The stigma that comes with a criminal record and the presence of drugs in the bloodstream have lasting effects long after the sentence has ended and the drug has left the body. Ex-convicts and recovering drug addicts leaving their facilities are regarded as the black sheep of society.
However, there are examples of ex-convicts and former drug addicts who have taken a courageous step to make something for themselves after doing time.
Let’s hear the stories of 6 ex-convicts and former drug addicts who have rebuilt their lives and narrate their journey as a reminder to the public.
#1: Mak Wan, Former Drug Dealer Now Feeds The Homeless
When Wan Kamariah Binti Daud or Mak Wan got married to a man chosen by her family, her life trajectory changed. She was involved with drug dealing in Chow Kit alongside her husband at 11 years old.
Her husband was caught and sentenced to death after a police raid. As she was underage at that time, Mak Wan was sentenced to prison and released four years later due to good behaviour.
However, with no place to go after her release, she returned to the drug den. Mak Wan took over her husband’s trade. Slowly, she traversed into “hotspots” to distribute and consume drugs.
After that, I continued to stay in Jalan Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur and continued to abuse drugs for 40 years. – Mak Wan, co-founder of Warung Makan Sahabat
Mak Wan became a frequent visitor to the drug rehabilitation centre over the next few years. It took her 10 years to finally open her heart to change and pave a better future. Resolute in her newly formed commitment, she returned to Chow Kit, which is now synonymous with vice.
I earned a living by collecting cans and boxes, cleaning toilets, delivering leaflets to mailboxes, cleaning hotel rooms, and eventually landed a job with the Malaysian AIDS Council to spread awareness about the dangers of HIV and AIDS.– Mak Wan, co-founder of Warung Makan Sahabat
While living above the now Warung Makan Sahabat premises, she started making kuih to sell in shops. During that time, Mak Wan also thought of preparing food and giving it to her friends who often rummaged in dirty places for scraps. At the start, she distributed food packs by cycling through Chow Kit streets.
If there is leftover rice, I would fry it, pack it, and send it to friends.– Mak Wan, co-founder of Warung Makan Sahabat
She started off with the money to buy food but soon received aid from others to help her carry out the feeding programme. Today, she feeds the homeless through the Warung Makan Sahabat community centre. At the same time, the centre provides counselling to the marginalised such as the homeless, ex-drug addicts and single mothers.
We’re also planning to turn it into an industry where we invite mothers living in Chow Kit to join us and learn how to make kuih. Once they’re able, they can open up their own business and we will help them in the process. – Mak Wan, co-founder of Warung Makan Sahabat
In the future, Mak Wan hopes to turn the community centre into a hub that provides transit homes and other facilities.
#2: Daniel Lew, Providing Shelter For Transitioning Ex-Convicts
In the 1980s, Daniel took up a part-time driving job to keep up with economic difficulties. His usual route necessitated him to travel to Genting Highlands, the country’s only licensed casino resort in Malaysia. Slowly he was lured by the prospect of easy money and started gambling, making more losses than gains.
With his losses growing, Daniel took money from the company he worked for to finance his gambling. As the losses stacked up, Daniel confessed to his crime and was charged in 1987. Daniel was imprisoned for three years in Pudu prison.
Like many other ex-convicts, his return to society was no walk in the park. Employers repeatedly turned him down for a job. He then turned to Malaysian Care, a non-profit organisation serving the marginalised community that had visited him in prison.
Upon seeing [my] predicament, they offered me a job as a helper to visit families of convicts during Christmas as well as other occasions.I also visited prisoners, as being an ex-convict myself, I understand which words of encouragement they need,” Lew said, adding that doing social work soon became his “hobby”. – Daniel Lew, founder of Second Chance Community Home (SCCH)
In the early 1990s, Daniel convinced the organisation to work with him to assist ex-convicts in restarting their lives. It was off to a tough start but in 2003, Lew managed to rent a flat near Old Klang Road to serve as a halfway home for “just-released-prisoners”.
