Sticking together despite difficult times

By Sondra Foo, Corporate Communications and Marketing

There is an adage, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.

This certainly holds true for Mdm Taksiah Razak’s family. For years, Mdm Taksiah, 55, has been scouring through discarded items at void decks in search of things she could bring home for her family.

With eight children in tow from her second marriage, life is a constant struggle to provide for and feed her family of ten people. The days when her children were growing up were particularly challenging for the family, recounted Mdm Taksiah, as tears trickled down. The pain lingers, despite the 20 years that have passed.

She had juggled multiple jobs to make ends meet. Besides cleaning homes, she also worked at a spa and cooked food to sell. Her children sold these foods (nasi lemak, curry puff and noodles) around the estate in MacPherson. There were times they did not have enough rice or ran out of diapers, and they had to seek help from their neighbours. Her family was known as the rag-and-bone household of their estate. They scrimped and saved whatever they could, securing free textbooks and bringing home items that were discarded - a freezer, washing machine, TV and even bedsheets.

When her children fell ill, they would sleep it out rather than visit the doctor, in order to save money. With their monthly housing instalments in arrears, they had to give up their flat in MacPherson. Her family relocated to Malaysia from 2009 to 2015, and returned to Singapore thereafter.

One of her sons, M. Arshad, 23, became physically disabled after a high fever at seven months. M. Arhsad stayed at the Red Cross Home for the Disabled from 2010 to 2018. The rest of her children, four boys and three girls stay with Mdm Taksiah and her husband. With three studying in tertiary institutions and four in secondary school, the family’s expenses go towards food, school-related items and and healthcare.

Mdm Taksiah’s husband, 53, is plagued by health issues that impedes his mobility. He suffers from pain and swelling in his leg. Since his condition worsened last year, he could no longer help out at a food stall he had been working in. Unfortunately, Mdm Taksiah has had to endure a similar fate. Recently, she tore her tissue on both legs and now walks with much difficulty. After being warded in the hospital, she had to give up her jobs as a cleaner and part-time masseur.

Today, the family’s expenses include utilities, room rental and conservancy charges. Mounting bills and the lack of income have created much stress and frustration in her family. Fortunately, Mdm Taksiah’s family benefits from several assistance schemes, including the Singapore Red Cross’ Family LifeAid.

Since she was introduced to the Singapore Red Cross last year, our volunteers visit the family every month, bringing food vouchers to them. This arrangement enables Mdm Taksiah to buy fresh foods for her family, taking a big load off her shoulders.

“I use the Red Cross vouchers to buy rice, cereal, chicken, eggs, bread, potato and healthy beverage for my family. Thank you so much for relieving my burden. Now we have enough food to eat. With your help, we can ride through the difficult times,” says Mdm Taksiah with gratitude.