SINGAPORE - When a part-time sales assistant was hospitalised following emergency surgery after her cat bit and seriously hurt her hands, her friends in a mothers’ support group took turns to take food to her children for a week.
She has six children aged between three and 20 and is also looking after a two-year-old grandchild. Her husband works as a pest control specialist.
The woman, who wanted to be known only as Mas, 39, said: “I was very touched by their help. I feel I’m not alone and the mums in the support group are always there for one another, offering help and advice. This is important as I don’t really go out to make friends.”
She is part of Mum’s Collective, a support group for low-income mothers living in highly subsidised Housing Board rental flats in Bukit Merah.
Ms Nurhidayah Sazali, 32, and Ms Siti Zafirah, 38, collaborated with social service agency South Central Community Family Service Centre (FSC) to start the support group in July.
The group meets twice a month to discuss issues close to their hearts, such as childcare and mental health issues, and to do activities together such as baking.
Volunteers would look after their children while the mothers get some time to themselves during these sessions, said Ms Zafirah, a housewife who has two daughters aged 18 and 20 and a grandson, who is two. Her husband is a senior security officer.
Ms Nurhidayah, who has two daughters aged three and five, said: “Our main goal is to address what the mums are going through and let them know they are not alone. So next time if they see someone in need, they, too, can step up to help.”
In October, Ms Nurhidayah, a former cleaner, became the first person who is not holding a professional job to be awarded the Ngee Ann Kongsi Community Fellowship to effect social change. The fellowship is awarded by think-tank the Institute of Policy Studies.
The pair said the mothers in the group face common issues such as financial struggles, parenting challenges and mental health concerns. They are housewives, and some have five or six children to raise on their husbands’ low wages.
Ms Zafirah said: “Mums with young children can be very lonely as they spend all their time looking after their baby. So in the support group, we talk and we laugh together.”
In coming together, the women also learn from one another, such as ways to handle the problems they are going through, Ms Nurhidayah said.
Beyond Social Services , a community development agency, also runs four support groups, comprising mostly mothers, for HDB rental flat residents living in the areas it serves, such as Bukit Ho Swee and Ang Mo Kio, since August 2021.
Ms Lim Shaw Hui, who facilitates these groups called Family Circles, said their aim is to bring those who lost their jobs or saw their pay cut during the Covid-19 pandemic together to support one another and rebuild their lives. The group’s members motivate one another and share resources, such as information about help schemes or job opportunities.
She said: “The greatest benefit they have found is friendship. And when they share their struggles and their resources, they also learn from and support one another.”