tan himself was previously jailed for 13 years and given 12 strokes of the cane for being involved in gang and drug-related activities.

He spent a total of 15 years behind bars.

Jabez Tan. Photo via Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh/Facebook
Tan said in the Zaobao interview,

"I've walked the same path. Although Lin has been in and out of prison, I'm willing to give him multiple chances, and hope that he won't go back to his old ways. Although he's heavily tattooed, the customers accept him, and react positively. I'm prepared to train him again, so that he can become a supervisor."

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Top image via Jabez Eagle/Facebook