As Covid-19 infections spiked and people hunkered down in their homes in March, Ms Senthamarai V. Subramaniam, 38, lost her job as a night market sales assistant.
She is the sole breadwinner of her family while her husband, Mr Selvam Tanggaraju, 42, is the primary caregiver to their four children, aged five to 13. The couple's eldest son suffers from high-risk asthma.
Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, the couple persevered, setting up a home-based business selling masks, children's clothes and cookies in their two-room public rental flat in Hougang.
On Sunday, the family was a beneficiary of the Singapore Indian Development Association's (Sinda) annual Back To School Festival (BTSF), which gives out school kits with vouchers to underprivileged students to help them prepare for the new academic year.
Said Ms Senthamarai: "My older children have been receiving BTSF school kits for a few years now. When Covid-19 struck, our financial situation worsened and I was worried that I would not be able to cater to their needs. It is a relief to know that even in the current situation, I can rely on Sinda's help to ease my financial expenses and ensure my children are prepared for school next year."
The kits, which have $180 worth of vouchers - $120 in stationery/ book vouchers and $60 in shoe vouchers - are expected to help 3,500 students in the new academic year.
Due to safe distancing measures, students and families have been assigned specific days and time slots to visit Sinda and collect their BTSF kits. The initiative runs till Nov 30.
While currently managing her home-based business, Ms Senthamarai said she is hunting for a job that would provide her with a regular income. She became the sole earner in her family five years ago, when her husband left the workforce to become their children's caregiver.
Ms Senthamarai is a client of the Sinda Family Service Centre. Her two older children tap the Sinda bursary while her third child is a beneficiary of The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.
The family also receives ComCare assistance. "During the circuit breaker, when the children had home-based learning, I was scared to take my son out to a public space so he could access a laptop. Because of his asthma, he is at a higher risk of getting sick. We were able to get a laptop from Sinda which helped him study at home," she said.
Launching the initiative this year, Sinda president Indranee Rajah, who is Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said that even against the backdrop of Covid-19, no student's learning or education should be compromised. "Covid-19 has brought about challenges - some families needed financial assistance, students needed devices for home-based learning, and some parents had to stay home to care for their children. To assist such families, Sinda has deepened and enhanced its support for the Indian community."
3,500 Number of students in the new academic year who are expected to receive help via the kits, which have $180 worth of vouchers - $120 in stationery/book vouchers and $60 in shoe vouchers.
A total of $630,000 will be distributed to recipients through this year's BTSF.