Five years later, in 2008, Lew found a vacant bungalow nearby the flat. Pulling some strings, the Second Chance Community Home (SCCH) came to fruition. It is the only private and non-profit organisation for male ex-convicts in Malaysia.
In 2017, over 200 found refuge at the centre, with 20 of them being parolees. At SCCH, ex-convicts are given second chances to rebuild their lives as Lew finds suitable jobs that fit their skill sets.
They can cook, repair broken pipes, leakages or any plumbing works, gardening… you name it, most of them who are here can do most of the much sought after skilled jobs. – Daniel Lew, founder of Second Chance Community Home (SCCH)
#3: Oyent Hazryl, Playing A Different Tune After Recovering From Addiction
On the surface, Noor Hazril Mohd Sidek (fondly known as Oyent Hazryl) is a confident showman who leaves audiences in raptures. Things were working well for him, however, when he started consuming recreational drugs, it soon spiralled out of control.
I started off as a recreational drug user. I soon found that once I was on drugs, I felt invincible and confident. I could practically do anything. – Oyent Hazryl, musician
He continued taking drugs, but it slowly affected his career as it became increasingly difficult for him to be punctual or a reliable team member in his band. One day, things took a turn for the worse which served as his wake-up call.
I didn’t realise that I hadn’t been sleeping or eating for days until the moment I collapsed.– Oyent Hazryl, musician 
With the support of his wife, Azzalea Yesodhra Abdullah and family, Oyent entered rehabilitation. After six months, he followed his wife who was posted to Uganda for a few years. Oyent spent time writing music and helping local NGOs teach children percussion.
It was good to get out of familiar surroundings for a while. I needed a new perspective. – Oyent Hazryl, musician
Returning from Uganda, he had to start over, transitioning from a band member to a solo artist. Today, Oyent has shared his tough recovery journey through his music, participating in the Khai Aziz punk band that advocates for a drug-free lifestyle among youth.
Everybody deserves a second chance. And a third, and a fourth. I believe that with support and a lot of hard work, anyone can turn their life around. Even me. – Oyent Hazryl, musician
#4: Chris Sekar, From Narcotics Abuse To Addiction Therapist
Growing up in a neighbourhood in Setapak where marijuana is just as common as cigarettes, Chris Sekar was easily drawn in at the age of 14 for the mere promise of an instant dopamine rush.
Everyone was doing it. If you go to the roadside stall, you would get roti canai for 10 sen, hot tea for 10 sen, and a roll of ganja (marijuana) for only 50 sen.– Chris Sekar, an addiction therapist at Gleneagles Hospital Kuala Lumpur
Things took a nosedive, however, when he met a more addictive substance in the form of heroin.
It happened when I was in Form Five. Soon, I was dealing in narcotics, sleeping in abandoned buildings, and passing out in weird places. It went on for more than 10 years. – Chris Sekar, an addiction therapist at Gleneagles Hospital Kuala Lumpur
His mother solicited help and sent him to several private and governmental rehabilitation centres. She even tried alternative treatments such as bomohs, acupuncture, temples, and self-medication, but none of them worked. Finally, there was the Christian rehabilitation centre, which he ran away from twice.
I told them if God really wanted to save me, how come he did not appear and stop me from putting needles in my arm? – Chris Sekar, an addiction therapist at Gleneagles Hospital Kuala Lumpur 
However, it was his mother’s plea that made Chris try again.
She told me she did not recognise her son. And it pained her to see me like I was. Her words hit me hard.– Chris Sekar, an addiction therapist at Gleneagles Hospital Kuala Lumpur 
Soon he came out of the mist, and his cravings for narcotics were subdued.
After that, I worked at the centre, later, at a children’s centre, and then, a drop-in centre in Chow Kit, where people could come in for a free wash, treat their wounds, and get a free meal.– Chris Sekar, an addiction therapist at Gleneagles Hospital Kuala Lumpur 
Chris eventually earned a pastoral degree from Malaysia Bible Seminary. He studied counselling psychology and earned a Masters in counselling from De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines. For over 20 years, he has been an addiction therapist at Gleneagles Hospital Kuala Lumpur.
