SINGAPORE - There was nowhere to sit in the living room; the wooden sofa was piled high with stacks of clothes. Just beside it, on the threshold of the kitchen, the two children squealed and hugged the pink bolster still wrapped in the plastic when it was handed to them by the volunteers in blue polo shirts from furniture retailer Courts.
Madam Siti Norbayah was in desperate need of new appliances and furniture. Her refrigerator's chiller was malfunctioning, alternately turning vegetables into soggy lumps and frozen chunks; her stove was worn out and slow to heat anything; her two eldest children - aged 10 and 11 - were squeezing onto a single bed and their closet was broken.
The family applied for help but had either been turned down or never got immediate relief . The monthly cash aid they used to receive dwindled from $600 to $450 a month before vanishing completely a couple of years ago. Madam Siti said she did not know why the aid stopped. The 38-year-old mother of four had worked at her parents' hawker stall, but after her third child was born seven years ago, she left her job to take care of the children. That left her husband as the sole breadwinner with a salary of $1,000 per month for the family of six.
"When help is rejected you are totally lost," she said. "For $1,000 a month, what can you spend? With bills piling up, my (power bills) piling up to $700, $800 per month because of outstanding (charges) from the previous month, so most of his pay is paying the bills."
In addition, her eldest daughter's sleep apnoea required a $2,500 oxygen machine and her seven-year-old son's hearing problems required regular check-ups. He has had several operations since he was a baby.
Although the machine was paid for by the hospital and their medical fees are subsidised, the family could not afford to replace the furniture and appliances.
Thus, they were thrilled when they were unexpectedly inducted into Courts Singapore's Ramadan home delivery programme, courtesy of a nomination by an officer at the Serangoon Community Club.
As one of the 22 low-income Muslim family recipients, they were presented with a new fridge, stove, wardrobe and queen-size bed with pillows and bolsters.
"Now I have a place to store my children's clothes and can cook proper meals with fresh ingredients for my family," Madam Siti said.
Over the past two weeks, 17 Courts volunteers have delivered $20,000 worth of furniture and household appliances to the families in Serangoon and Ang Mo Kio, in collaboration with the North East Community Development Council, Serangoon grassroots organisations and the non-profit organisation Hira Society.
The external organisations helped to identify the needy families and determine the necessities they were lacking.
The volunteers also cleaned selected homes and hosted them to iftar (break fast) at the Serangoon Community Club, in the spirit of giving during Ramadan. Courts Singapore marketing director Joanna Ho and Adviser to Aljunied grassroots organisations, Ms Chan Hui Yuh, on Tuesday also paid a visit to two of the families, including Madam Siti's.
"We cherish our close ties with the local community," said Ms Ho. "We take the opportunity to make sure our employees are fully connected with the community, so we have volunteers that do the home delivery, help with the installations and do some spring cleaning."
She added that the positive feedback to the delivery programme last year prompted this year's iteration, and that there were plans to expand it to other parts of Singapore as well.