Last night I was helping out as a volunteer in the annual Hougang Christmas event.
A ticket that cost $3/ pax enables children to try out their luck at 5 game stalls, DIY their own keychain, have an ice-cream, a goody bag and a chance at 20 lucky draw prizes. And of course, because its Christmas, how can we do without Christmas carol :)
We were grateful for the help rendered by volunteers who managed game stalls, distribute goody bags and ice-cream. Props for the 5 games as well as choir for Christmas carol came from both Gordon's and Png's contact. Many more were there to make the event a successful one.
Apart from children who came to enjoy themselves, another group who came in their uniforms were present to receive their bursary award from the MP of Hougang.
The Hougang Constituency Education Trust was initiated by Mr Low Thia Khiang in Aug 1992. The Trust worked vigorously to raise funds through the auctioning of plaques during the Lunar Seventh Month commemoration festivities and temple functions. HGET has since, seen to the yearly awards of some 80 bursaries to needy students of Hougang Constituency from the Primary to the Tertiary levels. The MP would usually present the awards, during the Christmas Children’s Party held yearly in December by the Hougang Constituency Committee.
Needless to say, application for this bursary is always over-whelming. Every Oct that is 2 months from the presentation of the awards, 2 groups of people will come together to assess these applications. They are the staff from Hougang Town Council and some members from the Workers' Party. Our objective is to give out as many as we can but because it is always a case of demand more than supply, we have to screen through every application with care.
Applications that are somewhat doubtful will be kept aside for house visits. That's where we put our ground work to use :) For the past 2 years ever since I joined the Workers' Party, I had been involved in these house visits.
Kenneth (my partner this year) and I were given a stack of about 14 applications to look into. Fortunately for us, these 14 household stays in the same cluster of flats hence it makes our job easier. From the experience I had last year, I know that we can make walking easier but there is no way to make the visiting easy. We must be ready to face the emotional challenge that awaits us as we visit each and everyone of them.
I remembered this household vividly because it was just too difficult to forget. A little girl about age 7 years old opened the door for us. The house was nicely renovated with well-lit lights and fresh coat of paint. It was also very well kept and tidy. We asked for her mother and out came Mdm A (real name is not used in order to protect the identity of the children).
It was the first time she had applied for this bursary despite having stayed in Hougang for at least 10 years. For the past 1 decade, she and her family was staying in a 4-room flat. Last year, they moved into this current 5-room flat. Everything looks and seems good, then why is she applying for the bursary? The more needy ones should be given priority.
We need to probe tactfully to find out more. Before moving to this bigger flat, her husband owns 2 provision shop. Everything was taken care of by her husband and they had a steady stream of income. It was only after they moved into this bigger unit that the world collapsed on her. Her husband's business started to fall and was eventually closed down. To make things worse, he had actually had an affair with another woman for a few years. After the failure of his business, he went off with this other woman, leaving behind Mdm A and 3 beautiful daughters.
The tears that Mdm A had been trying to hold back fell uncontrollably down her cheeks. Both Kenneth and I were extremely saddened by her plight.
That's not all, suppliers and business associates whom her husband had dealt with before, came to her to ask for payment. It was evident from the splashes of paint found outside her unit that these creditors were pretty harsh on her.
With no income and minimal savings, Mdm A had to rent a room out which can fetch her $400/ month. There is no way she can work because her children are too young, they need someone to take care of them. She had been relying on friends and volunteers for the past 1 year since her husband left. Mdm A had also approached her MP for help, she was given a probably solution which she is looking into.
She didn't know about the eduction trust until a friend of hers who also stays in Hougang told her about it. Therefore, she decided to give it a try.
Last night during the Christmas event, Mdm A was there with her 3 children. She spotted me amongst the crowd, came forward and thank me for the visit that Kenneth and I had made. She held onto both my hands and thanked me for making the effort to go to her and helped her during this difficult time...
I told her... not me ... it was the people who donated relentlessly that makes it possible.
I knew that all she want for Christmas, with or without her husband, is a new set of books for her daughters