5 pillars of Total Defence

Home cook pays it forward after years of ill health

Ms Noor Ain Masaid, who used to be bedridden, started her ChixCheese food business in 2007. Today, she is able to produce the food on her own and donates profits from some orders to those in need.
Ms Noor Ain Masaid, who used to be bedridden, started her ChixCheese food business in 2007. Today, she is able to produce the food on her own and donates profits from some orders to those in need.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

The Total Defence campaign was started in 1984 to remind Singaporeans of the roles they play - individually and collectively - in building a strong nation and guarding against threats. Every year, Total Defence Day is observed on Feb 15 - the day Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942, during World War II. The five pillars of Total Defence - military defence, civil defence, economic defence, social defence and psychological defence - form an enduring framework which emphasises that everyone can make a difference. The Straits Times looks at how Singaporeans are playing their part in Total Defence.

She had a serious fall at age 15 while playing netball in school, suffered a severe fever which was untreated, and became bedridden for two years.

But that did not stop Ms Siti Noor Ain Masaid, now 30, from setting up a home-based food business 10 years ago, allowing her to gain financial independence.

When she started ChixCheese in 2007 to sell spring rolls stuffed with chicken and cheese, she was still using a wheelchair and had difficulty lifting her arms.

But she wanted to have an income to pay for physiotherapy sessions, which were paid for by her uncle who died.

The initial going was tough. Even with her family's help, her first week of orders - 30 boxes of 15 pieces of spring rolls - were not easy to produce. She was confined to her bed the week after due to stiffness, cramps and aches.

But she decided to press on, motivated by the encouragement of her customers, who sent her text messages telling her how much they enjoyed her spring rolls.

"I wanted to make people happy and I just continued. The positive vibes pushed me to go forward," she added.

Today, she gets orders of up to 70 boxes a week, and is able to produce the spring rolls on her own as her condition has improved. She is also able to walk around the house without a walking aid.

She has grown her business through word of mouth, social media and, most recently, through an app called Hcook, which connects home cooks with customers.

She is paying it forward now, by dedicating the profits from some of her orders to needy organisations, such as orphanages.

Recounting the years she was bedridden and fell into depression, she said: "Whatever happened to me, I am grateful, because it taught me to be more humble and caring, and I can comfort others in pain now."

Adrian Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2017, with the headline 'Home cook pays it forward after years of ill health'. Print Edition | Subscribe