SINGAPORE - 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 she was left to fend for her four children alone, and they had to live with relatives and friends.
The experience spurred Mr Affendy, 44, to start a social enterprise in 2014 helping single mothers and other socially disadvantaged women by teaching them how to sew.
“Some of these women need to have flexibility in their jobs for their family, so sewing is actually a good fit for them,” said Mr Affendy, who runs the enterprise named Teag with wife Haslina Abdul Hamid, also 44.
Mr Affendy holds a full-time job in education, while his wife devotes herself to the enterprise. They have three children.
Thirty women under Teag participated yesterday (April 8) in the Bazaar Tempahan Baju Raya, an event where Woodlands residents can get customised baju kurung, which costs $90 a set, made by these seamstresses.
Five full sets of baju kurung were ordered yesterday, while eight other customers bought fabrics from Teag.
The event at Woodlands Community Club also featured other vendors such as Dress For Success, a service that provides career development tools for disadvantaged women.
Mr Amrin Amin, a grassroots adviser to Woodlands, said of Teag: “It is a very good initiative, it shows (the women’s) fighting spirit, their determination to get pass the difficulties they have faced and wanting to do better for their families.”
Teag has helped 61 women take part in its programmes this year alone.
One of them, Madam Siti Salbiah Mohamed, 45, is a remarried mother of four who quit her administrative job after the birth of her youngest child four years ago.
She said: “It’s very hard to find an office job at my age. And actually sewing is my passion, I feel very fulfilled when I complete a piece, but I stopped sewing 10 years ago when life got too busy.”
While she was employed when she divorced in 2010, she still struggled financially as she had to support her three children then.
But she is more conscious now of her employment status despite being married to a limousine service operator .
“I just want to be independent, in case of any unforeseen circumstances,” added Madam Siti Salbiah.
She joined Teag two months ago and has already passed its training phase and quality control, and is now making pieces for retail.
Mr Affendy said: “Our social enterprise is funded by our clients who want clothes made. So while we want to do good, we also need to maintain quality.”
Yesterday’s event also gave four single-mothers and their families a chance to get free tailored baju kurung for the Hari Raya celebrations in June.
Six more families will get measured for free baju kurung next week.
One recipient yesterday was Madam Fasha Sumar, who works as a cleaner and lives in a one-room rental flat with her five children.
Her husband died eight years ago and the family usually could not afford tailored clothes for Hari Raya. But she and one of her daughters got their measurements taken for baju kurung made specially for them.
Madam Fasha, 49, said: “I’m very happy that people are willing to sponsor us tailored clothes. Usually we will get cheap ones from Geylang Bazaar right before Hari Raya, but this year we can have our own baju kurung.”