Doing his best, as a father

By Sondra Foo, Corporate Communications and Marketing

Photos by Derek Wong Hoi Kit, Republic Polytechnic

Hussain Yahaya, 60, grew up in Singapore, away from his parents in India. He was cared for by his uncle, and growing up, he made a vow to be around for his children, if he should ever become a father. 

Matchmade to his cousin, Zulaiha Banu, Hussain got married in 1982 at the age of 24.  It took the couple eight long years to conceive. Hussain was ecstatic about the pregnancy, but their happiness was short-lived. Their daughter Jasmine Fatimah was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Initially, Hussain and Zulaiha could not accept the diagnosis. In fact, it took Hussain three years to accept it and to embrace their new arrangement. By then, the couple had given birth to another child - a son.

Cerebral Palsy impairs Fatimah’s movement, coordination and speech. Now 26, Fatimah relies heavily on Zulaiha, 54, to get around and for her daily activities; bathing, feeding, toileting. It has been a routine for Zulaiha to care for Fatimah while Hussain works and goes marketing for the family. As Zulaiha gets on with age, she finds it more challenging to lift her daughter.

Hussain works as a shop assistant to provide for his family. He was recently diagnosed with high blood pressure and diabetes, and confides that his monthly salary could barely sustain the food, transport, utilities and medical expenses that the family incurs each month. Together, they keep a tight rein on their household expenditure and live within their means.

The FoodAid vouchers from Singapore Red Cross ease their financial burden, enabling them to buy fresh foods and to eat healthy. Beyond that, the family is grateful for the volunteers’ gift of friendship and company.

“The volunteers will come once a month. They will ask if we need help with anything. They are very kind-hearted and giving. When we moved from Eunos to Yishun, the volunteers also asked if we needed help. They continued to visit us at our new home,” said Hussain.

He is also grateful for the visits by Singapore Red Cross staff, who’d give advice and support,  assuaging their concerns over their daughter.

Hussain treasures every moment he spends with his family. As Fatimah does not like crowds, the family spends most time at home. They would cook at home and eat in together. Once in a long while, the family would visit the park or shopping mall.

When asked about his relationship with Fatimah, Hussain shared, “When I get home from work, I will ask her how she is doing, and try to make her comfortable. She likes to write, draw and watch videos. She is usually reserved. She likes to eat thosai, fried noodles, mee siam, curry puff and rojak. She enjoys coffee and soft drinks. I use the FoodAid vouchers for my children. They are my biggest priority.”

He continued, “I take care of them, try to understand their needs and help them out with their difficulties. I ensure they have sufficient food and clothing, and try to keep them healthy. I am still learning to be a good father.”

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Check out his video here

As we celebrated Father’s Day in June, we paid tribute to all fathers like Hussain, who embrace their children wholeheartedly amid their challenging circumstances; who never sees giving up as an option; who would candidly admit they are “still learning to be a good father”. Please know that in their eyes, you are the world.

Know of someone who needs help? Email community.resilience@redcross.sg for assistance.