A cat has 9 lives, but ex-offenders only have 1 more chance to prove themselves to society. This is the story of Jenap Said, aka “Catwoman”: our behind-the-scenes hero who volunteers with the Yellow Ribbon Project (YRP) to make a difference to the lives of ex-offenders.
A Chance Encounter
For 59-year-old Jenap M. Said, being a volunteer was not an immediate calling despite her participation in every single Yellow Ribbon Prison Run since 2009.
It was not only until a personal experience with her neighbour’s incarceration, and witnessing how it impacted his family, that gave impetus to help others.
Shortly after the incarceration, Jenap felt the urge to help ease the family’s struggle as she became increasingly aware of his wife’s stress over raising their child as a single parent.
So relying on her natural instincts, she reached out to his wife. Jenap encouraged her to approach a Member of Parliament (MP) of her constituency, as well as the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) for help. That very act triggered a realisation, and she knew—more had to be done.
So she dug deep and decided; that the moment to unleash the power of the cat suit, which she was previously famous for, had arrived. This time, for the greater good…
Donning Her Suit to Draw Attention
If you see a catwoman during the runs, you may have seen her in action.
In her catwoman costume, Jenap has the ability to become instantly recognisable by both the public and ex-offenders. In it, she raises awareness to the ex-offenders’ need for acceptance.
What marks her apart from others is her burning desire to go the extra mile. In 2012, Jenap embarked on a “Dusk till Dawn” challenge, a marathon 12 hours run which began the evening before the actual Yellow Ribbon Prison Run. For that mammoth effort, she was able to raise an incredible $120,000 from people pledging for her cause.
Besides raising money for the run, she is also quite active at the YRP roadshows, and she also volunteers her time to sell crafts made by inmates from Changi Women’s Prison. She has also been an ever-present inspiration during Race Pack Collections days for the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run, where she has been helping out every year without fail.
Apart from fundraising, she has also volunteered in a myriad of other ways. Some of these include, attending Dining Behind Bars: a quarterly event that engages influential community leaders, forging close friendships with a few ex-offenders along the way, as well as convincing participants to stay behind for the concert by inmates after collection of their race pack.
Relying on Instinct and Staying Determined
Selling crafts, however, had its initial challenges for Jenap. Due to a distinct lack of experience, she felt apprehensive in approaching the public to buy from her. But she persisted. And as time went on, she instinctively found a way to successfully sell those items.
Emerging a hero among People
She now has the ability to raise funds to an impressive average of $900 in a short time. But how does she do it?
“You must know how to approach people. And to profile them as you spot them from afar,” she said recalling what she has learnt from her experience in selling crafts.
“Start by properly greeting them, and be bold with your sales pitch. Open by explaining that the purpose of buying—whether it is baked goods, or a handmade mug—would mean that an inmate would be given a second chance upon release from prison,” she quips.
“We can ALL do more!”
When asked about her time as a volunteer, Jenap responds, “the public is certainly more accepting and companies are more inclined to partnering with YRP now. We’ve come a long way, but we can definitely do a lot more.”