A year ago, if you were to ask Mr H’ng Seng Huat about his bills, he would have been hard-pressed to tell you how much he owed utility companies. The odd-job worker was constantly harried, slogging more than 10 hours a day, 7 days a week. Despite being sleep-deprived, he still rose at dawn to tend to his infant Isabelle, the youngest of his four children.
Although the sole breadwinner worked hard, he found it difficult to make ends meet. He only received temporary respite during the durian season when he could earn more as a full-time durian stall helper. The hands-on father had emphasised the importance of education to his three older children, but he was constantly worried about how he was going to afford it.
“I wanted my kids to get a good education and really focus on it instead of worrying about our family finances,” Mr H’ng said, “I don’t want them to end up like me.”
Fortunately, volunteers from Hakka Methodist Church identified his family, which lives in a two-room rental flat, as ideal candidates for the MWS Family Development Programme.
Accepted as a beneficiary in January 2017, Mr H’ng received debt-matching help for his numerous bills, two cans of milk powder monthly for Isabelle, and $40 of monthly school support each for his second and third children. Upon clearing his outstanding debt by May 2017, he progressed to savings-matching under the guidance of the FDP volunteers.
When Mr H’ng voluntarily exited the programme in Dec 2017, there was over $2,000 in his bank account that he intended to use for his kids’ education. “When I started on FDP, I told myself that it was a temporary solution and I needed to find my own way,” he says.
And indeed he had. He credits the programme for helping him cultivate the habit of paying his bills on time and the discipline to save. By leaving the programme, it was his way of making space for other struggling low-income families to benefit from FDP.