SINGAPORE - Madam Far'ain Jaffar had wanted to become a foster mother since she was 19 and a volunteer at Jamiyah Children's Home, where she met children as young as three years old.
"My husband jokes that this was a clause in our marriage," the 33-year-old educator and children's book author told The Straits Times.
Her wish came true in 2017 when her application to foster children was approved and two sisters who were then under two years old arrived at her home.
Since then, the avid volunteer has fostered two other girls and is currently looking after a four-year-old girl.
On Saturday (Oct 23), Madam Far'ain was honoured with the Exemplary Young Mother Award by Jamiyah Singapore at its annual prize ceremony to celebrate resilient mothers.
Fostering can be challenging, she said , especially when these children have occasional outbursts due to trauma.
She has been kicked and punched, and has had things thrown at her by foster children, even while pregnant with her second child.
But Madam Far'ain remains committed to providing a safe space for them.
"One thing I have learnt is to have a stockpile of clothes when the foster children come because sometimes they don't even have extra underwear or footwear," she quipped.
Madam Far'ain splits her time among caring for her two biological children, working, and volunteering at the Breastfeeding Mothers' Support Group, advocacy group hash.peace and the Singapore International Foundation.
Another Exemplary Mother Award winner is Madam Sapiah Haron, 53.
Between 1995 and 2004, the cook single-handedly bore and raised her eldest daughter while her Bangladeshi husband was denied entry into Singapore.
Madam Sapiah, who dropped out of school in Secondary 2, did what was necessary to make ends meet, which meant leaving her eldest daughter with a babysitter for a week or a month at a time.
She said: "I helped at a food stall and also sold dishes like nasi padang near Lakeside MRT. I don't know how much I earned. I was just trying to survive."
When her savings ran out, she skipped meals herself so she could buy things milk or sardines to feed her daughter.
In 2004, things took a turn for the better when the Manpower Ministry granted Madam Sapiah's request to overturn her husband's entry ban.
But the family's situation was upended again when a 2011 gas explosion at a restaurant that Madam Sapiah and her husband ran injured 11 people.
Grappling with legal woes and mounting debt, the couple worked hard to rebuild their lives while their eldest daughter looked after her three sisters.
Madam Sapiah, who now runs Haron Takeaway Stall at Block 175 Boon Lay Drive, said: "I have always just tried to be a good mother. I was very surprised to have been nominated for this award by my daughter and I wish to share this award with all the mothers."