Against All Odds

Against All Odds

Caption: Mdm Rosilah and her two daughters in their new three-room flat. 

Sitting in the living room of her new three-room flat, 40-year-old Mdm Rosilah takes a sip of her daily morning coffee, while her two daughters worked on their schoolwork at the dining table.  

This life of routine and quiet contentment may be common to other households, but this is a life that Mdm Rosilah has worked hard to achieve against the odds.  

Early struggles 

Mdm Rosilah got married at the tender age of 21, and had to single-handedly raise her two young daughters, then aged 5 and 7, when the marriage ended in divorce in 2011.   

Home for her and her two young daughters was a two-room rental flat in Bukit Merah. With the cramped living conditions, Rosilah dreamt of owning her own home and providing a better environment for her daughters to grow up in. 

Seeking help 

However, realising this dream was not without any challenges. Faced with mounting debt, job insecurity and two young children to raise, Mdm Rosilah had to seek help from multiple social service agencies and applied to various government welfare schemes, just to make ends meet.

She was referred to TOUCH Community Services in 2012 through the ‘Home Ownership Plus Education’ (HOPE) scheme which aims to help lower-income families improve their standard of living by providing them with mentoring support, education bursaries for their children and housing grants. 

Mdm Rosilah and her social worker Neo Xioa Hui
Caption: Mdm Rosilah catching up with Neo Xioa Hui, her social worker from TOUCH. 

Mdm Rosilah’s life was transformed, when TOUCH social worker, Ms Neo Xioa Hui, was assigned to journey with her. She was taught how to manage her stressors, and received mentoring to become a better parent, which in turn built her confidence. TOUCH also helped her to plan her finances, so that she could achieve long-term financial stability to attain her goal of buying her own flat. 

As a recipient of many helping hands in the community, Mdm Rosilah knew that she wanted to give back and decided to work in the social service sector. Her hard work and perseverance paid off when she found a full-time job, first as a programme executive at a children’s home, then as an administrative executive at a social service agency, working with students with special educational needs. With job security, she was finally able to gain financial independence and no longer had to rely on monetary aid to get by.

Mdm Rosilah enjoys gardening
Caption: Mdm Rosilah enjoys gardening in her free time and proudly shows off the plants which she has grown.

“I’ve received help from various social service agencies for many years. I see and understand the value of what social workers do to uplift those in need and this motivated me to do the same. When I landed my first job in a local charity, everything fell into place, and I was happy knowing that I could give back as much as I have received.  

I’m thankful for social workers like Xioa Hui, who was a good listening ear and always gave me affirmation whenever I felt stressed about my work and studies. I can keep going with her encouragement!” 

Mdm Rosilah showing appliances from Project Aspire
Caption: Mdm Rosilah showing Xioa Hui her new fridge which was provided under Project ASPIRE. 

Over a period of three years, Mdm Rosilah worked hard to pay off her debts and saved enough in her Central Provident Fund (CPF) to buy a flat – a dream she has had for many years and finally fulfilled in 2023. She also received grants from TOUCH’s Home Improvement Project – Aspire to purchase essential items for her new home.  

Giving back 

Now that Mdm Rosilah has achieved her dream of owning a flat, and giving her daughters a comfortable living environment, her next goal is to attain an advanced diploma in social work so that she can give back to society.   

Mdm Rosilah's daughters in their new room
Caption: Mdm Rosilah's two daughters are happy with their newly furnished room. 

Inspired by her mother’s spirit of giving back, Mdm Rosilah’s eldest daughter, Syafeeqah, who is now 19, is also pursuing a course in community work at the Institute of Technical Education so that she can help others in the future. 

“The help that the social workers gave to my mum inspired me to want to do the same for others. During my internship at a social service agency, I also realised my passion for working with seniors. After I graduate, I hope to continue planning programmes to help them age well in the community,” shares Syafeeqah, who often helps out as a volunteer to engage and converse with other Malay clients.  

Daughters studying hard together
Caption: Syafeeqah and her sister doing their schoolwork at the common dining area at home.

“My mum used to bring me along to volunteer too. A few years back, I remember we self-initiated a project to spread cheer during Hari Raya. We packed goodie bags and gave them out to others. It made me realise that I can give back to the community in my own way.” 

As she sets her mind towards realising her dreams, Mdm Rosilah knows that with determination and the support of those who care, she can build a brighter future for her family, against all odds. 

Story published in 2024