When her daughter turned two, Janice Yap, a 41-year-old single mum, threw a big birthday party with the help of some friends.
The celebration made her daughter very happy, and witnessing her child smiling and laughing with joy brought a thought to Yap’s mind: that there could be parents who wanted to throw such birthday parties for their child, but were unable to afford it.
The real estate agent subsequently posted in a closed Facebook group for low-income families that she was looking to bless an underprivileged child aged between one to three with a birthday celebration.
The response was overwhelming – so much so that she had to rope in six friends to chip in some funds so they could extend the initiative to more children. Together, they helped to throw nine birthday celebrations – each costing slightly under $80 on average – last year.
According to Yap, some of the children for whom these birthday parties were organised were staying in a shelter with their single mothers. “When they came to me, it was with one ultimate intention – for their child to be happy,” Yap told The Pride.
As a single mother herself, Yap, who is divorced, was able to relate to the plight of some of the families.
“I realised that we can actually give each other some form of moral support, along with a message to the single mums out there to not give up and continue to fight for your loved ones,” she explained.
Earlier this year, Yap had once again put up a post on social media offering to help organise birthday parties for underprivileged kids. Along with her friends, she plans to organise three birthday parties – the first of which, for five-year-old Haiqel Rohaizad, took place earlier this month.
Haiqel’s mother gave birth to him while serving a prison sentence. Shortly after, he was placed into foster care. But when he was two, his foster father was diagnosed with liver cancer and the family could no longer take care of Haiqel.
With his mother still serving her sentence, Haiqel’s aunt, Suhaini Md Ali, took him in so that the boy could have a family. She now takes care of Haiqel as her own, and the boy even calls her “mummy”.
The 39-year-old’s decision to do so is even more impressive considering that she herself is a single mum of two kids aged 18 and four, and lives in a rental flat. But the drawback is that Suhaini, who works as a receptionist, is struggling to cope, especially financially.
As a result, she has never had the means to throw a birthday party for Haiqel, who she describes as a cheerful kid who is easily contented.
Suhaini had chanced upon Yap’s post and reached out to her. Touched by the family’s story, Yap went the extra mile and got 10 other volunteers, including her father, to throw Haiqel his first birthday party, themed around superheroes Batman and Spiderman.
Her friends helped to create balloon sculptures, bake cookies and prepare goodie bags for Haiqel and his childcare centre classmates. One of Janice’s friends even came dressed as Batman, and gave Haiqel a ride in his ‘batmobile’. Another, a florist, prepared flowers as a surprise for Suhaini.
“My real intention of doing all this is actually to drive a message across (to single mothers) to have the courage to face challenges in life,” said Yap.
She added: “If I want to strive to be a better person, I have to learn to extend kindness to my family, my friends and even people that I may not know.”