Even after over 40 years clean from narcotics, Chris believes he is still a recovering addict. Today, his journey has been chronicled in a book; Daily Devotions for the Recovering Addicts.
The analogy I can give is that it’s like being a diabetic. You can never be nondiabetic. You have to be careful what you consume.– Chris Sekar, an addiction therapist at Gleneagles Hospital Kuala Lumpur
#5:Mohd Fadzrul Gaining A Better Life With Ginger Farming
A few years ago, Mohd Fadzrul Hakim Othman, 35, brushed with the law when he got involved in a fight. During the fight, he caused injury to the victim resulting in permanent disability. As a result, Fadzrul was sentenced to jail for 4 years.
My past is to be forgotten, but I learned from my mistakes. In my opinion, I’m fortunate to have received support from my family members who did not give up on me and accepted me. – Mohd Fadzrul Hakim Othman, Bentong ginger entrepreneur
Determined to turn a new leaf, Fadzrul and his older brother, Mohd Farhadi Farhan, 36, worked together on an abandoned ginger farm in Pekan, Pahang. The team effort sees Fadzrul growing not only the highly-coveted Bentong ginger but also other leafy greens using fertigation.
I have to get up and run to chase my dream as a successful gardener, not only planting ginger, but other vegetables and chillies using fertigation techniques. – Mohd Fadzrul Hakim Othman, Bentong ginger entrepreneur
Today, through the ginger farm, he earns at least RM10,000 monthly.
The rising awareness of Bentong ginger and its high demand now creates bright prospects for entrepreneurs like us. – Mohd Fadzrul Hakim Othman, Bentong ginger entrepreneur
#6:Datuk Mohd Firdaus, Opened A New Business Chapter
Once upon a time, Datuk Mohd Firdaus Mohd Daud had it all, basking in wealth. However, in 2015, after dealing with another businessman, all vanished into thin air. Datuk Mohd Firdaus ended up serving 4 years in prison for fraud and money laundering.
Before, I had a legitimate business. But when I was imprisoned, I lost all my assets and even lost my self-confidence to live. – Datuk Mohd Firdaus, entrepreneur
When he left prison, he began to rebuild his life and fortune. With RM500 on loan from his mother, Firdaus got to work.
With the knowledge I have, I am trying to start a business without any illegal (criminal) elements because I really want to change. – Datuk Mohd Firdaus, entrepreneur
Firdaus now owns several service companies including car rental services, hotels, manpower, cleaning and consultancy.
He contributes his success today to his family’s trust in him and their belief that he can start anew. As a way to express his gratitude, he hires ex-convicts to be part of his enterprises. In addition, he has funded some of the budding businesses that could set them up for a better life.
Being an ex-prisoner myself, I am very familiar with the struggles they face in getting back on their feet. Because of that, I want them to start as ’employees’ before becoming ‘bosses’ for their respective businesses. – Datuk Mohd Firdaus, entrepreneur
Thus far, Mohd Firdaus has hired 267 workers, 40% involved in petty crimes and drug-related offences since 2020.
Explore our sources:
- N.A. Khazizi. (2021). Mak Wan’s ‘dark past’ inspires her to serve Chow Kit homeless. Malaysiakini. Link
- A.Zikri. (2020). Formerly homeless, this KL lady now runs feeding programme for the poor in Chow Kit. Malay Mail. Link
- A.Ruban. (2017). Out of jail, back on his feet and paying it forward. Malay Mail. Link
- E.Koshy. (2018). Second Act : Musician finds redemption from drug scourge through music. New Straits Times. Link
- G.Nunis. (2022). Clean for 41 years, ‘recovering addict’ Chris Sekar hopes book will help others. Twentytwo13.my. Link
- R.Rosedi. (2022). Bekas banduan kini petani berjaya.Sinar Harian. Link
- M.R.Mamat. (2022). ‘Buka buku baru’. Harian Metro. Link
- N.H.Bahaudin. (2022). Aku dulu banduan. Harian Metro. Link