Hope from the heart
Setting aside their personal struggles, this group of mums are neighbourhood warriors, selflessly reaching out to help needy families in Jalan Bukit Merah.
Meet Fizah, Zelah, Rene and Norma – the unsung heroines behind Sincere Hope, a group of seven “mummy volunteers” who have touched the lives of many children and families in their own neighbourhood of Jalan Bukit Merah. These four women are Good Samaritan volunteers at Beyond Social Services, a voluntary welfare organisation where they first met each other slightly over a year ago. Since then, they have been supporting each other through their personal struggles, while also extending support to other residents in their neighbourhood.
(Left to right) Fizah, Zelah, Rene and Norma of Sincere Hope– a ground-up and subset of Beyond Social Services’ Good Samaritans Programme.
“We have one goal, and that is to help the community. I think that was what brought us together,” says Rene, a part-time basic care assistant at the Singapore General Hospital and 37-year-old single mother with two pre-teen boys whom she affectionately calls her “monkeys”.
The women rub their eyes and stifle yawns mid-interview, explaining that they were up late the day before, handing out 300 packets of drinks and cartons of butter cookies to residents of their neighbourhood. Apart from food distributions, some of Sincere Hope’s other initiatives include planning iftar (break fast) and Hari Raya celebrations for their community, organising tuition for underprivileged children and running fitness programmes for young ones.
“We’d rather have the kids with us, doing activities together, instead of running around and we don’t know what they are up to. They become friends and learn about having teamwork, discipline and respect for each other,” says Zelah, a 28-year-old stay-at-home mum with a seven-year-old daughter. She manages the Fun Fitness programme on Fridays and helps out with the tuition programme.
The women also look out for children in the neighbourhood who come from troubled families and help link these families up with social service agencies. “We are like kaypoh mummies,” says Norma with a laugh. The part-time cleaner and 53-year-old grandmother treats all the women’s children like her own grandchildren.
To zero in on families who might need support, the women spend hours going door to door in their neighbourhood. Reaching out personally to families is also how they encourage residents to come down to their events. Rene says: “The people who are the neediest in the community are the ones who are often not seen. It’s only by knocking on doors that we are able to reach out to them because they are not coming forward.”
These generous mummies often pool together their own resources to help families in need. For iftar, they dug into their own savings to prepare goodie bags filled with old-school treats and toys for the children. They also worked together with friends to raise money to buy new Hari Raya baju for six children who come from a family who is struggling financially. “Whatever we have, whatever we think we can afford, we will give,” says Norma.
Fizah, a mother of five and a pioneer of Jalan Bukit Merah’s Good Samaritans Programme.
What makes these women’s contributions even more inspiring is that they have faced personal adversity. Yet, they continue to give – cheerfully and unconditionally. Take Fizah, a 35-year-old mother of five, who is a pioneer of the Good Samaritans Programme. She forks out her own spare time and money to oversee the volunteer programmes and look out for the members of her community, despite getting only about an hour of sleep on most days. She juggles her volunteer work with taking care of her five young children – three of whom have special needs – as well as helping her husband with UberEATS deliveries till the wee hours of the morning. Then she returns home to get some shut-eye before waking up a few hours later to prepare her young children for school and day care.
Also unfazed by life’s challenges is Rene, who spearheads Sincere Hope’s food distribution programme. After going through a divorce, Rene was unable to successfully apply for rental flat housing and faced several unpleasant experiences while staying at a shelter home. Thankfully, Zelah and her husband graciously opened up their home to Rene and her two young sons. Today, both families live under the same small roof – six people crammed into one rental flat. Zelah’s husband, a security guard, generously dipped into his own savings to get bunk beds for the children and installed air-conditioning in his flat so that both families can live comfortably. Rene hopes to successfully apply for a rental flat in Jalan Bukit Merah where she can continue to volunteer and be close to her dear friends.
“I hope they come back and become volunteers together when they grow old,” says Zelah, explaining how her daughter and Rene’s sons bicker all day but have learnt to take care of each other.
Despite the various issues these women face, they remain undeterred when it comes to serving their community. And their efforts have paid off. For Fizah, that was when her daughter and a few of the students from their tuition programme, won Ministry of Education bursary awards. “Having one of the children come up to me and tell me, ‘I got this award because of you’, is like ‘yay!’ So touching, you know,” says Fizah.
Her eldest daughter won a good progress award and an EAGLES award at the ceremony. “She’s an intelligent girl. I actually had six kids and I lost one of them. That was when I fell into depression and neglected my other kids. So her studies were affected and she became a foundation student. Today, my daughter is a Secondary One Express student, and that has made me a really proud mummy. She even told me to tell daddy to make sure to save money for her to go to university,” shares Fizah.
All four women hope for the best for their children and the children of their community. They are currently waiting for their new Sincere Hope T-shirts to arrive – so they can wear them with pride as they humbly carry on with their simple but vital contributions to the lives of other families around them.
Special Thanks to:
Volunteer Writer: Lian Szu-Jin
Volunteer Photographer: Sean Cham