8 people. 1 household. 2 incomes.

Story and Photo by Joyce Tan, Corporate Communications and Marketing

Ms Nadia* had just been sentenced to a lengthy prison term for drug-related offenses. She was also heavily pregnant. She asked if Mdm Fatimah* could care for her child as her husband was a violent alcoholic who continually ran into trouble with the law. Ms Nadia has two older children, who were living in a children’s home. Mdm Fatimah could not bear the thought of another child being raised without the love of a parent. Her answer to Ms Nadia was yes, and she has not looked back since.

A beneficiary of Singapore Red Cross’ FoodAid programme, Mdm Fatimah is a mother of three children. After that phone call, Mdm Fatimah assumed a maternal role to Ms Nadia’s three children. Mdm Fatimah raised Ms Nadia’s youngest child from birth, whilst the elder ones who live at a children’s home come to stay with Mdm Fatimah on weekends.

The household of eight now lives on a meagre monthly salary of Mdm Fatimah’s husband, who works as a cleaner, and monthly allowance from National Service, contributed by Ali*, 18 - Mdm Fatimah ’s eldest child. Though he wishes to further his studies at an ITE, the family is unable to afford the school fees.

Personally, it is rare to encounter families who’d care for children of people who are not related by blood, and especially rare for those whose expenses are constantly heavily stretched in order to make ends meet. Mdm Fatimah’s regular bills include groceries for eight people,rental for their one-room flat, utilities, electricity, top-up of prepaid SIM cards and transportation expenses. The children are on various schemes to support their education: School Pocket Money Fund, KiFAS (Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme) and MOE financial assistance.

When asked about her decision to care for more children, Mdm Fatimah said, “I believe that every child deserves the love and care of a parent. They are innocent and should not have to pay for the mistakes made by their parents.”

Had Mdm Fatimah chosen not to lend a hand, the siblings might have become another statistic in the multitude of children from dysfunctional families in need of shelter in Singapore. Mdm Fatimah contacted the Singapore Red Cross on the recommendation of her friend, who is also a FoodAid beneficiary.

“I am very happy and grateful for the help, because it is primarily for my children. The monthly food vouchers take a big load off my shoulders, as the cost of living in Singapore is high. The health of my family is very important to me, and it is getting more difficult to get healthy food at a reasonable price. Now, we able to use the money that we normally spend on groceries to help supplement other household expenditure” affirmed Mdm Fatimah.

When asked about her hopes for the future, Mdm Fatimah responded, “My husband and I are already old, we have no dreams of our own. My only wish is for the children to be healthy and happy. I hope that they will be able to support one another and provide for themselves when we are no longer able to look after them.”

* - not their real names