After her six kids go to school in the morning, Farhana Mashon, 37, goes to work as a food delivery rider.
It’s a big step for Farhana, who up to late last year, was a homemaker who looked after her kids – three boys and three girls between 7 and 18 years old.
As she is in the midst of a divorce, she is worried over how becoming a single parent would affect her children. Farhana is currently receiving financial assistance from the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s Social Services Office (SSO). The family lives in a sparsely furnished 2-room rental flat in Bukit Batok. Farhana shares a bunk bed with her three daughters, while her three teenage sons sleep on a queen-sized mattress on the floor.
It was still difficult to make ends meet so Farhana turned to delivery services like GrabFood and Foodpanda earlier this year to earn a living.
It was tough, going back to work, admits Farhana, telling the Pride her story.
“I was pretty devastated. But somehow, I managed to bring myself up and start anew.”
Even before mutually separating from her odd-job labourer husband, Farhana was already a beneficiary of Project Goodwill Aid (PGA) for two years. PGA is a volunteer group consisting of like-minded individuals who want to give back to society. They conduct door-to-door visits to rental homes, reaching out to low-income families and the elderly who are living alone.
PGA distributes groceries and infant milk powder to the needy, as well as other disposable items such as baby and adult diapers. Volunteers also organise birthday celebrations for children beneficiaries every month. If the rental homes are bug or rat-infested, PGA volunteers will help clean, paint and refurbish the homes. The long term goal, according to founder Siti Nurani Salim, is to assist families with becoming self-sufficient.
Charity inspires her to give back
Aside from receiving help from PGA, Farhana relies on financial assistance from the SSO and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS).
She admits that welfare associations like PGA helped her with daily expenses as her husband did not approve of her working while they were married even though he was not able to maintain a stable income.
“PGA has helped me a lot. Be it for the kids during their back-to-school events, Hari Raya shopping or even birthdays. Food-wise, be it cooked food or dry rations, there was never a shortage,” Farhana says.
But Farhana isn’t just a beneficiary, she is a volunteer as well.
These days, Farhana helps mostly with the administrative work on PGA’s projects. But she is no stranger to volunteerism. She began in 2013 while she was heavily pregnant with her youngest daughter. She and a group of mothers worked with Beyond Social Services to tackle youth issues in Henderson estate, where she previously lived. She also helped out with South Central Community Family Service Centre events.
When asked why she started volunteering, Farhana simply says, “I want to give back to the community, and because I like volunteering.”
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Her heart for others has also rubbed off on her children. Farhana says, “Not all children like volunteering. But mine grew up helping friends in school and now they are part of Project Goodwill Aid’s Youth Wing.”
Even though she has her own struggles to overcome, Farhana’s kindness shines through her dedication and generosity in helping others.
“Farhana has been helping us for the last five years. Her dedication and commitment to help those in need are always her main priority. She also provides a good listening ear for those who need to be consoled and a good shoulder to cry on.” says PGA’s Siti Nurani Salim.
Single-parent households have often had to struggle with both the emotional and financial costs of bringing up a family by themselves. That is why support networks are so important. Similarly, financial support is needed too, which is why efforts from charities like Civilians Association Singapore (CAS) are so welcome.
In commemoration of its 56th anniversary, CAS intends to help up to 156 needy single-parent families during the Covid-19 pandemic. Supported by Singapore Silent Heroes, the #HeartfulGiver campaign encourages members of the public to adopt an anonymous single-parent family with a one-time household grocery donation of $150.
Growing together as a family
It is not easy for Farhana to raise her six children single-handedly, but her eldest son usually helps with the daily errands such as picking up the younger children from school. Her children are her pride and joy, says Farhana, and despite the challenges, she places great importance on growing together as a family.
With support from understanding neighbours, her mother, siblings and close friends, Farhana remains positive.
Farhana shares: “I will usually end work by 1.30pm. The rest of the day will be spent at home doing house chores and spending time with the kids like playing card games or watching TV.
She battles feelings of inadequacies at times, but her children are very mature about the struggles of the family.
Says Farhana: “It’s been a roller-coaster ride with them. There are times where I struggle to get what my children want. If I can’t afford the same thing, I try to get at least something similar. Sometimes, when I really have no means to get it, they will just say ‘It’s ok mama. Let’s just settle the important stuff first.’”
Farhana’s hopes for the future is to own a bigger home where her sons and daughters can have separate rooms.
She says: “For all single moms out there, do not despair. There is help everywhere. But the most important part is helping yourself first. If you are in irreconcilable conflict with your spouse, get out of the cycle that you are in. It is okay to cry, it is okay to feel upset. But we must also remember that our children need us, so we have to put their well-being first.”