Barclays Singapore joins Agape Connecting People in helping vulnerable communities gain valuable life skills to rebuild their lives.
Rizwan is confident, known to be street-smart and is a quick learner. Along with his job at a contact centre services company in Singapore, which he joined at the age of 37, he is also pursuing a degree in social work. But before that, Rizwan spent most of his life in and out of juvenile rehabilitation centres, beginning at the age of 12.
The chances of someone like Rizwan finding himself ostracised in society, unable to find a real job seem highly probable. But Rizwan was lucky. While still in prison, he chose to work at the penitentiary’s call centre, where inmates are trained in customer support by his current employer, Agape. This decision changed his life.
Agape’s founder, Anil David, empathises with people like Rizwan because he too, was in a similar situation many years ago. He was sentenced on three separate occasions for multiple counts of fraud and spent a total of 12 years in and out of prison.
Like Rizwan, he too worked at a prison call centre. It was during his incarceration that Anil resolved to start his own call centre after his release to support vulnerable communities. In 2012, Anil founded Agape Connecting People Pte Ltd., where ex-convicts, people with disabilities, single mothers and many others can get reskilled and work without judgement.
When Barclays heard about Agape’s remarkable work, we wanted to contribute. In April 2021, Barclays Singapore supported Agape to launch a training and job placement centre to help people from vulnerable communities.
“At Barclays, we are committed to supporting the communities in which we operate and our citizenship efforts are focused on this. This is why we partner with organisations like Agape, who play an important role in our society, supporting vulnerable communities and helping people to achieve their ambitions,” said Alexander Harrison, CEO of Barclays Singapore and Head of Corporate Banking, Asia Pacific and Middle East.
It’s not just people like Rizwan who have had the opportunity to change their lives. Nur is a person with a disability and is currently one of Agape’s contact centre agents. At a time when she was finding it hard to get a job, her appointment at Agape came as a pleasant surprise. The job has helped her build confidence, learn new skills, get a diploma, and become independent.
“Our aspiration is to provide equal reskilling and employment opportunities for vulnerable communities. We strongly believe this will help them achieve financial independence and rebuild their lives and families. At the same time, we are thankful for the support provided by our partners,” said Anil David.
CEO of Agape Connecting People Joseph See (far right) and Founder Anil David (second from the right) join representatives from Barclays at the training and job placement centre.
The company’s founder realises the value of giving people a chance, an opportunity to grow, and widen their horizons. When he was convicted, he lost the trust of people close to him and his family shut him out. He had hit rock bottom. But fortunately for Anil, he found compassion in the eyes of a prison officer who helped him reconnect with his family and seek forgiveness. He worked hard in the prison call centre to rebuild his life. Today, the same prison officer who helped him is a good friend and is also a colleague at Agape.
For Barclays, this is a great opportunity to work with an accredited training organisation to make a positive social impact by helping people gain employability skills, build awareness around digital, financial literary and wellness.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck Singapore, it caused anxiety and fear amongst people To mitigate the situation, the government called on Agape to work with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to set up a 24-hour national care helpline for people emotionally affected by the pandemic. Agape worked round-the-clock to make this happen. So far, they have facilitated over 40,000 calls to support people, keep them calm, give them hope, and connect them to counsellors.
Over the years, Agape has seen a change in the mindsets of people and organisations. Preconceived ideas about hiring ex-offenders are changing. More and more organisations are now open to the idea and they are ready to give vulnerable people equal opportunities.
“As an organisation, we believe in rising by lifting others. It is not just about one individual, but a chance for an entire family to move forward. We want the people we train and hire to feel accepted in society,” says Joseph See, CEO of Agape Connecting People.
What’s common between Anil, Rizwan and Nur is the helping hand they received to rebuild their lives. They are now role models and mentors, who are inspiring others to rise above their shortcomings. Championing its social mission to empower the disadvantaged and marginalised, Agape – with the support of Barclays – is creating opportunities for others to rise.
In Japan, we set out to help those most in need in a nationwide mission supported by a number of charities, including Second Harvest, Houkago After School Clubs and Central Community Chest of Japan.