At 20, she is breadwinner for 13 family members

Ms Nurul Asyiqin Buang (centre), 20, and her family in their two-room rental flat in Tampines.
Ms Nurul Asyiqin Buang (centre), 20, and her family in their two-room rental flat in Tampines. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - The small living room is filled with children screaming, fighting and running about.

In the midst of this chaos, three young women sit exasperated but familiar with the situation, as they try to manage the six hyperactive children.

Among the women is Miss Nurul Asyiqin Buang, 20, the breadwinner for 13 of her family members.

Miss Nurul gave up her engineering studies at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East when she was 17. She had to start working as her father's chronic illnesses made him unable to work.

She told The New Paper: "I felt like it was my responsibility. No one asked me to do it."

All the family receives monthly, in terms of regular income, is the $1,500 Miss Nurul earns from working as a waitress.

The money feeds her father, stepmother, three brothers, two sisters, four half-siblings, niece, nephew and her. Her oldest brother is missing from home.

The family lives in a two-room rental flat in Tampines, with up to eight of them sleeping in the sole bedroom.

Miss Nurul's plight caught the attention of the founder of Facebook group Ian Free Milk Blessing, who approached crowdfunding site GIVE.asia to start a campaign for her. It has raised about $2,900 since May 15.

Earlier this month, before receiving a food donation from the Facebook group founder, the family had not had meat for 45 days.

They were mainly living off vegetables and dry rations provided by a social worker.

While the family receives financial aid from a few voluntary welfare organisations and help agencies, the aid does not last for long.

From North East Community Development Council (CDC), they received a one-off $700 worth of NTUC FairPrice Foundation - CDC Milk Fund vouchers.

But the family spends up to $1,250 on formula milk every month.

A Ministry of Social and Family Development spokesman said the family has been under its assistance for the past 5½ years.

They also receive cash assistance from ComCare, along with help for utilities and rental bills. Still, the family struggles.

Miss Nurul's father, Mr Buang Taib, 55, now works part-time as a security guard while battling various illnesses, including stage 4 lung cancer and diabetes.

STROKE

The family convinced him to cut down on work after he suffered a stroke during a shift and collapsed.

He has been provided with a Medical Fee Assistance Card and Medifund assistance.

Miss Nurul's biological mother left them when her youngest sister was just three months old, and her stepmother devotes her time to taking care of her husband and the rest of the family.

Miss Nurul's 16-year-old sister often skips school to take care of her siblings.

She also works as a cashier at a restaurant, earning $6 an hour.

She hopes to continue studying in an ITE or polytechnic.

She longs for better times.

"It is a bit stressed now. I want it to be the 'us' before. We used to be a happy family, going out more.

"Now, we rarely go out. Still, I am grateful to (Miss Nurul). She is always there for me," she said.

Her brother, Muhammad Hanif Buang, 19, is a third-year nursing student at Nanyang Polytechnic.

Despite the family's situation, Miss Nurul considers herself happy.

"We are a happy family. At times, I feel sad for (my family) because they do not get to eat what they want.

"What I hope is to help my family. I want to lessen their burden."