Unlabelled Run aims to break the stigma put on ex-offenders with a record-breaking tattoo run.
“A leopard never changes its spots” and “People with tattoos are usually bad eggs” are some of labels people put on ex-offenders. To break the stigma of such labels, The New Charis Mission (TNCM), a non-profit group, organized its inaugural Unlabelled Run at East Coast Park on Apr 16.
Nearly 3,000 turned up at the event to show support for the ex-offenders in a five km Fun Run and 10km Competitive Run. Each runner was given a temporary hydro-tattoos—because tattoos are often a source of discrimination–which was rinsed off after the run symbolizing the “unlabelling” of people with a prison record.
“People with tattoos are not always fierce or unapproachable,” says Gerard Low, 26, a fitness trainer who took part in the 10km run. “I have friends with tattoos who have good character; we just need to get to know them better. Society is evolving, and meaningful runs such like this one and the Yellow Ribbon Run help to promote awareness and create an inclusive society.”
The event was graced by guest-of-honor Denise Phua, the mayor of Central Singapore District.
Started in 2006 by Don Wong, TNCM is an organization that provides rehabilitation programs for ex-drug offenders and ex-criminals to help them reintegrate into society. They also do preventive work targeting youth-at-risk in schools and juvenile homes. The 58 staff and residents of TNCM, including 50 ex-offenders, reaches out to more than 2,000 individuals from all walks of life, including children, youths-at-risk, families, ex-offenders, prisoners and the elderly.
Johnny Chin, 42, TNCM’s operations manager and a key committee member for the run, shared that God had provided in various ways for the run to happen. “In mid-February, we had slightly over 300 signups. We were thinking hard on how to garner more participants, and thankfully we received support from churches, such as City Harvest Church, which was the first to give us a platform to share with its congregation about the run. Right after the service, that very weekend we gained almost 1,000 more signups!”
Chin also shared that the event gained the support of some local celebrities. Well-known actors, Chew Chor Meng and Zhu Hou Ren even volunteered to be in the planning committee.
“Through organizing this run, many of us have personally experienced God’s goodness and provision. We are happy to receive so much support for this run, because it is important to celebrate the transformation of ex-offenders, and show appreciation for their contributions to society.”
TNCM also set a new record in the Singapore Book of Records for the most number of people running with painted hands.
“As this is our first run, there is still room for improvement. Nevertheless, we have received many congratulatory messages and witnessed the overwhelming support. We are definitely looking forward to organising the next Unlabelled Run,” says Chin.