Who is Akhira? She is a 6 year old girl whom I had the privilege of being introduced to over the last 1 month. Akhira is not her real name. The Singapore government ensures strict confidentiality regarding the families receiving assistance from them. I only know the mother's name. So for the purpose of this blog post, let's call this little girl Akhira.
I first knew about Akhira when I attended a meeting at a Voluntary Welfare Organisation 4PM in Bedok Reservoir in July. A few of us from HEN Charity were there to introduce ourselves and our programmes. You know, I have been to many Family Service Centres and have had numerous meetings, but it was only in 4PM that we were offered cold drinks and brownies. Brownies, mind you. An example of true warm Malay hospitality :). During our conversation, we asked if there are any specific families that are really in dire need of assistance. The principal thought for a while and spoke about Akhira. That was when I got to know about her. That her parents were not working (they are actively looking for employment) and couldn't even afford the bus fare to send her to child care at 4PM. That there were elderly grandparents in her family as well. That she was the only child and was due to start Primary 1 next year.
Now, I had received $150 from a fellow French docent and donor who had moved back to France in June. With the 3 months pilot programme helping the families in Bedok coming to an end in Aug, I was wondering how can I use this cash in a worthy charitable manner. So, when the Principal mentioned Akhira, I decided to help her family for the next 3 months ie Aug, Sep and Oct. Last Friday 31st Aug I popped over to her house located in the eastern part of Singapore to hand over the food donation boxes to her family.
Having seen the interior of many rental flats of low income families, I wasn't very shocked at her housing situation. But I did have a chance to see Akhira for the very first time. A fun loving cute girl who was smiling a lot. I was glad the circumstances of her family hadn't affected her. But, something stopped me in my tracks when I left the entrance of her flat, after handing over the boxes to her father. Akhira was curious and excited to see what was in the food donation boxes. Her father was telling her to be patient. As all children her age, she couldn't wait and started throwing tantrums. And when I heard her speaking, i was taken aback when she sounded like a 3 or 4 year old.
Could she have slow development because of inadequate exposure to educational opportunities ? I felt a pang in my heart. Here is a young girl, her whole life waiting to unfold before her and she may not be able to fully grasp the opportunities because of her family's situation. She will be starting Primary 1 next year. She will definitely not be ready and her peers will already be be able to read. Does she even know basic phonics? What about Maths? Does she know addition and subtraction? I started wondering whether I could help her in any way. Something was telling me to reach out to her. It still is.
My home is
usually in a mess and has dust settled on almost everything. But I believe laughter and love will win the day. In 20 years, my girls won't remember how messy the house was but will remember the time we spent together and the love they felt...