People

Single mum has a big heart for Marsiling neighbours

(From left) Madam Hajira Bee Idroos, 62, Ms Tng Noi Kee, 76, Madam Jainah Awang, 67, and Madam Chong Kiaw, 79, won the Most Outstanding Woman award, which recognises ordinary women who excel in various areas.
(From left) Madam Hajira Bee Idroos, 62, Ms Tng Noi Kee, 76, Madam Jainah Awang, 67, and Madam Chong Kiaw, 79, won the Most Outstanding Woman award, which recognises ordinary women who excel in various areas.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

67-year-old who survives on govt aid stations herself at void deck to provide help to others

At the age of 67, single mother Jainah Awang still has to take care of her grown-up son, who is mentally challenged.

The housewife lives with her son in a one-room rental flat in Marsiling, surviving on government aid.

But these personal challenges did not deter the feisty woman from holding her own "Meet the People" sessions.

Three years ago, she took down a small wooden table to the void deck at Block 4, Marsiling Road. Since then, she has been sitting there from 10am to 2pm every day without fail.

"Neighbours know I am here every day and they come to talk to me about their problems and I will see if I can help," said Madam Jainah, whose husband died from a heart attack 18 years ago. She has raised three other children who are married and no longer live with her.

When neighbours tell her they do not have food, she heads upstairs to cook meals for them to take home. And when they need someone to take them for medical check-ups or to visit a friend, she goes with them.

For her efforts, she was honoured with the Most Outstanding Woman award, given out yesterday by the Marsiling community ahead of International Women's Day.

The award recognises ordinary women who excel in various areas of their lives. Four women, including Madam Jainah, received the award from the MP for the area, Madam Halimah Yacob.

These women have overcome life obstacles and are positive role models in their families and the community, said a spokesman for Marsiling Women's Group. "The awardees will share their life stories with the intent to inspire the women in Marsiling," she added.

International Women's Day is celebrated on March 8 every year. In Singapore, various groups have planned initiatives to mark the day.

Facebook is launching an initiative here tomorrow to empower women entrepreneurs through a series of training and networking events.

"We all know Singapore is a great place to do business, but when it comes to starting your own business, women still face challenges such as the lack of access to networks, resources and training, and social bias," said Ms Clair Deevy, who is heading the initiative at Facebook.

The Association of Women for Action and Research will launch a movement to support single parents on Thursday. It includes an online campaign and a family carnival catered to single parents on Saturday.

Despite being a single mother, Madam Jainah said she still makes time for the community because she knows what it feels like to have no family and to be poor.

"My parents died when I was young and later my husband left me, so my neighbours are my family," she said. "So this Chinese or Malay mama and papa who live alone and don't have family with them are my mama and papa."

Every Friday, she and four other volunteers cook dinner at the void deck for 250 needy residents in the area. The ingredients are donated by Sheng Siong supermarket.

"When they cry, I cry. When they are happy, I am happy. That is why I choose to do all these."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2016, with the headline 'Single mum has a big heart for Marsiling neighbours'. Print Edition | Subscribe