The Value of Self-Reliance in a Family Struggling Economically

Nurasiken Binte Manokhor Ali, 44, a single mother struggles to provide for her family of four children following her divorce as her ex-husband does not pay any maintenance fees. Since enrolling in Singapore Red Cross' Family LifeAid service in June this year, she receives monthly supermarket vouchers that alleviate her family's financial burdens.Seniors or persons with disabilities living alone often grapple with fear and run the risk of collapsing alone at home without anyone coming to their aid. 

Nurasiken Binte Manokhor Ali, or Nura, is a 44-year-old single mother. To support her family, Nura left school and joined the workforce when she was 16. Given her low educational background, she stayed in the service industry as a low-income worker. She tied the knot in 2000 and set up a family with four children.

Unfortunately, Nura's marriage deteriorated over time. Compelled by circumstances, she stepped up and took on the role of the sole breadwinner of the family and caregiver of her four children. Her caregiving responsibilities made it imperative for her to switch to part-time work, which offers greater flexibility, as a packer while taking care of her three school-going children. That remained the case following her divorce in 2019, as her ex-husband shunned the responsibilities of paying for the alimony. However, Nura found it more productive to spend her time nurturing her children and working to make a living for her family as a packer, than fighting in court battles.

But even then, the meagre income she earns as a part-time packer is unstable. Prior to COVID-19, she drew a monthly salary of $1,000. Unfortunately, her financial struggles compounded amid the pandemic in 2020. On days when demand was low, which was often the case during the circuit breaker period in 2020, her services were not required, and her income took a toll.

Nonetheless, Nura remains resolutely independent and strives to be self-sufficient. She does not seek financial help from her supportive siblings and elderly parents because she understands the struggles they face in managing their own households. She is grateful for the Ministry of Education's Financial Assistance Scheme and Higher Education Community Bursary for her three schooling children but declines financial assistance for herself. For Nura, financial assistance should be sought only as a last resort in times of emergencies.

Meanwhile, she believes that she should instead put her nose to the grindstone and keep a tight rein on her budget.

Impact of COVID-19 and Introduction to Family LifeAid

Fortunately, her financial burdens were alleviated when her Family Service Centre's social worker recommended that Nura apply for the Singapore Red Cross’ (SRC) Family LifeAid (FLA) programme. Since being enrolled in the FLA programme, Nura receives monthly supermarket vouchers that enabled her to put food on the table for her family, thereby easing her financial woes.

"I am very appreciative of the Singapore Red Cross for helping my family during these difficult times. With the supermarket vouchers provided by Singapore Red Cross, I can better plan my other household expenses," acknowledges Nura.

Besides alleviating the family's financial burden, FLA's service also made an impression on her. She also fondly recalls her warm interactions with the friendly staff at SRC during her monthly voucher collections. 

A Mother’s Hopes, a Woman’s Aspirations

As a mother, Nura adopts a stringent stance and does not give in easily to her children’s requests for items in vogue or dining at fast-food restaurants with their friends. She advises them to prioritise their studies and long-term goals while embracing frugality in their lives.

“Sometimes, it breaks my heart when they can’t join their friends at McDonald’s or Starbucks. Kids need to spend time with friends. But I tell them that these are only short-term needs. They must focus on the long-term. If they study hard, they can have a brighter future,” she explains.

Her second son, a first-year student at the Institute of Technical Education, entertained thoughts of working part-time to relieve the family's economic tribulations. Nura reminded him that education, not part-time work, will empower him to break out of his current circumstances and brighten his future prospects. She ensures that he cuts down on his part-time work commitments so that he can focus his attention on his studies.

In the meantime, Nura is inculcating independence in her younger children, to free time for her to explore full-time employment opportunities to boost her family’s income. In the longer term, she aspires to purchase and own a three-room flat and amass savings for her family.

"I hope that my children will excel in their studies and lead a better life than me," she says.

By Ng Hui Ling, Volunteer Writer

Copyedited by Jolyn Lee, Volunteer Copyeditor


Keen to uplift the lives of the vulnerable in our midst? Support the Singapore Red Cross’ efforts by donating or volunteering.