From Despair to Hope: Priya's Journey of Resilience and Community Support

Priya*, 54, navigated turbulent challenges of grief, depression and overwhelming financial challenges when her husband Kavish* passed on in 2019. A social worker applied for her to be enrolled in the Singapore Red Cross – FairPrice Meals with Love Programme, where she benefits from the monthly supermarket vouchers, which enable her to put food on the table. SRC is also exploring the opportunity for her to be enrolled in SRC's ElderAid service, where Community Befrienders would provide her with a listening ear and the gift of friendship. 

"My husband was my best friend akin to my brother and father, all rolled into one. He was my family, my everything. I was independent because of his support and encouragement. When he passed away in 2019, my world shattered. I lost everything and was left with nothing. I thought of ending my life," said Priya*, who is still battling depression.

Since learning about her predicament, the SRC is also exploring the possibility of extending SRC's  ElderAid programme to her. Trained in Standard First Aid, Psychological First Aid and befriending, Community Befrienders can provide a listening ear, and friendship. 

Grappling with Outstanding Arrears

Unfortunately, the emotional and physical challenges following Kavish's passing were not the only setbacks that Priya had to endure. 

Contrary to her family's misconceptions about Kavish's bequest, Priya inherited not wealth but a mountain of outstanding arrears. With crippling outstanding arrears amounting to $90,000 with the Housing Development Board and additional debts of approximately $2,000 with the Town Council, Priya was compelled to re-enter the workforce. This was challenging for her after years of caregiving for her ailing late husband from 2004 to 2019. 

Following his demise, Priya secured part-time jobs in data entry where she earns $30 per data entry, and as a cashier part-time at $5 per hour.  As the bulk of her remuneration goes to repaying the outstanding debts, Priya barely earns enough to put food on the table. Her savings were also depleted because of her monthly expenses for the internet, telecommunications, power, transport, and food. She tightened her belt by scrimping and saving whenever she could. She would spend $5 or $6 a day on food. She grits her teeth and bears it.

"My life is challenging. My life feels empty as there is nothing to look forward to. I dread opening my letter box as there would be letters for overdue payments," she said.

She laments that she is now a shadow of her former self. A Taekwondo black belt, Priya was an athlete in primary school, she trained and became the fastest sprinter during her secondary school days. She also played football in her younger years. Her late husband had admired her for her independence. 

"I like to be independent. Now, I feel a void without my husband, and I am ashamed of this situation," she said. 

Alleviating Her Financial Woes

Upon learning about her plight, a social worker applied for her to be enrolled in the Singapore Red Cross - FairPrice Meals with Love Programme. In the depths of despair, she discovered a glimmer of hope and a life line since she enrolled in the programme in January 2024, Priya will be receiving $150 worth of supermarket vouchers monthly which enable her to bring sustenance to her table and alleviate the financial burden. She purchases meat, sausages,  vegetables,  potatoes, tomatoes, bread, bun, rice and other basic staples with the vouchers.

"Without family support, I was not sure I was going to eat, survive, or I would go hungry. I am very grateful for these vouchers. Thank you, they alleviate my financial burden," Priya says.

Hopes to Help Others in Future

She hopes to be enrolled in the ElderAid service soon so Community Befrienders can visit her.

"I wish I could have more people whom I can interact with, confide in, and offer a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. We are all humans, not robots or machines. It is challenging to live alone after losing a loved one," she said.  

Her social worker encourages her to engage in self-care activities. Priya enjoys gardening and reading. She hopes to have a swing at home, a cosy sanctuary where she can read her books, listen to music, and heal. 

Despite the hardships, Priya dreams of a future where she can offer support to others grappling with loss and depression.

"If not for the Singapore Red Cross, the NTUC, and my social worker, I would not have made it till today. I hope to fight depression so I can help others in similar situations in future. I hope to turn my pain into a force for positive change. I want to give back to society and help someone else, to keep the momentum going," Priya said. 

Priya's journey is one of courage, resilience, and the pursuit of hope. As she battles depression and outstanding arrears, she stands as a testament to the strength that can emerge in times of adversity. Her story serves as a beacon of inspiration, reminding us all of the power of community, compassion, and the indomitable human spirit.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

By Sondra Foo, Marketing & Communications

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