When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Gets Going

Life has not been easy for Zariah Binte Ngarip as she tirelessly brought up her six children. She also cared for her mother and her grandmother, both suffering from dementia, till they passed away. Zariah’s husband suffered a stroke. Two married daughters  returned to stay with the family with three of Zariah’s grandchildren in tow. Fortunately, with Singapore Red Cross’ (SRC) Family LifeAid service, the family gets grocery, food supplies and milk powder for the children.

For years, Zariah Binte Ngarip could not catch a break. As a homemaker, she has been caring for her six children, her wheelchair-bound mother and her grandmother with dementia. 

Caring for two elderly with dementia was challenging. Zariah recounted that the elderly would often throw tantrums. Once, her grandmother grabbed and threw faeces from her adult diaper at the television. Despite the challenges, Zariah took care of them with dedication until their passing. 

Zariah’s husband, who worked as a driver, was the sole breadwinner of the family. But he suffered from a stroke a few years ago. Despite physical rehabilitation, he has still not regained complete mobility and is unable to work. 

Zariah’s two daughters moved back to the home with Zariah’s three grandchildren in tow. Nine people live in Zariah’s home including Zariah’s two sons.

To supplement the family’s income, Zariah had to secure a job. Without work experience, she felt fortunate to secure a job as an assistant at a butcher stall. She would start work at 6 am and end at 1.30 pm, six days a week. She would then rush home to care for her grandchildren. This has been her routine for the past three years. Business at the wet market has been lacklustre due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Zariah is plagued by worries about losing her job as her boss forewarned her that if the business does not pick up in a couple of months, he would have no choice but to let her go. The family’s woes were compounded when Zariah’s son lost his job recently and has yet to secure employment.  

At times like these, the help extended by Singapore Red Cross’ (SRC) Family LifeAid service becomes more critical. Her family was referred to Singapore Red Cross through Club Rainbow (Singapore) and has been receiving supermarket vouchers monthly.

Zariah explained, “We are so short of cash. I don’t mind eating plain rice. But the children cannot go without diapers and milk.”

The family uses the vouchers to get grocery, food supplies and milk powder for the children. One of the grandchildren, who displays signs of developmental difficulties and will be tested for autism. Zariah too, has been fretting about the screening cost and the follow-up care thereafter. 

There were times when Zariah felt overwhelmed by her family’s struggles. She recalled falling into depression upon learning that her youngest daughter was pregnant when she was 17 and had to quit school. Zariah could neither eat nor sleep. She often broke down in tears and would lock herself in the room and would not interact with anyone. Her son brought her to a Family Service Centre located in the East where she sought counselling. Life is not easy for Zariah, but she trudges on.

“I must stay strong because they are my family,” said Zariah after recounting those dark days. 

Zariah hopes that her youngest daughter and her son will find employment and her family will soon see better days. 

By Tracy Lam YL, Volunteer


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