What inspires and motivates you? For Fu Da Hai, it is his mother, Madam Zhou. He was 15 when he learnt that his mother had breast cancer. Until then, his priority was to be a good student despite his disadvantaged family background.
Da Hai’s father left the family when he was only three, resulting in Madam Zhou singlehandedly raising him and his older brother. Having witnessed his mother’s struggles and sacrifices through the years, Da Hai was determined to make her proud through his studies.
The diagnosis of Madam Zhou’s illness was devastating. The family’s savings were quickly depleted by this unforeseen crisis. In addition to financial worries, Da Hai also watched helplessly as the cancer treatments affected his mum physically. However, instead of resenting his family’s circumstances, he motivated himself to pull his own weight at home.
He committed to helping Madam Zhou out with her daily household chores in their two-room flat, from mopping the floor to cooking meals. “I knew I needed to do my part well so she wouldn’t worry so much and focus on recovery.”
The crisis also steeled Da Hai’s resolve to achieve more in school. As the head of his class committee in Secondary 3 and 4, he was heavily involved in planning activities for his classmates. He also held the top spot in his Co-Curricular Activity as Unit Sergeant Major of his school’s National Cadet Corps, and was responsible for leading his cadets for weekly drills.
Through her battle with cancer and his heavy school commitments, the mother-and-son pair bonded more than ever. Whenever he faced problems with his cadets, he would turn to Madam Zhou for wise advice. “When the position of Unit Sergeant Major was offered to me, she was the first one I asked if I should take it up. Even when I kept failing English, she didn’t scold me. Instead, she encouraged me and believed that I’d do better next time. She has always been my supporter.”
Da Hai did his part to be thrifty although the family received a monthly food voucher from the Ministry of Education’s Financial Assistance Scheme. If he had saved enough in any particular week, he would refuse to take the following week’s allowance from his mum. “I felt it was better for her to save the money for family expenses. I didn’t really need it.”
Meanwhile, his efforts to juggle family and school activities with schoolwork paid off. In the GCE O-Level examinations last year, he performed well enough to be accepted into his dream course, which is a diploma in information technology. Their bond and love drove him to strive hard for his achievements.
Supporting families experiencing financial distress is the core purpose of the MWS Family Development Programme (MWS FDP), which has been supporting Madam Zhou and the family since January 2017. It is a huge relief for her, as she had previously agonised over how she was going to afford her two son’s polytechnic expenses.
She says, “We knew that we didn’t have the means to continue paying for school fees and other expenses if we didn’t receive help. When the MWS volunteer called me last November about the MWS Family Development Programme, it came at the right time.”
Launched in April 2016, the MWS FDP helps families living in poverty break out of the vicious cycle through holistic integrated intervention. Its focus is debt repayment and savings matching at a ratio of 1:2, up to $200 per month. Other supplementary components that assist the beneficiary in asset-building are school support of $30 for primary and $40 for secondary students; milk nutrition support for children and pregnant or lactating women; and cash assistance. To date, there are 163 families like Madam Zhou’s on the programme.
Currently, Madam Zhou is on the road to recovery and her sons are performing well in school. The positivity and strength displayed by Da Hai are not common traits in youths from homes experiencing distress, says senior social worker Charlene Heng, who manages the MWS FDP.
She says, “The two boys are very blessed with a positive role model and attachment figure like their mother. Madam Zhou’s strong emotional resilience stems from some of her personal beliefs and love for her sons. These good interactional patterns helped to transmit good values and attitudes inter-generationally.”
MWS would like to wish all the strong women who are pillars of support in their families a Happy Mother’s Day. Thank you for being our inspiration, and for driving us to live life to the full.
Honouring the Heroes Among Us
A Father’s Hope
NURTURE DISADVANTAGED CHILDREN
REHABILITATE JUVENILE DELINQUENTS
EMPOWER FAMILIES IN DISTRESS
CARE FOR THE CHRONICALLY ILL, DESTITUTE AND FRAIL
ENGAGE THE SOCIALLY ISOLATED