Earlier this month, we opened our email Inbox to find this application for the Free Mattress Programme:
“Hello. I am a single parent, unemployed since I got pregnant two years ago. My child is 17 months old. I’ve tried to take up jobs but my child still cannot adapt without me around as she is still breastfeeding, so I am currently depending on my mum who also has to provide for my four other siblings.”
“My mum always complains of body aches. Our mattress is already in a bad condition and I really want to get my mum a new mattress to sleep on. But unfortunately, I cannot afford to. I really hope to see my mum and daughter sleeping comfortably on a nice mattress.”
The voice behind this simple plea belongs to 23-year-old Suhaida Ali, a quiet, and rather weary-looking girl.
As we first step into her bare, dimly lit flat, she cradles a scared-looking toddler in her arms.
“Sorry, the place is kind of messy,” she says apologetically and slightly flustered, as the little girl, her daughter Daania, turns away in fear and hugs her mother’s neck tightly in response to this writer’s outstretched hand.
Suhaida met Daania’s father when she was still working as a restaurant supervisor two years ago. They had been seeing each other for about a year before Suhaida found out that she was pregnant; and already in her second trimester.
She admits to have considered abortion, but was urged against it by her family.
“They told me no matter how financially tight we are, we should keep the baby; it’s wrong to abort,” she explains.
Suhaida and her mother met up once with Daania’s father and his family to discuss arrangements for Daania, now an adorable one-year-old; a trip that seemed promising at first.
“He’s seen Daania once and didn’t say much other than that he would raise money to reimburse me for my hospital bills,” Suhaida recalls.
His family asked for a DNA test to be done, but after that he just kept away and there’s been no news from him since. He’s even changed his mobile number.”
According to Suhaida, Daania’s father has effectively refused to take any responsibility at all and is now “nowhere to be found”.
Her 45-year-old mother works 12-hour night shifts as a security guard, taking home less than $1,400 every month, with which she supports Suhaida and her baby daughter, as well as Suhaida’s four younger sisters, aged 6 to 18, who’re all still in school.
The seven of them now call a one-bedroom flat home after moving out of Suhaida’s uncle’s three-room flat last year to make more space for his family of five.
Suhaida’s father is divorced from her mother and lives in Johore Bahru without a stable job, while her 26-year-old elder sister is married with six young children of her own.
‘Help’ From Grassroots
Suhaida’s mother has approached the Community Development Council (CDC) for financial aid before but was turned down flatly.
“In short, the CDC just told her that I should get a job,” Suhaida recalls.
“Many people would think that I’m able-bodied and should be able to work instead on relying on aid. It’s not that I don’t want to; I can’t,” she continues in a helpless tone of voice, going on to explain how clingy Daania is, especially since she is still being breastfed.
Despite her family’s promises to help support both her and her daughter, Suhaida has still tried her best to seek part-time employment back in the Food & Beverage line. But she soon ran into problems with getting people to babysit Daania.
“My mum reaches home at around 10am everyday after her night shift and all my sisters are schooling. Plus, we can’t afford a babysitter and Daania needs me around,” she laments just as Daania, who stepped out to play with her cousins in the corridor barely moments ago, comes toddling back into her mother’s arms, her hair now prettily tied up but with tears welling in her eyes.
As little Daania dives into the bosom of her very haggard-looking mother with a muffled wail, Suhaida sighs and glances back at me tiredly, her point proven.
Suhaida’s youngest sisters are getting financial assistance from their primary and secondary schools, while the family is on its last month of oil and rice rations from the Community Centre. It will be a few months before they’re granted the next batch of rations.
Free Mattress Programme
Suhaida and her family have been using their previous mattress for seven years now. When she first came to us, four people were sleeping on the filthy mattress every day: Suhaida, her daughter, mother, and 18-year-old sister.
“I wanted to try to get a new mattress, but can’t afford to. Somehow it struck me to Google for ‘Free Mattress’, hoping maybe somewhere out there, there’s a company giving out free mattresses to the needy. That’s when I came across your website,” Suhaida tells BEDS.sg.
After reading her FMP application, we felt that her family deserved a little more; a Queen-sized bed simply isn’t built for four. So we threw in another single-sized mattress for her 18-year-old sister.
When asked to voice her thoughts on the Free Mattress Program, Suhaida is at a loss for words.
“I think… words can’t express how much … it helps, it really helps a lot,”she splutters happily, glancing over to her sister, who beams in return.
“My mum can now sleep comfortably,” Suhaida adds, glancing at the bedroom in which her mother was taking a well-deserved rest on their new Sepora Dolce Notte.