As some of you would have already known, TreeDots had recently decided to collaborate with a fundraising platform – Ray of Hope Initiative (ROHI) – to come up with a movement called Food Fund which combines both of our expertise to create an even greater social impact across the island. Through this movement, food products that would otherwise have been wasted could be purchased using the funds accrued, and distributed to the beneficiaries of ROHI thereby resolving both food wastage and poverty eradication at once!
When this issue was brought up, disbelief was everywhere – since when did this nation had an issue of poverty? Unfortunately, we do. We are not talking about the people who are complaining about the GST or the raise in public transport fares. We are talking about families that are unable to even afford to feed every member their 3 meals of the day. Poverty is sadly very well-hidden in our society and thus today, we decided to go with ROHI to take a closer look into the various circumstances of such low-income households and shed some light on the beneficiaries of Food Fund. The names for some of the cases are fictitious as requested by ROHI to protect their identity, and they would be marked with a “*”.
In many communities, HIV patients are often socially-labelled for not being able to have families and provide for their children just like everyone else. The social stigma towards them remains strong, and they often face a tougher time seeking employment as they are shunned and rejected by society. The discrimination that they face constantly also makes it difficult for them to move on from the illness.
Mdm Rianna, 41 years old, is one who faced such discrimination. The mother of two children, age 8 and 7 years old, was diagnosed with HIV in 2009 after contracting the illness from her first husband. For a period of four years from 2012 to 2016, Mdm Rianna has slept in neighbourhood parks and shelter homes with her children.
She subsequently re-married after her divorce was finalized in 2016. It was also the year that she was finally granted her two-room rental flat where she could finally call home. However, things did not pick up thereafter.
Her 42-year old husband suffers from chronic cough, and can only take on low-paying jobs due to his lack of educational qualifications. His income is barely sufficient for him to support the family, and he has to set aside more than half of it as maintenance fee to his ex-wife for their two children. He is also in debt for a personal loan of S$3,000 that he took up in hope of relieving his wife’s stress from all their accumulated medical bills and living expenses, as well as a loan that his cousin undertook but defaulted payment and subsequently ran away.
When ROHI staff met up with Mdm Rianna, she greeted us with a huge smile as she was thankful that we had reached out to her. Despite the challenges and struggles that she is facing, Mdm Rianna is positive and believes that the day will come when she can still be gainfully employed despite her illness, as long as she is given the chance to do so. All she wishes is to be integrated into society and continue to live a meaningful life – the life she used to lead before the illness had turned her life around completely.
She also shared with us that although both her children have been tested HIV negative, her youngest child has a medical condition which prevents his blood from clotting naturally. As such, he often gets admitted into the hospital as he tends to have frequent dizzy spells. She also told us that although her son has a sweet and caring personality, he often gets bullied in school, and coming home with stolen or broken stationery was a norm. This worries Mdm Rianna deeply.
Quoting the resilient mum, “My children have always been my greatest source of happiness and comfort for years now. Even if I do not make it in life, I will make sure my children do”.
It did not take long for the founders of Food Fund to immediately consider Mdm Rianna as one of the many beneficiaries provided for under Food Fund providing her household with at least two meals a day for a month.
Just like any other mother, Ms R* was excited about having a child although she conceived at a mature age. Despite knowing that it would be a high-risk pregnancy, she chose to go against the odds even when the doctors informed her that the child might be diagnosed with Down Syndrome. She chose to stick to her decision as she recognises that every child’s life is a precious one. However, just as she was forcing herself to come to terms with the harsh reality of possibly having a child with Down Syndrome, the biological father of the child walked out of the family upon learning the bad news, leaving Ms R to fend for herself. Besides being diagnosed with Down Syndrome, her baby is also diagnosed with Thyroid issues and Hirschsprung Disease, requiring lifetime medication and treatment.
Ms R deeply believes that although the birth of every child may not always be celebrated in the same way, every child should still be granted an equal opportunity to live on. She also sees her child as a warrior in disguise to have survived several surgeries since birth, and a huge a blessing in her life. Ms R shared with us that it pains her to see her child in such a state and she feels helpless whenever her baby cries. The feelings of helplessness intensifies when she knows there is nothing she can do to alleviate her baby’s suffering. All she can do is to wish that she could take all the pain in place of her daughter.
Ms R got retrenched while she was pregnant with her child. Desperate, she settled for a lower-paying job amounting to a 40% pay cut earning a monthly nett income of only S$1,530. While she is at work, her aged mother helps her take care of the baby. After her husband left her to fend for herself, Ms R lost both emotional and financial support. While it was a difficult time for her, she knew she had to stay strong for her child, as she is her only next-of-kin from now onwards. She told us that each time returns home from work and is greeted by her baby’s smile, she would momentarily forget all the stress and hefty medical bills that she has to face.
The single mum is further afflicted by the obligation to repay the credit card debts incurred by the child’s father that are in her name. She worries deeply that the debts owing to the banks would snowball and that she will never be able to repay the debts in the near future. She wishes that she and her child would be able to start their lives afresh.
The resilience of Ms R touched our hearts, and we could see how difficult it was to manage two dependents at home with an income of $1,530 especially when one requires a lifetime of medical treatment. Taking Ms R as one of the beneficiaries in Food Fund really was the only right decision.
We hope this snippet of our beneficiaries would touch you as much as it did to us. As we know, the power of crowdfunding is nothing to be scoffed at. If everyone just donated a single dollar, we would have enough to feed all our beneficiaries for months. The amount of beneficiaries are still being solidified depending on the amount we expect to raise given the tight timeline but we really hope to feed as many beneficiaries as possible with this movement to give them the best Christmas present. Do lend your support, and let us wipe out the invisible poverty situation in Singapore, one household at a time.