Social enterprise helps single mums stitch their way to independence

Ms Michelle Singleton having her measurements taken for baju kurung by Teag co-founder Haslina Abdul Hamid yesterday, as Madam Siti Salbiah Mohamed (at right) wrote down the figures.
Ms Michelle Singleton having her measurements taken for baju kurung by Teag co-founder Haslina Abdul Hamid yesterday, as Madam Siti Salbiah Mohamed (at right) wrote down the figures.PHOTO: LIN ZHAOWEI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

The traumatic experience of finding himself and his family homeless for two years proved a life-changing event for Mr Mohd Affendy Abdullah. He was just 16 when his mother divorced his abusive father and was left to fend for her four children alone - and they had to live with relatives and friends.

The experience spurred Mr Affendy, now 44, to start a social enterprise in 2014 to help single mothers and socially disadvantaged women by teaching them to sew.

"Some of these women need to have flexibility in their jobs, (so that they can care) for their family, so sewing is a good fit for them," said Mr Affendy, who runs the social enterprise, Teag, with his wife Haslina Abdul Hamid, also 44. He holds a full-time job in education, while his wife devotes herself to Teag. They have three children.

Thirty women under Teag participated yesterday in Bazaar Tempahan Baju Raya, an event at which people can get customised baju kurung made by the women for Hari Raya celebrations in June. Each set of baju kurung cost $90 and orders for five sets were placed yesterday.

The event at Woodlands Community Club also featured vendors such as Dress For Success, which provides career development tools for disadvantaged women.

Teag has helped 61 women take part in its programmes this year.

One of them, Madam Siti Salbiah Mohamed, is a 45-year-old remarried mother of four who quit her administrative job after the birth of her youngest child four years ago.

"Sewing is my passion... but I stopped sewing 10 years ago when life got too busy," she said.

While she had a job when she divorced in 2010, she still struggled financially. "I just want to be independent, in case of any unforeseen circumstances," said Madam Siti, who is now married to a limousine service operator.

Yesterday's event also saw four single mothers and their families get their measurements taken for free tailored baju kurung. Six more families will get their measurements taken next week.

A recipient yesterday was Madam Fasha Sumar, a 49-year-old widow who works as a cleaner and lives in a one-room rental flat with her five children. "I'm happy people are willing to sponsor tailored clothes for us. Usually we get cheap baju kurung from Geylang bazaar."

Jan Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2018, with the headline 'Social enterprise helps single mums stitch their way to independence'. Print Edition | Subscribe