ST School Pocket Money Fund was a lifeline during the two years mum battled cancer

Miss Elicia with her mother, Madam Junaina. The ST School Pocket Money Fund helped lighten the burden for her mother during the tough years.
Miss Elicia with her mother, Madam Junaina. The ST School Pocket Money Fund helped lighten the burden for her mother during the tough years.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

She was just 15 when she had to bear the responsibility of taking care of her three younger siblings, while her sole-breadwinner mother battled colon cancer.

But Miss Nur Elicia Nadya Elvis, now 20 and a second-year statistics undergraduate at the National University of Singapore, got help from the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund. It tided her through two tough years in 2011 and 2012.

Then, Miss Elicia was a Secondary 3 student at Springfield Secondary School, while her mother was a tutor. Her father was mostly working overseas during that period.

"Before she went to work, she would vomit," said Ms Elicia, recounting her mother's illness. "She would also complain of backaches and abdominal pain. I am very close to my mum, so I was really worried about her. She would say 'I'm okay', but deep down I knew she wasn't."

Her worst fears were confirmed when her mother, Madam Junaina Basir, now 43, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2011. Her studies were initially affected, as she skipped school frequently to be at the Singapore General Hospital where her mother was warded.

 

She also took care of her siblings, who are now aged 11, 14 and 18. "As the oldest sibling, I had to give them moral support. I got them to sleep, got them food, and helped them with homework. I was not getting a lot of sleep myself, as I had my own school work to juggle on top of that."

It reached a point where Ms Elicia's form teacher, Miss Neo Hui Jun, whom she describes as her "pillar of strength", approached her to find out what was wrong.

Miss Neo suggested they get help from the ST School Pocket Money Fund, and the family applied for it through the SBL Vision Family Service Centre in Tampines.

"For the two years, I received $80 a month. My brother was also receiving it, so we had $160 in total. We spent them on school expenses, such as transport fares, buying food, stationery, and the occasional McDonald's treat," she said. "It helped lighten the burden off my mum, especially when she wasn't working any more."

Madam Junaina was cancer-free as of March 2013. Miss Elicia feels the fund helped her a lot, and can do the same for other children at such a stage in their lives.

"The fund is very beneficial, especially when you're young and have no source of income. Even though the sum isn't that much, it helps you to be self-sufficient, and also helps to boost your morale."

Fabian Koh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2016, with the headline 'Fund was a lifeline during the two years mum battled cancer'. Print Edition | Subscribe